Foamed parts, buoyant revenues
After four years, the excitement of having a unique, new process is still strong for Marie-Claude de Billy, vice-president of Finproject N.A. Inc. (Quebec). Through the investigation of the new techno...
After four years, the excitement of having a unique, new process is still strong for Marie-Claude de Billy, vice-president of Finproject N.A. Inc. (Quebec). Through the investigation of the new technology, raising funds and convincing banks, starting up the molding company and selling the process to new clients, de Billy has maintained her enthusiasm for Finproject’s unique process for molding foamed materials.
The excitement is contagious, and justified. A visitor can literally get caught up in the excitement just listening to her as she animatedly waves part samples and rhymes off the markets for injection molded, expanded ethylene vinyl-acetate (EVA).
“Sport padding, shoe soles, wheels, padding for hot tubs, boat bumpers, kick boards. The molding technology allows us to produce different densities and hardness levels, and the new material resists ultraviolet rays, chlorine and salt,” she explains.
Finproject’s staff are not the only ones excited about molding expanded EVA. Two major resin suppliers have confidential research and development agreements with the company to explore new materials.
THE IDEA’S BEEN KICKED AROUND
This particular technology for injection molding expanded EVA originated in Europe, and was used for shoe soles. Finproject president Andy Redyhoff investigated the feasibility of the process and the materials for several years, and then started Les Plastiques Evasol in partnership with de Billy and four others in 1995.
From an initial $500,000 of sales in 1995, Finproject has grown to $4 million in 1998.
The name change occurred in 1996: “Before we were even out of the start-up phase, we connected with Finproject Spa of Italy,” recounts de Billy. “They needed someone in North America to produce shoe soles here, and we were at a point where we needed more capital for a second machine.
“It is a great match that allows us to grow. They are buying more shares of the company now, which shows their continued support and involvement.”
Current contracts for Finproject include padding and assembly for snow board bindings for Sims, and an integrated seat and back pad for kayak seats for Ocean Kayak.
NOT QUITE CONVENTIONAL MOLDING
The surprising aspect of this technology is that the foamed part expands when it is removed from the mold, so parts like the integrated seat pad and back rest only need a mold half their final size.
The lengthy cycle time necessitates some changes from conventional injection molding equipment. Multi-station machines have a two-component injection unit that travels from station to station, filling the mold. Cycle time for each part varies from 300 to 700 seconds; it takes time to activate the blowing agents and cross-linking agents.
Finproject has three six-station machines manufactured by Main Group of Italy.
Once removed from the mold, parts expand anywhere from 1.4 to 1.9 times their original size. They are placed on racks in a sheltered cooling tower to expand and cool. Tolerances are +/- one percent of the part dimensions, says Delphine Museliec, head of engineering.
Hardness can be tailored within the range of 15 Shore A to 50 Shore A, and density can be 0.12 to 0.4 g/cc.
Finproject is working with resin suppliers and the National Research Council’s Industrial Materials Institute in Boucherville, Que. to create more materials that can work with the process. One new material with improved shock absorption is forthcoming, and may open up even more possibilities for Finproject. CPL