Engel opens physical foam moulding competence centre in Germany

Process allows for plastic part design with material wall thickness optimised for functionality and not for the injection moulding process

Engel Deutschland Technologieforum, Engel’s German subsidiary, has opened a MuCell Competence Centre in Stuttgart to advance the company’s structural foam moulding technology.

The Austrian injection moulding machinery supplier said the centre was set up in response to growing lightweight trends, stating that structural foam moulding – MuCell – was one of the most important technologies available.

The microcellular foam injection moulding process for thermoplastics materials provides unique design flexibility and saves costs.

The process allows for plastic part design with material wall thickness optimised for functionality and not for the injection moulding process.

Therefore, the combination of density reduction and design for functionality often results in material and weight savings of more than 20%.

“As a competence centre, we are even better able to support our customers to more fully exploit the potential offered by the physical foaming process,” explained Claus Wilde, managing director at Engel Deutschland in Stuttgart.

“We already have a number of major customers here in southwestern Germany who use the MuCell process in their factories worldwide,” he noted.

As part of the project, a large manufacturing cell has been installed at the ENGEL technology centre in Stuttgart for customer trials, development work, application-specific consulting, training and small-lot production.

Equipped with an Engel duo 350 injection moulding machine with a clamping force of 3500 kN, an integrated ENGEL easix multi-axis robot and a T-200 MuCell unit from the company’s technology partner Trexel, the cell covers a broad spectrum of applications.

Over the past months, Engel’s Lukas Neunzig has completed a number of MuCell projects with global customers at Engel’s headquarters in Schwertberg and at the large-scale machine plant in St. Valentin

According to Engel, which held a MuCell technology event in mid-September, the process is not just for car manufacturers.

“We are receiving a growing number of inquiries from other industries as well, such as technical injection moulding and medical technology,” says Wilde.

Two main drivers of success, said Engel, are first the general lightweight trend and, second, the high quality of the components produced in the structural foam moulding process.

Physical foaming involves the injection and homogeneous distribution of a blowing agent into the plastic melt during plastification.

After injection into the mould, the gas separates from the melt and creates a fine-cell foam structure.

In this way, significantly less material is needed to fill the cavities compared to standard injection moulding and the component weight decreases.

MuCell is a brand owned by the company Trexel, located in Wilmington, Massachusetts.

As a system supplier, ENGEL imports the MuCell systems for its customers and manages the integration of the controls and safety aspects into the injection moulding machine.

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