Trexel Inc., supplier of the MuCell microcellular foaming technology, announced at K 2010 a global licensing agreement with Ono Sangyo Co. Ltd. promoting MuCell for injection molding parts with Class A/high-gloss finishes.
Trexel also kicked off a program to train MuCell-certified mold makers, partnering with Michigan toolmaker Proper Group International Inc.
It's all part of new President and CEO Stephan Braig's plan to bring MuCell into the mainstream.
Our vision is to transition the MuCell process globally, from the current niche application that it is today and up to this point, it has maintained a niche status to a generally accepted plasticizing, processing enhancement, Braig said Oct. 30 at a K show news conference in Dusseldorf. Braig joined Woburn, Mass.-based MuCell in April, moving from his top post at Engel Machinery Inc. of York, Pa.
Trexel and Ono Sangyo have worked together for some time. Braig said Ono Sangyo was an early adopter of MuCell.
The deal announced at K means that Ono Sangyo's technology, called Rapid Heat Cycle Molding, is included in the price of the MuCell technology, said Braig. MuCell and RHCM work well together, he added.
Ono Sangyo is a Tokyo-based injection molding company that developed the RHCM process and sells it to other molders. In RHCM, the mold-cavity wall is heated to a similar temperature as the melt during the injection cycle, followed by rapid cooling of the mold.
MuCell equipment adds microscopic bubbles to the melt by bringing nitrogen gas to a supercritical state. The gas has properties of both a liquid and a gas, and when the pressure suddenly drops as the melt exits the barrel, the bubbles are released inside the mold. Benefits of the low-pressure MuCell process include shorter cycle times, lower melt viscosity and parts with no warping.
Braig said RHCM helps MuCell overcome issues with surface finish which has limited MuCell's acceptance into certain markets.
We have licensed their patent portfolio, so anybody ... can get this access with buying MuCell, he said. It's a complete solution for Class A automotive interior parts with high-gloss appearance.
Several years ago, Trexel eliminated licensing fees for MuCell.
There is no payment for a license. There is no royalty. There is no ongoing paperwork that anybody has to file, Braig said.
He later added, Our goal is to make it as easy and as comfortable as possible for a customer to implement our process.
An undisclosed automaker has adopted MuCell for its interior parts, Braig said.
In training news, Braig said Trexel is installing MuCell systems on three presses at Proper Group in Warren, Mich., to create a trial and development center that will begin operating in early 2011.
The center will enable automotive customers to conduct trials and run demonstration programs. Another goal is to develop training methods that will lead to a MuCell certification program, starting with mold designers and engineers from Proper Group.
Trexel is upgrading a 3,000-ton press at Proper for exclusive use by one customer. The other machines, with clamping forces of 1,100 tons and 500 tons, are available for other plastics development work.
We anticipate forming strategic partnerships like this around the globe, Braig said.
Braig said the benefits of MuCell are most significant if products and molds are designed with MuCell in mind from the start, he said.