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July 12, 2000

4 Min Read
Macromolds for macromolding

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The plant presently has four NVD chambers. It now has the capacity to make nickel shells the size of the DaimlerChrysler CCV tool, below, in a single chamber.

Weber Mfg. Ltd. invested more than CDN $12 million, tapped into its time-tested expertise in nickel vapor deposition (NVD), and in only 12 months brought a new, vertically integrated production plant onstream that is unlike any in all the world. The first successful commercial operation of its size, its new 18,000-sq-ft NVD Nickel Products facility greatly expands Weber’s ability to convert nickel powders into solid nickel shapes, like core and cavity shells for macromolds—extremely large molds for macromolding extremely large parts.

For example, remember the durable, lightweight, $2 million nickel shell mold Weber designed and built for the exterior body of the DaimlerChrysler CCV prototype vehicle? It measured about 14 by 8 by 6 ft and weighed 163,000 lb. A comparably sized, conventionally built steel CCV body panel mold weighed 330,000 lb—more than twice as much (see December 1997 IMM, pp. 68-70 for more on the CCV project and on nickel shell tooling). 

IT once took runs an CCV core or cavity. Weber now capacity make all-in-one CCV-sized cores and cavities in a single chamber. NVD Nickel Products presently four chambers ranging from 56 60 inches to 80 by 120 inches. A fifth chamber will be installed soon as the floor space is made available. The plant has two 10-ton cranes. 

Since 1989, Weber has pioneered NVD tooling technology into markets like automotive exteriors and interiors, housing and consumer goods, aerospace, and micro-optics. Now, sourcing only nickel powders, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen from the outside, it has become a single source for everything involved in the design, engineering, and manufacturing of NVD molds, with complete control over production, quality, and capacity. 

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Shown here is the DaimlerChrysler CCV tool, which was recently at Weber Mfg. for engineering revisions.

Macromolds for North America
Up to 90 percent of the company’s sales have been to European markets. Weber now has the capacity to go after larger-volume markets in North America more aggressively, and that is just what it intends to do. In fact, Reinhart Weber, president, says the primary motivation for the expansion was customer demand for greater volume capacity and production quality. 

"We have been very successful supplying molds for a variety of other processes, but injection molding tools—that is the market we want to go after now in a big way," he says. "We can build extremely large molds that are harder and stronger than steel, and lighter in weight. We also see market opportunities for multiple orders of duplicate molds where our technology, price, and delivery have definite competitive advantages vs. steel." 

Both Weber and Jerry Smith, sales and marketing manager, agree that their established European sales will grant them the time and money to fully evaluate what it will take to be successful in North America. They have, with the new facility, increased moldmaking capacity two to three times what it was, so they believe they are ready for what’s in store. 

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Reinhart Weber (left) and Jerry Smith agree that the additional production capacity of the new NVD Nickel Products plant will enable Weber to better pursue high-volume market opportunities in North America, particularly in large tools for auto interiors.

The new computer-controlled plant is world class and state of the art, with redundant safety systems that are second to none. For example, shop-floor sensors run by computers in the facility’s control room can detect nickel-carbonyl gas leaks to within 2 ppb or more—that’s parts per billion. All off-gases from the process that are not recycled are burned off at 1000C. Only nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water, and hot air escape through the chimney. 

Weber says that once about 60 percent of the new plant’s capacity is used, he may bow to customer demand and build a similar facility in Europe. While investigating new applications for NVD technology, the company also plans to license mandrel manufacturing for nickel shells and related technologies to others. Meanwhile, Weber plans to exhibit at Euromold later this year. 

Contact information
Weber Mfg. Ltd.
Midland, ON
Jerry Smith
Phone: (705) 526-7896
Fax: (705) 526-3818
E-mail: [email protected]

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