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DBM Reflex is arguably the best in class for automotive reflex reflector mold inserts, and the class it leads is indeed a small and exclusive group. Bernard Caire, assistant sales manager, estimates t...
DBM Reflex is arguably the best in class for automotive reflex reflector mold inserts, and the class it leads is indeed a small and exclusive group. Bernard Caire, assistant sales manager, estimates that there are only six companies in the world capable of making these complex-geometry mold inserts.
“The field is limited because it requires a lot of knowledge. Making an insert for reflex reflectors is very complex; you need calculated and precise optical definition.”
These highly detailed, precisely aligned geometric surfaces form part of the taillight mold, and serve to reflect ambient light, making the car visible when its lights are not on.
DBM is the largest in the field, says Caire, in terms of the number of projects, is the most innovative and is the most recognized for product quality.
All engineering and manufacturing is done at the head office in Laval. DBM also has sales offices in Windsor, Ont., Milan, Italy and Stuttgart, Germany. “It’s a little difficult to serve the automotive industry because we are far from the centres of auto design, but since our competition is so limited, we can overcome that,” says Caire.
“Our business is based on technology and innovation, so we have a full R&D department,” he explains. Of 165 employees in Laval, 40 are engineers involved in design, engineering and R&D.
As an extension of its core products, DBM also offers consulting in the styling of taillights, lamp simulations to assist with optical design of taillights and light output simulations. So, in addition to the usual metal working equipment, the building houses a 33-m long photometry lab and two Kawaguchi injection molding machines.
“We use the molding machines to test molds, and set the specifications so we can advise the molder. To get the proper light output, you have to fiddle a lot with the molding parameters. In addition to the usual fine tuning for dimensions, part weight and cycle time, you have to get the photometrics right too,” says Caire.
DBM Reflex has developed a number of innovations in reflector design that give taillight designers more freedom to make the reflectors smaller or more dramatically curved.
On a marketing level, these patented technologies give DBM products a brand name synonomous with its broad knowledge base, commitment to innovation and responsiveness to customer needs.
Reflex reflectors must meet a certain standard for light output. To address a desire for more light output per area, DBM developed and patented the Superpin electroform. Superpin permits increased light output compared with traditional designs of the same area, or conversely, allows designers to achieve the same light output with a smaller area of reflector.
Vari-Flex is another patented technology with implications for taillight aesthetics. As a reflex reflector curves, the axis of the prisms must change to output light in the proper direction. Previously, a visible discontinuity was present as the axis changed abruptly. Vari-Flex allows engineers to create a strongly curved reflex reflector with a homogenous aspect; to have no visible discontinuity as a rear-facing reflector becomes a side-facing reflector.
An innovation with more direct production benefit is Rapi-Flex, a method of building up the electroform structure more quickly. First a layer of nickel is deposited on the pins by the traditional method, electroplating. This layer is critical to photometric performance. Next, cutting almost five weeks off production time, the backing layers of nickel are deposited at extremely high speed, building up the thickness in just a few hours. This layer gives the electroform the thickness required for insertion into the mold.
DBM’s history of innovation began in 1969, when DBM Industries invented a machine to produce pins for reflex reflectors. Later, the company expanded its production to produce electroforms and injection molds, and DBM Relflex Enterprises Inc. eventually became an independent company. In addition to electroforms, DBM Reflex can produce injection molds. CPL