Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Enhanced moulds for plastics

An EU-funded consortium developed innovative corrosion- and wear-protection technology to enhance performance of moulds used to form an important class of plastics.
Enhanced moulds for plastics
Polymers are widespread in nature. From the cellulose in plant cell walls that lends fibre to human diets to the proteins in our body that affect everything from eye colour to disposition, these long molecules made of repeating units (monomers) are ubiquitous.

‘Plastics’ are synthetic polymers. They are used for products from clear plastic beverage bottles and sandwich bags to raincoats and shower curtains. Plastic bottles are recyclable. They are members of a class of materials called thermoplastics, where plastic here refers to their ability to change.

Thermoplastics can be melted, shaped by various moulding processes and allowed to cool and harden. After use, they can be melted and reused to form new plastic products (in contrast to thermosets that take their shape once).

Aluminium mould tools for thermoplastics processing have become increasingly widespread in the EU. They have been shown to reduce costs, cycle and lead times and energy consumption relative to steel tools. However, applications are limited by inferior corrosion and wear resistance.

Efforts to overcome these limitations with anodising (producing an oxide layer of the same material over the top) have fallen short, producing microscopic cracks in the moulds under mechanical strain at relatively low temperatures compared to processing conditions.

Seeking to commercialise promising anodising technology developed by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the United Kingdom, European researchers initiated the ALAMO project. The project goals were production of aluminium thermoplastic mould processing tools with greater wear and corrosion resistance and thermal conductivity than conventional steel moulds.

Project goals were achieved, demonstrated in a final full-scale test of a large and complicated mould piece. Anodisation had no effect on mould properties in both moulding processes selected, confirming that enhanced mould performance did not come at the expense of material properties.

Further research should lead to optimisation of anodisation for various mould geometries, and part sizes and thicknesses with great potential for enhanced competitiveness of EU SMEs producing thermoplastic mould equipment.

Related information

Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top