Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. appears to be getting into the moldmaking and injection molding business through its wholly owned subsidiary, iMflux, which is establishing a manufacturing facility in West Chester, OH, and has begun advertising for employees that will eventually number 221 over the next three years.
A patent was issued on August 29, 2013, detailing iMflux's mold/molding process that the company says could save P&G $1 billion annually. This patent, "Method for Operating a High Productivity Injection Molding Machine," is just one of nearly a dozen patents obtained by Gene Michael Altonen and various colleagues. Altonen currently serves at iMflux's VP of R&D and has been granted 40 patents with 25 patents pending in the field of injection molding.
This latest patent concerns what iMflux calls a "high productivity injection molding method" including the mold and the molding press that is capable of producing more than 1 million injection molding cycles through the use of soft (aluminum of various grades, beryllium, copper, zinc, among many others) tooling that provides a high level of thermal conductivity so that cooling channels are not required. The molding process will be done through a low-temperature, low constant pressure method that will remove the variability of pressures and temperatures from the molding process.
The goal, it would seem from reading this latest patent, is to produce a high-cavity mold that will cost a fraction of a conventional steel mold with cooling channels. The low-temperature, low constant pressure molding process will allow these soft molds "to extract useful lives of more than 1 million cycles, preferably between 1.25 and 10 million cycles, and more preferably between 2 million cycles and 5 million cycles," notes the patent.
Additionally, the use of the soft tooling means that the mold will have "no active cooling system," but be "passively cooled through the conduction of heat through the mold sides and support plates, . . ." That will reduce the cycle times significantly.
Using this low-temperature, low constant pressure molding method will also allow the use of bio-based materials. Another patent published on Nov. 22, 2012, "Method for Injection Molding at Low, Substantially Constant Pressure," details this method that is "more energy - and cost - effective than conventional high-velocity injection molding processes." This method allows "for the filling of a mold cavity at low melt pressure without undesirable premature hardening of the thermoplastic material in the mold cavity and without the need for maintaining a constant temperature of heated mold cavity."
While P&G isn't commenting on all of this, numerous articles in local Cincinnati newspapers and business journals have commented on this development, noting that the company recently received Ohio tax credits of up to $2.6 million for the establishment of the plant located just north of Cincinnati.
It's not clear whether iMflux will be making its own molds and perhaps doing its own molding at the facility or licensing the technology to its mold and molded parts suppliers to help P&G reduce its costs in those arenas.
PlasticsToday promises to stay on top of this development and bring you the latest in this OEMs foray into moldmaking and molding.