Airbag covers have long been a growing market for plastic injection molders who want to make inroads (pun intended!) into the plastic automotive parts business. However, heretofore, manufacturing these covers resulted in a lot of waste and striations — long blemishes that thankfully were mostly obscured because of the covers’ textured finish. Still, the striations caused a lot of anxiety among injection molders who were concerned (sometimes justifiably) that they might put off both manufacturers and new car buyers.
Now news comes from Germany that a new process for molding airbag covers promises a 30% reduction in the amount of material used, fewer striations in finished parts, and easier designing for engineers. At K 2013, an industry trade show to be held in Dusseldorf, Germany October 16-23, the research lab Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT (Pfinztal, Germany; Stand 7/B05) will showcase thermoplastic foam injection (FIM) as a means to produce structural parts like airbag covers without the striations that can form during standard foam injection. Typically those surface marks are hidden thanks to the textured appearance, but, as noted above, still produced consternation on the part of injection molders.
If the new process pioneered by the Franhofer Institute can be repeated by other research facilities and manufacturers, the days of wasteful airbag covers and the striations that attended them, could be over.