SimpaTec Microcellular foam injection simulation software targets mould designers

Editor: Eric Culp

A joint development agreement between CoreTech Systems and Trexel, Inc., has spawned a powerful module called Moldex3D MuCell for simulating microcellular foam injection moulding for the patented MuCell process, according to software reseller SimpaTec GmbH, Aachen, Germany.

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Microcellular injection moulding enables the mass-production of parts with complex geometries and high dimensional stability and is widely used in parts for cars, electronic/electrical products, construction, outdoor products and many other applications. In this process, supercritical fluid (SCF)--usually nitrogen or carbon dioxide -- is mixed with polymer melt to create a single-phase polymer/gas solution. This is injected into the mould cavity, where bubbles form in the product and it foams. The benefits of the technology are said to be lower injection pressures, lower temperatures, shorter cycle times, less energy and less material. These advantages come at a cost: The addition of supercritical fluid complicates flow behaviour, material morphology and product surface quality, which has hampered the development and broad acceptance of the process.

Upon the announcement of the cooperation between the two companies earlier this year, Steve Braig, president and CEO of Trexel, said, “We firmly believe that a reliable design and simulation tool providing useful guidance when designing a mould for the MuCell process will help our customers increase their efficiency and productivity levels dramatically.”

Moldex3D MuCell is said to employ the fundamental physics of bubble nucleation and growth to realistically model this complex process. Results like bubble size and bubble distributions enable the user to predict filling pattern, weld lines and weight reduction for microcellular injection moulding. The module is a truly representative mould filling simulation tool because it considers the process characteristics under different polymers, fillers and injection parameters, the reseller said. CoreTech and Trexel are jointly establishing a detailed plan and specifications for further development and validations.

Microcellular injection moulding has garnered advocates despite its intricacy, especially since it offers weight reduction of finished parts compared to standard injection. Ford recently announced it would install instrument panels produced with the MuCell process in new models; the components are 10% lighter than their predecessors.

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