cleanMOULD – a universal coating for plastic moulding tools
In cleanMOULD an all-round coating for plastic moulding tools that will be developed in collaboration with industry pilot users. The coating will be obtained by improved nanotechnology in PVD coatings to reduce fretting- and abrasive wear, as well as friction and deforming problems.
Fretting wear a limiting factor in the life of many plastic injection moulds, and it has an estimated yearly cost over $10 billion worldwide. Micrometer-deep vents are designed and ground in the mould surfaces to allow air to escape from the mould as the plastic fills the mould cavities. Each time the mould is closed during its moulding cycle (i.e. every 10-30s in an operational mould under uptime production), the contacting surfaces “adjust” to each other and undergo microscopic vibrational movements that slowly damage these surfaces, leading to severe tear and particle release. Ultimately, the mould needs to be scrapped after repeated re-grinding, thus significantly affecting the overall mould service life.
Long productive lifecycles are key to effectively depreciate the heavy upfront investments in casting moulds in injection moulding production pipelines. Hence, reducing the impact of fretting corrosion is a fundamental need transversal to all manufacturing industries relying on injection moulding. This translates into direct savings that unlock value pools for the different actors along the injection moulding value chain (mould manufacturers, injection moulders, and end-costumers of plastic parts), but also entails important benefits for end-users, reducing the impact of contamination of moulded products with mould debris stemming from fretting wear - a core concern in sensitive manufacturing industries, such as food packaging and medical sectors, where hygiene is of utmost importance. In addition, increasing production synergies to explore the power of commonality and modularity to reduce overall costs through economies of scale is a very significant market trend in sectors such as electronics and automotive. This is further driving up the production series lengths and building a strong need for even longer lasting injection moulds
Building on CemeCon Scandinavia’s extensive experience in solving tribological problems in injection mould’s operational environments, cleanMOULD is a novel coating solution for moulds, based on a multi-layer diamond-like coating (DLC) formulation that jointly optimizes both the surface hardness and lubricity to minimize the impact of fretting wear. cleanMOULD’s functionally formula relies on a unique sequence. This not only allows a class leading surface hardness and lubricity but also an unmatched coating structural integrity, adhesiveness to the base mould and long-time stability, contributing to a longer service life (up to 10x) even under significant mechanical wear, thermal stress and overall harsh operational conditions typically found in injection moulding manufacturing. This represents huge economical savings to end-users by producing more pieces with the same equipment or requiring less moulds to achieve the numbers needed. Furthermore, it will allow average environmental savings of 250 kg raw-steel per each extended life-cycle of coated moulds, whose production and machining would release over a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The key barrier for successful exploitation of cleanMOULD’s technology is the lack of market awareness and customer endorsement of the technology. In order to reduce the risk perception and increase end-users’ confidence to adopt cleanMOULD, the performance and reliability of the new technology needs to be clearly demonstrated in full-scale showcasing activities, undertaken in collaboration with key opinion makers in the industry.
cleanMOULD has the potential to become a key enabling technology transversal to the plastic industry, by providing an effective solution to the prevalent fretting wear problem. cleanMOULD will significantly contribute towards the profitability of its targeted users, by increasing mould’s service life up to 10x compared with current injection moulds that reach 0.5-1 million shots before requiring significant repairs. It also enables lower maintenance costs and increased maintenance intervals. Overall, the return-of-investment for cleanMOULD users is expected to be over 20x the expected coating costs, providing a very compelling value proposition.
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement n° 784167"