The CleanMould project aims at developing a new coating solution for plastic moulding tools, addressing fretting wear, abrasive wear and corrosion, as well as cavity wear and demoulding issues. CleanMould combines the best properties from current state-of-the-art coatings to provide the single best solution. CleanMould therefore improves the lifetime of moulding tools significantly, while reducing the downtime of the production, the number of scrapped tools and the need for maintenance. These properties will result in an increased productivity of the plastics moulding industry and increase the competitiveness.
CleanMould will reduce the environmental impact of the industry by increasing the lifetime of moulding tools. The lifetime increase of CleanMould would result in raw-steel savings of approximately 200 kg per mould, which is equivalent to approximately 800 kg of CO2, only from the steel manufacturing. In contrast, the coating process results in a CO2 release of <10 kg. Furthermore, CleanMould will reduce the use of industrial lubricants in the industry, which are a heavy source of pollution.
To strengthen research, technological development and innovation.
The project aims to develop innovative solutions to improve the overall efficiency of the injection process of technical plastics, mainly those with increased mechanical properties and requiring high injection temperatures, through:
i) Development and application of protective coatings with low static friction that can avoid, on the one hand, the problems of flow and adhesion of the polymer and, on the other hand, the oxidation, corrosion and wear of the mould surfaces; it is intended, therefore, to reduce the maintenance / intervention / machine stoppage times and, simultaneously, to ensure the production of defect-free parts with complex shapes, with dimensional accuracy and high quality surface finish;
ii) Developing and implementing efficient and automatic strategies for cleaning/removal of polymer adhered to the molding and coating surfaces, using laser technologies, without altering or damaging them, thus reducing costs associated with maintenance operations and increasing productivity;
iii) Enhance Circular Economy policies, maximizing the total life time of the mold, through the development and implementation of strategies for the removal of worn coatings, using laser technologies, allowing, later on, the application of a new coating on the molding surface (mold reuse).
CleanMould had a final goal of extending the injection molds lifetime, improve production yielding, decrease maintenance times and costs of productions, all this without compromising the quality of the parts produced.
To achieve that goal, the following tasks will be executed:
i) Analysis of manufacturing processes, materials, defects, maintenance, and lifetimes;
ii) Development of protective coatings with low friction by PVD/HiPIMS;
iii) Surface cleaning and coatings removal by laser technology;
iv) Implementation of PVD/HiPIMS and laser technologies on complex molding surfaces;
v) Tests and validation in real service conditions of the optimized coatings and application of the laser treatment on the coated molds used.
CleanMould aims to extend the lifetime of injection moulds, improve the production yield, and decrease maintenance times and costs while maintaining a good quality finishing of the produced parts.
In this project, several goals were achieved:
i) The production process, maintenance times and lifetimes were analysed, and the moulds and raw materials were characterized;
ii) A coating solution based on carbon with Si with improved tribological properties was developed;
iii) A cleaning solution, with parameters adjusted to the mould's actual requirements was developed;
iv) The parameters that allow the second life of the moulds, by the coating removal were also studied and developed.
At the end of the project, CleanMould resulted in a coating solution tested in an industrial context, through the coating application in inserts with complex shapes and in the implementation on the company of a new and innovative methodology of mould cleaning by laser.