Today’s turbulent economy is impacting industries across the board, including the automobile industry, where both manufacturers and their suppliers are struggling to maintain their bottom line in the face of rising costs and insecure supply chains1. One contributor to the industry, iMFLUX, is offering a technology that enhances product and part design and development in a way that responds to both of these concerns. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), branded parts manufacturers, and intermediary suppliers will be interested to learn how a modified production of plastic injection molded products can answer some of their most pressing problems.
Disruptions Distress Auto Industry
Supply Chain Challenges
As if the shortage of microchip supplies for the automobile industry isn’t stressful enough, vehicle manufacturers find other products — or access to them — are also still limited2. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate concerns, and political upheavals have rattled global supply chains, including those that generate auto-related parts and services. Even when product alternatives exist, supply chain interruptions can reduce or eliminate their availability. Consequently, auto production numbers remain low, awaiting new components or service developments or reimagined and reliable supply chains.
Those supply chain woes affect the plastics industry, too3. A vast number of car parts are made of resins that are shaped by injection molding technology. These parts make up a significant percentage of each vehicle; a 2016 analysis4 suggests that approximately half the volume of all cars consists of plastic injection molded components. Since then, environmental concerns have driven that percentage higher as manufacturers increasingly rely on lightweight plastic parts to reduce each car’s or truck’s overall weight. Using injection molded parts instead of metal parts means each vehicle can have lower emissions and a diminished environmental impact.
Supply chain challenges can also contribute to price increases5. The auto industry engages with thousands of suppliers, organized into tiers. Tier one suppliers — those with direct connections to the OEMs — partner with many lower-tiered producers (including injection molded parts producers) and coordinate the quality and quantity of their outputs to meet their OEM contract requirements. Costs for OEMs go up when their network of tiered suppliers struggles to obtain the materials they need to produce their specific auto components. Even when supplies are available, rising transportation, warehousing, and handling costs still add to the deal’s final price.
The automobile manufacturing industry is acutely aware of these concerns and is constantly searching for solutions that address these challenges.
Three Concerns Draw Auto Industry Focus
There are several concerns at the moment that are most pressing for the auto industry, and iMFLUX offers solution opportunities for all three.
Yes, car makers are very concerned about making positive contributions to the sustainability of their products. They are looking at plastics to provide several alternatives to their conventional vehicle-building processes:
- Lowering a vehicle’s weight reduces its environmental impact significantly. Auto manufacturers are actively working to cut down the carbon footprint of their vehicles by making them lighter and more energy efficient. They are incorporating even more plastic injection molded parts6 in their designs and models because the materials offer durable and lightweight options for the end vehicle product.
- They’re also exploring new materials in response to environmental and product quality concerns. Recent research7 indicates that using post-consumer recycled resins (PCR) expends less energy than using virgin (newly generated from petroleum products) materials, making them more attractive to the auto manufacturing industry8.
Sequential Valve Gate Reduction
Multiple injection points is sometimes needed to fill larger parts. Maintaining consistent quality is more difficult when the injection mold is utilizing more than one injection point. This is common in large parts used in automotive and throughout the transportation/mobility market segment as well as other industries like water and septic piping.
Regardless of the materials used, the industry must always ensure its products achieve the quality consumers demand. Adding new materials to production lines will only be feasible when those changes meet or exceed current expectations9. Plastic parts producers, then, must ensure that their final products are always of the highest quality to retain their place in the supply chain. Changes to plastic injection molding processes, including both the range of materials able to be used and the technology that shapes them, will require strict adherence to auto industry standards if they’re to be incorporated into evolving car manufacturing practices.
The iMFLUX Injection Molding Platform Addresses Auto Industry Challenges
The iMFLUX injection molding platform10 responds to these and more plastic processing challenges. It connects directly to existing injection molding machines to augment their capacities in several ways:
- Once installed, it develops a closed-loop system within the machine, and the embedded sensor can track and manage flow.
- The sensor constantly measures the melt pressure and can adapt to changes automatically.
- The system uses a low-constant-pressure injection that responds to the unique flow characteristics of each shot. It senses the changes in pressure either caused by part geometry, or in the case of larger automotive components, sequentially valve-gated molds. iMFLUX offers the unique ability to self-profile the screw movement to compensate for the changes in pressure, seen in these unique tools, creating harmony between your machine injection phase and valve-gate sequencing that has not existed until now. This monitoring of flow pressure at sequential gates ensures that each cavity is accurately filled and packed as the flow moves through channels.
- The iMFLUX platform senses viscosity changes within the flow and alters the pressure to accommodate those changes. The result is a fill that remains constant and consistent across cavities. The Auto Viscosity Adjust™ feature facilitates the use of material streams with varying viscosities – like many post-consumer recycled resins – in a single shot without compromising the quality of the product.
- The iMFLUX process enables greater control and reduces production defects, including splay and tiger striping, by facilitating longer flow lengths that require fewer valve gates. This Advanced technology automates several factors and reduces the need for human intervention.
The iMFLUX platform transforms the efficiency of injection molding machines, enhancing the quality of injection molded automotive parts while addressing some of the industry’s most pressing challenges. Contact us today to learn more.