Imflux, the company set up by Procter & Gamble Co. to develop and promote a new way to injection mold, has broadened its message to spread the technology, said CEO Mary Wagner.
"We're trying to use multiple opportunities to articulate what we are doing," Wagner said.
One way to that is to work closely with both machinery makers to offer "Imflux-enabled" injection presses, and with resin companies to take advantage of the company's Auto Viscosity Adjust feature, which allows running a wider range of materials, including regrind and post-consumer recycled plastics.
Partnerships with outside mold makers are coming.
Imflux technology uses constant, low pressure and slow filling to simultaneously fill and pack and cool the mold. There is no heat and shear — as happens in traditional injection molding — which uses high speed and high pressure, then switches over to pack-and-hold. Imflux delivers shorter cycle times and allows parts to be molded on smaller-tonnage machines, among other benefits, according to the company.
There can be no hesitation during molding, which includes pressure sensors. Imflux has developed software to control the molding process.
The software is the key.
"One of the key focus areas that we really have made a very intentional choice is to make sure we are very focused primarily on our software and on the innovations that really make our technology relevant to our customers," Wagner said. "We're making the software really a significant component of where we are as a company," she said.
Wagner, a 33-year P&G veteran, became president of Imflux in January. She will retain her other job, as P&G director of global packaging purchases. Wagner took the top post at Imflux after former CEO Nathan Estruth retired to join Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor's ticket as her lieutenant governor, during her attempt to become the state's governor. Taylor lost her bid to win Ohio's Republican primary in May.
P&G formed Imflux in 2013, setting it up in a 200,000-square-foot facility in Hamilton, Ohio, a northern suburb of Cincinnati. After several years of secrecy, Imflux officials began opening up last year, and now are talking about the process. Gene Altonen, the chief technology officer, has been making the rounds of conferences giving presentations about the technology.
"We are being far more open and making a very intentional choice to be out in the industry and in a more-forward way," Wagner said.
P&G is using Imflux for its own injection molding operations, and company officials have said they are spreading the technology to outside molders that are considered strategic partners. The longer-term plan is to reach the broader injection molding industry.
Wagner and Jared Kline, vice president of customer operations at Imflux, explained the company's strategy to transfer the technology to the wider plastics industry in a conference call.
Wagner said the Imflux leadership team met in February and early March and discussed the strategy going forward. Partnerships are a major focus, she said.
"Selling to part makers is not the only avenue," Wagner said. "Our strategy is very centered on partnerships as a way to drive the technology."
She said company leaders will center efforts around what Influx calls the "green curve." That refers to keeping control of the process and maintaining a specific lower-pressure set point as a constant through the whole mold-filling process.
Kline said that initially, cycle time reduction was the major focus of the technology. "What we're seeing is a much broader impact," including faster startups, reduced scrap rate and a wider range of processing windows, thanks to Auto Viscosity Adjust, which automatically makes adjustments for variations in viscosity.
Wagner said Imflux has learned about what molders care about, as the company continues to install and use Imflux within P&G circles and to outside molders. "The range of benefits is broad," she said. "We've got to talk about that."
Wagner said Imflux is talking to about half a dozen major, global injection press manufacturers to put Imflux in their machines. "What we're trying to do is make an Imflux-enabled machine that's integrated," she said.
Wagner declined to identify the machinery companies Imflux is talking to, but in the past, other Imflux officials have named three of them: Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., Wittmann Battenfeld Inc. and Milacron Holdings Corp.
Imflux also is working with resin suppliers.
"They're excited about what Imflux might mean in enabling a wider range of resins that could be used," Wagner said.
The software uses data from sensors. A pressure transducer is mounted in the nozzle and another one inside the mold. An Imflux-invented sensor, dubbed NightHawk, is bolted to the outside of the mold, measuring strain and deflection in the mold, and converting that information to a proxy for cavity pressure.
Kline said company officials think NightHawk could be used as the only sensor. "Eventually we'd like to use the software to close the loop," he said.
The proprietary software ties it all together. "Everything we do will be in service to the software," Wagner said.