Crest Mold Technology: On the Cutting Edge of R&D
Canadian mold manufacturer Crest Mold Technology (Windsor, ON) was established in 1987 by Willie Cipkar—still owner and president—who began developing his design skills and attention to quality by building high-precision, non-automotive molds for numerous industries prior to entering the automotive tooling sector in the mid ‘90s. Being located in Windsor, adjacent to Detroit, the Automotive Capital of the World, it was logical to pursue a mold design and build business for the auto industry, which he believed had one of the most voracious appetites for tooling due to the continuous styling changes of plastic components.
According to Ed Bernard, Crest Mold’s Manager of Research and Development, the company has always focused on innovation and advancements that give customers a competitive edge. “With over 30,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 60 highly skilled and motivated employees, Crest continues to invest in Research & Development on behalf of our customers’ best interests,” Bernard comments. “Crest’s designers focus on adequately robust molds capable of producing certified accurate parts at optimized cycle times; and Crest’s moldmakers concentrate on continuous improvement for efficiencies in processing the various steels and alloys on the latest Makino and Toshiba machining centers.”
Tops in Technology
Developing and applying technologies to benefit customers makes Crest a creative and dynamic workplace, Bernard notes. Crest has an alliance with Matsui of Japan and Cinpres of the United Kingdom for rapid heat cycle molding using cyclic process thermodynamics via project-specific mediums.
The company’s designers recently spent time in Japan and have been working with Matsui since 2006 to establish a technology transfer method that would include the intellectual property costs so that they are invisible to the customer, according to Bernard. “Including Cinpres in the alliance made perfect sense from the perspective of additional marketing expertise, an entire distribution network, and an opportunity to combine technologies like gas press, gas assist, microcellular foaming and water injection, along with rapid heat cycle molding apparatus solutions,” he comments.
Bernard explains that approximately 10 years ago a technology was developed in Japan to satisfy rigid environment rules for recycling painted plastic parts. “The rapid heat cycle molding methods were created to heat a mold cavity to near glass transition temperature for high gloss appearance (replicating the look of ‘piano black’ painted parts on flat screen TVs and monitors) with rapid cooling (for curing quickly enough to eject the parts from the mold) being achieved within a competitive production speed cycle (taking into consideration the absence of painting cost and environmental impact expenses),” he elaborates.
Crest Mold recognized that the same concepts—which were developed for high gloss appearance—could be adapted to improve structural integrity of almost any plastic parts by producing mold conditions, which would allow plastic materials to flow longer distances at lower pressure. This would result in a uniform dispersion of polymer chains and the reinforcing fibers intended to improve physical performance and reduce cost for its customers, Bernard notes.
Crest has been developing design concepts for molds capable of temperature changes, within a competitive production cycle, where the mold cavity surface changes from near glass transition Tg down to cured ejection levels using cyclic process thermodynamics. “Because petroleum-based plastics have a broader thermal range for processing than renewable biomaterial plastics, adaptation and acceptance of biomaterials into the market has not yet occurred,” Bernard states. “But, initial experiments with cyclic process thermodynamics and the application of rapid heat cycle molding technologies have produced samples of injection molded complex automotive part geometries using 100 percent biomaterial-based polymers, as well as petroleum-based plastics with as high as 40 percent biomaterial fiber reinforcement, in competitive production cycle times.”
Uniting with Universities
The company is also currently engaged in ventures with three major universities for projects including Biocomposites and Biomaterials Processing and is also initiating research support with the Microcellular Plastics Manufacturing Laboratory for automotive light-weighting applications using RHCM surface enhancement technology.
Once again, the company formed an alliance—this time with a university for R&D efforts. Personnel from The University of Toronto have been working hand in hand with Crest design staff at the Crest facility. “After demonstrating our technological capabilities to Ford Motor Company, the improved thermal control aspects were identified as potentially being able to overcome flow issues with an experimental bio-material that was being developed in cooperation with the University of Toronto and introductions quickly led to collaboration.
“Continuous stability, even during the recent global downturn, is the result of a systematic approach to problem-solving and a clear focus on innovation,” Bernard adds. Crest designers have also recently discovered that accepted industry processing limitations can be overcome with enhanced cyclic process thermodynamic control systems, which are capable of radically changing the boundaries of previous molding cycle limitations.
Plastic used for injection molding requires high heat to flow and low heat to cure—so pretty much every mold in production ends up running at a compromised temperature somewhere between the correct high injection temperature for filling and the proper low temperature for quick curing and ejection, Bernard continues. “Once the single compromised temperature is established, it’s up to the injection pressure to force the already curing plastic into the cavity details of the mold,” he says.
“Crest—a pioneer of various types of two-short molds—is now engaged in a systematic investigation of technology applications and combinations of processes, which are anticipated to change the paradigm for plastic processing parameters, especially with emerging applications for biomaterials and nanocomposites.” Biomaterials typically have a smaller thermal processing range than their petroleum-based counterparts and to make things even more challenging, biomaterials are characteristically more viscous, so optimized thermal control in the mold is essential, he adds.
Every plastic parts manufacturer knows what happens when one tries injecting 400-degree plastic into a 100-degree mold. It doesn’t get very far without numerous gates and lots of injection pressure. Bernard explains, “You end up with non-uniform density—resulting in warp and distortion—as well as flow marks and knit lines on the backsides of seal-offs. Imagine what happens when you inject 400-degree plastic into a 350-degree mold. Material flows back into itself on the backside of seal-offs, and reinforcement fibers actually cross link, thin ribs fill without difficulty and minimal wall thicknesses are easily achieved. What you probably didn’t imagine was the phenomenon of a resin-rich surface, which completely replicates the cavity surface—whether bright gloss or matte texture—and which completely buries the reinforcement fibers.”
Focus on the Future
Crest Mold Technology recognizes that the company’s success is dependent upon making its customers successful. “Intense investigation of technologies that can be advanced for applications that give our customers an edge is what Crest Mold research and development is all about,” Bernard concludes. “Working with molders to produce stronger, lighter weight parts, using less energy with lower material costs, Crest is determined to be the leader for optimized cycle time with guaranteed reliable tooling.”
For More Information
Crest Mold Technology / (519) 737-1546
firstname.lastname@example.org / www.crestmold.com