FIP – Foam in Place Tooling
EPW has designed, built and assisted our customers with successful project launches for Foam in Place, Elastomeric foam, Acoustical Foam, Energy Absorption Foam, Structural Foam, soft touch or soft trim products for over 20 years. This “Foam in Place” (FIP) process has many key advantages over a conventional, manual molding style operation of applying the “A” surface skin or cover stock to a molded “bun” piece of foam which is in turn attached to the molded substraight.
Prevent Material “Bridging” Quality Issues
Conventional molding style processes are more labor intense and have lower overall product quality when compared to the benefit’s of Foam in Place methods to create soft touch and soft trim products. Along with the additional labor cost, manually attaching all the components introduces additional variables that can lead to material “bridging” which is a condition where the skin isn’t properly adhered to the foam.
Another issue that occurs in conventional molding processes is an inaccurate location of foam to substraight. Manual parts manufacturing operation there are many variables that are introduced that can be eliminated if using a “foam in place” manufacturing system.
Foam in Place does not require any additional manual labor to attach the foam, skin and substraight. When utilizing a “Foam in Place” (FIP) system our customers have the ability to eliminate post operative labor costs, as well as the above additional quality issues such as material bridging and inaccurate substraight location.
How Foam in Place Improves Product Quality
The “Foam in Place” (FIP) system improves overall product quality of the molded assembly by keeping all components in the mold during foaming.
This is achieved by allowing the foam to adhere to the skin in the mold. The skin is then pulled down into the cavity mold half via vacuum. Once the skin is held into position in the “foam in place” style mold, the foam is then introduced into the mold either as an open pour or closed pour injection through the core mold half.
The two foaming methods of open pour and closed pour can both be successful and are largely dependent on part shape. The “Foam in Place” (FIP) system eliminates possible material bridging and keeps the substraight held into accurate position at all times as it is held into position by supporting key location features and with the assistance of vacuum cups which allows for overall higher part quality.
EPW works with customer’s during the early stages of part design and can provide design guidance for the critical foam shut off location that is needed on each specific project. It is imperative that proper engineering thought, planning and design goes into each specific part in order to provide a “Foam in Place” (FIP) mold system that allows years of successful product manufacturing for the end customer.
FIP Seal Technology
EPW has many specialized techniques and engineered seal technology to provide our customers with the ability to successfully manufacture even the most complex part geometries. After the initial part files are analyzed and reviewed and modified as necessary, EPW then incorporates the shut off system that is best suited for that specific part. Some of the seal technology that is employed may be:
This is where the core mold surface shuts off the foam against the cavity parting line with only the skin in between. This is normally used on more simplistic part geometry and horizontal flats throughout the parting line.
This seal technology can be used to provide foam shut off in areas that may have more contour or a more complicated part geometry. EPW has many custom soft seal profiles in many different sizes, shapes and have many different durometers as well to provide an excellent foam shut system for more complex part geometries.
This seal technology provides the best opportunity to shut off foam against skin and substraight by utilizing an inflatable seal that can be PLC or logically controlled to provide superior processing ability. Air is blown into the hollow seal at the correct processing time to shut the foam off and also to allow “degassing” of the part. This system greatly aids in the elimination of voiding on the molded part and assists with insuring proper part fill with each and every cycle.
Smart Tools – Containment Systems
Foam in Place (FIP) molds with the above seal technologies can be placed into existing customer capital equipment, mold carriers, presses or “smart track” systems or can be engineered by EPW as a “smart tool” or “containment system”.
A “smart tool” or “containment system” mold is essentially a stand alone work cell. No customer capital is required because the mold contains a PLC (programmable logic controls) with a touch screen control for easy operator use.
Each “smart tool” or “containment system” is outfitted with light curtains, pressure mats and guards for operator safety. This system allows for excellent process control with regard to the urethane shot introduced into the mold, the processing of the air seal technology, speed of core mold half closure and cycle times.
Smart Tool – Containment systems are typically used for but not limited to:
- Door panel assemblies
- Instrument panel assemblies
- Back foamed components
- Other nonautomotive applications that require foam shut off between skin and substraight
EPW has been a leader in providing “Foam in Place”(FIP) and seal technology expertise to the automotive, construction, appliance, shipping, and medical industries that require high quality soft touch and soft trim products along with a lower overall cost of manufacturing.
All of these manufacturing market segments that desire soft touch and soft trim components for their product designs can rest assured that EPW possesses the capability to insure their projects are successful through proper engineering, seal technology and the many years of success that EPW has shared with its Foam in Place customers.
In the quest of OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers) and Tier 1 suppliers to find more economical ways to provide “soft touch” components that are of high quality while lowering overall manufacturing costs, EPW welcomes the opportunity to review concept data and provide budgetary costs, design guidance and process input as needed.