On a recent Technology Day, the German firm of Muffler-Plastic GmbH, Pfullendorf, gave around 50 visitors from the automotive industry a practical demonstration of the Varysoft® process developed by the Swiss firm of Georg Kaufmann Formenbau AG, Busslingen. Varysoft® is a process for the back moulding of decorative coverstocks featuring an additional production stage for extra comfort: a layer of soft foam is injected into the space between the supporting structure and the decorative material. The actual thickness of the layer of soft foam in any particular area of the moulded part is determined by the geometry of the mould in accordance with the degree of passenger comfort required.
The sample part produced in the mould used for the demonstration featured the tight radii and complex surface geometry typical of the difficulties encountered in the production of passenger compartment trim. The material for the supporting structure was polypropylene (PP), while the soft foam layer consisted of an expandable thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). The decorative materials used varied between relatively thin TPE sheet, relatively thick TPE sheet and alcantara sheet.
The mould used for the demonstration, built by Kaufmann and equipped with a vertically sliding table, was mounted on a Krauss-Maffei two-component injection moulding machine having a clamping force of 6,500 kN. One injection unit injected the material for the supporting structure (PP), the other injected the expandable TPE. For the purpose of the demonstration, both the placing of the decorative material in the mould and the removal of the finished part from the mould were carried out manually (these operations are performed automatically in mass production). This means that the visitors could observe the individual sequences of the Varysoft® process more easily.
In addition to the practical demonstration, the visitors attended a presentation providing further information on the user benefits of the Varysoft® process and on the possible range of different materials that can be used for the process as well as possible applications outside the automotive industry, e.g. stadium and similar seating systems, or arm and head rests in aeroplanes and train carriages.
Roger Kaufmann, Head of Development and Sales at Kaufmann, sums up the success of the Technology Day as follows: For us the demonstration of our Varysoft® process was an enormous success and an important further step towards a more intensive development of the market. Visitors from important car manufacturing companies and automotive supply companies could see for themselves how simple the process actually is. We would indeed be delighted if we were able to secure a development contract in the near future on the strength of our Varysoft® presentation. Markus Haller, Marketing Manager at Kaufmann, adds: We have already awakened the interest of an important OEM. We shall now put our heads together and make calculations for a passenger compartment component based on a comparison of the manufacturing costs hitherto and the manufacturing costs using the Varysoft® process. We shall then know for certain what innovation and substitution potential highly integrated Varysoft® technology offers.
Tobias Muffler, Managing Director of Muffler-Plastic, envisages a definite surge forward in innovative plastics processing thanks to this new development: We are convinced that the Varysoft® process offers enormous potential when it comes to the development and production of moulded parts for car interiors. And we expect that this technology will really come into its own slowly but surely in mass production, initially for relatively small production runs or for special luxury car models. As our skill in the use of the process in mass production increases, we can envisage using Varysoft® parts for all mid-range cars. We also envisage possible applications in commercial vehicles, in the furniture and electrical engineering industries and in the sports and household appliance industries.
More Information: www.gktool.ch, www.muffler-plastic.de