ColorForm - injection molding and high-gloss painting

Together with customer Weidplas, KraussMaffei is establishing the world's first series application of the ColorForm process, a one-shot process for injection molding and painting with high-gloss surfaces. The product is an A-pillar paneling of the new Peugeot 3008.

The ColorForm process developed by KraussMaffei has passed the series production tests with flying colors. Since June 2016, Swiss company Weidplas GmbH has been producing the ready-to-install A-pillar paneling for the new Peugeot 3008 SUV at its factory in Rüti, Switzerland. The high-gloss, black lacquered surfaces are produced right in the injection mold and the components are assembled and made ready for installation in the downstream automation process.


Fully automated manufacturing

"By developing the ColorForm process, KraussMaffei revolutionized the manufacturing of components featuring a high-gloss finish. It makes us all the more proud that our customer, Weidplas, has now incorporated the process into a series application for a large OEM," explains Dr. Hans Ulrich Golz, Managing Director of KraussMaffei and President of the Injection Molding Machinery segment of the KraussMaffei Group. The ColorForm technology combines injection molding and reaction process machinery and enables fully automated manufacturing in a one-step production cycle. First, a thermoplastic base body forms in a mold, which is then flow-coated directly in a second cavity using a two-component polyurea (PUA) or polyurethane (PUR) paint. The result is a finished component with the desired lacquered color assignment and a premium-quality surface, produced within one minute.
Positive first experiences with the ColorForm technology had led Weidplas to become a project partner of KraussMaffei back at K 2013. For the ColorForm production cells currently installed in the Rüti factory, the customer thus again opted for the swivel plate technology that has been implemented in a SpinForm GXW 650 - 1400/2000 injection molding machine with a clamping force of 6,500 kN. The cover with the ColorForm surface and the seal carrier lying underneath are injected simultaneously. The second injection unit of the injection molding machine is used to apply a TPE sealing element to this carrier. This produces one set per cycle with a left and right A pillar paneling. The 4.5-ton spin-platen mold with four cavities, a multi-sprue system as well as hot runner technology from HRSflow was built by the Hofmann Innovation Group from Lichtenfels, Germany. The reaction system technology for the "Panadur Black" polyurea lacquer is also from KraussMaffei. A two-component metering machine of the Hybrid Flex 0.2-4/4 variety with a servo electric metering piston is used for the abrasive A-component. A two-component MK5/8ULPK-2KVV mixing head is also used, which is flange-mounted on the injection mold.


Valuable synergies from Injection Molding and Reaction Process Machinery

KraussMaffei also acted as the system provider of the completely automated cell where an IR 1500 six-axis robot from Kuka takes over the complex handling of the components. This includes aspects such as component demolding, sprue cutting as well as placement on and removal from the cooling station and rotary table. Handling during ultrasonic welding of the upper and lower parts presents a particular challenge. After an extended cooling time, the covers are initially placed into an ultrasonic welding system made by KLN. Here, they are cut, mounted onto seal carriers and welded in the follow-up process. Thanks to the fully automated process, consistently high quality of the finished components is guaranteed.
"The fact that we have come so far with the ColorForm technology can certainly also be attributed to KraussMaffei's ability to supply the three technologies that are critical to this process: injection molding technology, reaction process machinery and automation. All from a single source. The system expertise and the outstanding collaboration of the teams have consistently led to success," says Nicolas Beyl, Managing Director of KraussMaffei and President of the Reaction Process Machinery segment of the KraussMaffei Group.


Weidplas acting as system integrator

Today, Weidplas is the exclusive supplier producing the A-pillar paneling for the new Peugeot 3008. The paneling seals off the windshield from the pillar. Due to its high-gloss black appearance, the paneling also serves as an elegant design element of the vehicle series, which was designed to meet premium standards. The geometry of the component posed a particular challenge. The component has a length of one meter and a width of 35 millimeters. The ColorForm process has never been used to create such a long, narrow component before. "We had the courage to begin implementing ColorForm technology because we were confident about it and we still are. I am positive that we are going to open up the field for the compact class as well thanks to the premium appearance that can be achieved through ColorForm. ColorForm will be a success," assures Steffen Reuter, Vice President of Innovation & Technology at Techniplas, which owns the Weidplas Group. And Weidplas is on board with this investment in cutting-edge technology. Thus, a second series order for an additional OEM has already been placed.


High design freedom with high cost-efficiency

Using the one-step ColorForm process, the process costs can be reduced considerably compared to classic injection molding plus painting. The costs for a separate painting system are eliminated. The scrap rates are also reduced for multiple process steps. Firstly during painting, secondly due to the single-stage process and thirdly due to the particularly robust surface finish of the components.
In addition to the economic advantages, the added value of the ColorForm process lies primarily in the high design freedom of the components. Clear varnish, piano black, depth effects, logotypes or frosting, even metallic effects are possible. Other functional integrations or multi-color finishes are likewise no problem at all. The process works without any release agent whatsoever. The excellent bonding of the PU/PUA paint with the thermoplastic part creates an especially robust manufactured part. It is resistant to UV radiation and features high scratch resistance.