Instrument Panels in One Operation
To date, sandwich components in the automotive industry have been produced in a multi-step process. A new manufacturing method combines injection moulding and foaming into a single-step process.
Soft-touch parts for automobile interiors can now be manufactured using a new, single-step process in which injection moulding and foaming are combined. The so-called Dolphin process is suitable for sandwich components in automotive applications such as instrument panels, centre consoles or glove compartments. The companies that participated in the development, Engel, Georg Kaufmann Formenbau, BASF and P-Group, want to market the new process jointly.
The moulded part is produced in two shots using a two-component injection moulding machine with two horizontally opposed injection units and a stack mould with rotating centre block. First, the carrier is injection moulded in a fibre-reinforced PBT/ASA blend and then foaming occurs in a second shot of a thermoplastic polyester using the MuCell process. Because of their close chemical similarity, the two materials bond to one another. The foam component forms a skin directly on the cavity surface, so that the moulded part can be used in appearance applications. Depending on the material system, chemical or physical blowing agents are employed.
To date, such components have been produced in a complex process involving three process steps and different types of plastic. The substrate and back-foamed outer skin film were first produced separately and then subsequently laminated. The new process is significantly faster and produces less waste. Since the moulded parts consist solely of thermoplastic materials, they can be recycled easily.
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