How to Reduce Capital Equipment Expenses

Moldmakers can help molders reduce costs and maintain production with mold preservation - and maintain loyal customers in the process.

Whether your customer's manufacturing operation calls for something as unusual as molding faces for CPR training dummies, or as difficult as blow molding for PET plastic beverage containers, mold preservation keeps capital expenditure to a minimum, ensures that production continues smoothly and makes for a happy customer. Problems often can cause costly downtime, slow production, erode profits and even lead to the loss of valued customers.

As the economy puts more pressure on industry and everyone tightens their fiscal belts, any opportunity to reduce capital expenditure and free up cash flow is a strategy for survival. The aftermath of September 11th has certainly not helped the situation and all cost-saving measures have to be very carefully considered. Your customers are looking to you to be a partner in the cost saving efforts.

An area where major cost savings can be made is through extending the life of molds that, in better times, some companies would have looked at replacing. In fact, advances in metal coatings technology have meant that extending the life of old molds is a valid consideration, and not just a short-term solution.

Whenever molds are used, the most demanding challenge is quick release of the product being molded. This is complicated when corrosion causes pitting and deformation of molds, or when wear erodes and roughens mold surfaces. Products hang up, clean up becomes a headache and production suffers.

Molds are frequently replaced long before anticipated, and the impact of this scenario often goes unnoticed. This can be an expensive error in any economic climate, especially if it affects production schedules.

Working with dies also provides challenges. Reducing accelerated die wear is perhaps the biggest challenge, followed closely by the need to eliminate corrosion, increase output and eliminate sticking, clogging and product build-up.

Coatings Extend Mold Life

The good news is that a range of surface enhancing technologies is now available that greatly improves mold release characteristics, extends wear life, eliminates corrosion and boosts production capabilities. One original technique that has been developed is a range of multi-step "synergistic" coatings that create sealed metal surfaces with a hardness and density to match or surpass expensive, scarce metals or alloys.

The first of these coatings was originally the result of a solution developed for the early NASA space program, which found that existing coatings could not protect against the harsh elements of space. Now a full family of 13 metal-enhancing coatings is applied in a multi-step process that starts with a series of specialized cleaning treatments. An enhancement of the substrate's surface is then performed by conversion, deposition, thermal spray or a blend matrix of all three technologies.

The process continues with a controlled infusion of selected proprietary polymers or dry-lubricating particles and/or metals. Unlike less sophisticated "paint-on" coatings, these particles are mechanically cross-linked and locked-in through a proprietary process to become a permanent, integral part of the new surface.

Whether in tough economic conditions, or better times, coatings have been used to ensure consistent production by a number of the country's leading manufacturers. For example, Johnson Controls (Milwaukee, WI), which specializes in PET blow molded food and beverage containers, was able to prevent wear, pitting and release problems by taking advantage of these coatings.

In addition, a major manufacturer of cloth and leather gloves found that the stretching and pulling of nickel-plated and bronzed molds was seriously limiting their working life. An application of the new coatings was able to double the life of the molds, while providing other benefits such as excellent lubricity for pulling off gloves.

By learning more about coatings, moldmakers will be able to offer a variety of surface-enhancing coating options to extend the life of molds and dies. Not only will this increase the quality of end products, but moldmakers also can help manufacturers to save much-needed dollars. Cash flow is at a premium and employing a mold preservation strategy can be a key part of a manufacturer's strategy for survival.

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