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The Bottom Line
Phygen applied their patented plasma-accelerated FortiPhySM coatings to critical mold surfaces. While the initial goal of reducing abrasive wear was met, an increase in corrosion resistance and mold release properties was also seen.

The Numbers
With other coatings:
details were hard to maintain, release properties were poor, and mold details wore after 200-300,000 shots

With FortiPhy:

release was improved, and fine texture on parts was maintained for over 1,100,000 shots

See Other Injection Molding Success Stories with FortiPhy PVD-based Tool and Die Coating

Die Casting Success Stories about FortiPhy Corrosion Resistant Coating

Metal Forming Success Stories with FortiPhy High Performance Surface Coating

See Other Emerging Application Success Stories where FortiPhy Chromium-Nitride (CrN) Surface Coatings Have Helped.




Injection Molding Success Story

Custom Injection Molding Company Uses FortiPhySM PVD Tool and Die Coating for Improved Mold Release and Corrosion Resistance

UltraEnduranceSM corrosion resistant tool coatings from Phygen are improving release properties and extending the life of plastic molds, even on some hard-to-maintain textured surfaces. Custom applications of Phygen's patented FortiPhySM ultra-endurance PVD surface coating have resulted in better release properties, better-quality molded parts, and lower maintenance costs.

Intesys is a large-scale custom injection molder as well as an innovative designer and manufacturer. With facilities located throughout the United States, South America, and Europe, Intesys serves the high-growth wireless communications, computer, and medical supply industries with engineered plastic and metal assemblies. (Your cell phone housing probably was molded using an Intesys process.) Intesys is a division of Textron, Inc., one of America's largest multi-industry companies.

Kenny Aldrich, manufacturing engineer, has more than 20 years of experience as a plastic molding specialist. He develops production processes and designs tooling to meet two major goals at Intesys: ensuring manufacturability and reducing tooling costs. His expertise keeps him busy, often on the road, fine-tuning the production processes at several Intesys production facilities in the United States and Mexico. Frequent problems with a customer's difficult, textured cell phone-housing mold started him searching for a way to increase mold life and still preserve the fine textured surface required for his customer's finished parts.

When a plastic part requires a textured surface, Aldrich typically calls for an EDM process to “spark” the required pattern into the mold cavity. The resulting micro-texture breaks up the glossy surface and produces a part with a nice matte finish and good “feel” in the hand. If the texture wears out of the mold, the look and feel of the finished parts change, with unacceptable variations from the beginning of a production run to the end.

The problematic cell phone housing, which specified a typical VDI 20 texture, was molded from an advanced thermoplastic for extra strength and impact resistance. “While it is very tough, this material also is very abrasive and hard on mold surfaces,” says Aldrich, “This hot, abrasive material was wearing out the texture details after only 200,000 to 300,000 shots, well below the 1,000,000 shots we typically consider our minimum acceptable mold life.”

When molds need to be reworked, production can stop for up to four days. The cost of “re-sparking” the texture, rebuilding the molds, and realigning the press can approach one-half of the cost to build the original mold. Before the line can be restarted and brought back into production, sample parts must be run, inspected, and sent to the customer for approval.

As maintenance costs and expenses add up, production rates and profits go down. Says Aldrich, “We really work hard to reduce our customers' tool costs. In this case, we needed better wear resistance to protect the textured surfaces of the mold from the abrasive material and keep the production line running longer between repairs.”

Intesys began experimenting with coatings, without much success. Aldrich explains, “We used plenty of different coatings, including a commercial CrN coating which gave us horrendous sticking problems.” Finally, he contacted Dave Bell of Phygen for a solution.

“Rather than take down a running machine, we suggested that Intesys send us a test piece or prototype mold,” Bell says. “We fine-tuned our process for the exact contours of the micro-texture and sent the coated parts back for testing.”

Phygen applied a customized, super-thin layer of FortiPhy coating to the working surface of the molds. After setting up the mold and making a few production runs, Aldrich liked what he saw. There was no sticking problem, and thanks to the thin, conforming coating layer, the required surface texture was preserved. After proving that FortiPhy was the right coating for this surface, Intesys sent a few sets of production molds to Phygen.

In production, one mold went more than 415,000 shots. Another produced more than 1,100,000 parts that met the surface texture requirements. Aldrich says, “We would have been well into a second set of molds at that point, and heading for a third. Phygen's coatings solved the wear problem, without the release problems of other coatings.”

In addition to reducing wear, Aldrich discovered that FortiPhy PVD surface coating also prevented adhesion of the “plate out” and other buildup that typically is caused by resin additives and byproducts. This kept the mold coating looking new throughout the production run, with no sign of corrosion or discoloration.

The key to FortiPhy's exceptional toughness, low coefficient of friction, and corrosion resistance is its uniform, nanocrystalline structure. Phygen’s patented plasma acceleration process improves upon traditional PVD to produce the most uniform coating deposition layer possible, with exceptionally high adhesion. Having solved the uniformity problems inherent in the PVD processes of the past, Phygen can apply thinner wear resistant coatings that outperform thicker, less-uniform coatings. In addition, Phygen's coatings are applied at much lower temperatures. Low-temperature processing and thinner coatings help keep critical tool dimensions within tolerance, without the costly rework of other processes.

Intesys started slowly, with a test of FortiPhy low-temperature tool and die coatings on a sample mold. Successful testing convinced them that FortiPhy really is different. Their production numbers continue to prove that FortiPhy wear resistant coating increases mold life, even in the finest detail areas. Intesys plans to use FortiPhy for future injection mold coating, wherever wear problems have to be solved.

Phygen Coatings, Inc.
1400 Marshall Street, NE / Minneapolis, MN 55413-1040
Toll Free 888.749.4361 / Fax 612.331.4230 /