A newly acquired molding machine from KraussMaffei (Munich, Germany) is one of the first capital investments made by Sekisui Alveo AG (Lucerne, Switzerland) as it works on development of a new polyolefin foam that can be processed via low-pressure molding, but remains soft thereafter.
Sekisui Alveo develops and markets cross-linked polyolefin foams as already used in applications such as automotive dash panels or door linings. For these parts, polypropylene is injected at low pressure into a foam preform. While this saves on the time and invest of bonding the materials, the foams used in this process are relatively rigid.
To now, only high-density polyolefinic foams – and thus rigid ones – have been able to see use in low-pressure back injection molding. The applications require the outer material layers of the foam and PP melt to fuse, without the foam's consistency or compressibility being affected. Sekisui Alveo says its objective is to develop soft foams, likely based off its established Alveolit TP LPM2 foam, which still will be suitable for low-pressure molding. “With this experimental system, we can test and improve the interaction of material density, pressure and temperature resistance and material compatibility without going through our customers,” said Thomas Ross, automotive marketing segment manager at Sekisui Alveo. The company currently is testing the foams' compatibility with various materials, including ones not based on polyolefins, it says, as well as tests with various foam laminates consisting of leather, textiles and foil. Also the development of new foams is planned. —[email protected]