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Plastic Process -> Transfer Molding

Transfer Molding


In transfer molding, the thermosetting molding powder is placed in a chamber or pot outside the molding cavity and subjected to heat and pressure to liquefy it. When liquid enough to start flowing, the material is forced by the pressure into the molding cavity, either by a direct sprue or though a system of runners and gates. The material sets hard to the cavity shape after a certain time (cure time) has elapsed. When the mold is disassembled, the molded part is pushed out of the mold by ejector pins, which operate automatically.

Figure PP.3 shows the molding cycle of pot-type transfer molding, and Figure PP.4 shows plunger-type transfer molding (sometime called auxiliary raw transfer molding). The taper of the sprue is pot-type transfer is such that, when the mold is opened, the sprue remains attached to the disc of material left in the pot, known as cull, and is thus pulled away from the molded part, whereas the latter is lifted out of the cavity by the ejector pins (Figure PP.3c). In plunger-type transfer molding, on the other hand, the cull and the sprue remains with the molded piece when the mold is opened (Figure PP.4c).

FIGURE PP.3 Molding cycle of a pot-type transfer mold. (a) Molding compound is placed in the transfer pot and then (b) forced under pressure when hot through an orifice and into a closed mold. (c) When the mold opens, the sprue remains with the cull in the pot, and the molded part is lifted out of the cavity by ejector pins.

Another variation of transfer molding in screw transfer molding (Figure PP.5). In this process the molding material is preheated and plasticized in a screw chamber and dropped into the pot of an inverted plunger mold. The preheated molding material is then transferred into the mold cavity by the same method as shown in Figure PP.4. The screw-transfer-molding technique is well suited to fully automatic operation. The optimum temperature of a phenolic mold charge is 2400F + 200F (1550C + 110C), the same as that for pot-transfer and plunger molding techniques.

For transfer molding, generally pressures of three times the magnitude of those required for compression molding are required. For example, usually a pressure of 9,000 psi (632 kg/cm2) and upward is required for phenolic molding material (the pressure referred to here is that applied to the powder material in the transfer chamber).

The principle of transferring the liquefied thermosetting material from the transfer chamber into the molding cavity is similar to that of the injection molding of thermoplastics (described later). Therefore the same principle must be employed for working out the maximum area which can be moldedthat is, the projected area of the molding multiplied by the pressure generated by the material inside the cavity must be less than the force holding the two halves together. Otherwise, the molding cavity plates will open as the closing force is overcome.

Transfer molding has an advantage over compression molding in that the molding powder is fluid when it enters the mold cavity. The process therefore enables production of intricate parts and molding around thin pins and metal inserts (such as an electrical lug). Thus, by transfer molding, metal inserts can be molded into the component in predetermined positions held by thin pins, which would, however, bend or break under compression-molding conditions. Typical articles made by the transfer molding process are terminal-bloc insulators with many metal inserts and intricate shapes, such as cups and caps for cosmetic bottles.

FIGURE PP.4 Molding cycle of a plunger-type transfer mold. (a) An auxiliary ram exerts pressure on the heatsoftened material in the pot and (b) forces it into the mold. (c) When the mold is opened, the cull and sprue remain with the molded piece.

PP.4.1 Ejection of Molding

Ejection of a molded plastic article from a mold can be achieved by using ejector pins, sleeves, or stripper plates. Ejector pins are the most commonly used method because they can be easily fitted and replaced. The ejector pins must be located in position where they will eject the article efficiently without causing distortion of the part. They are worked by a common ejector plate or a bar located under the mold, and operated by a central hydraulic ejector ram. The ejector pins are fitted either to the bottom force or to the top force depending on whether it is necessary for the molding to remain in the bottom half of the female part or on the top half of the male part of the tool. The pins are usually constructed of a hardened steel to avoid wear.

PP.4.2 Heating System

Heating is extremely important in plastics molding operations because the tool and auxiliary parts must be heated to the required temperature, depending on the powder being molded, and the temperature must be maintained throughout the molding cycle. The molds are heated by steam, hot waters, and induction heaters. Steam heating is preferred for compression and transfer molding, although electricity is also used because it is cleaner and has low installation costs. The main disadvantage of the latter method is that the heating is not fully even, and there is tendency to form hot spots.

FIGURE PP.5 Drawing of a screw-transfer molding machine.

PP.4.3 Types of Presses

Presses used for compression and transfer molding of thermosets can be of many shapes and designs, but they can be broadly classified as hand, mechanical, or hydraulic types. Hand presses have relatively lower capacity, ranging from 10 to 100 tons, whereas hydraulic presses have considerably higher capacity (500 tons). Hydraulic presses may be of the upstroke or downstroke varieties. In the simple upstroke press, pressure can be applied fairly quickly, but the return is slow. In the downstroke press fitted with a prefilling tank, this disadvantage of the upstroke press is removed, and a higher pressure is maintained by prefilling with liquid from a tank.

The basic principles of hydraulics are used in the presses.Water or oil is used as the main fluid.Water is cheap but rusts moving parts. Oil is more expensive but it does not corrode and it does lubricate moving parts. The main disadvantage of oil is that it tends to form sludge due to oxidation with air.

The drive for the presses is provided by single pumps or by central pumping stations, and accumulators are used for storing energy to meet instantaneous pressure demand in excess of the pump delivery. The usual accumulator consists of a single-acting plunger working in a cylinder. The two main types of accumulators used are the weight-loaded type and the air-loaded type. The weight-loaded type is heavy and therefore not very portable. There is also an initial pressure surge on opening the valve. The pressure-surge problem is overcome in the air- or gas (nitrogen)-loaded accumulator. This type is more portable but suffers a small pressure loss during the molding cycle.

PP.4.4 Preheating

To cut down cycle times and to improve the finished product of compression molding and transfer molding, the processes of preheating and performing are commonly used. With preheating, relatively thick sections can be molded without porosity. Other advantages of the technique include improved flow of resin, lower molding pressures, reduced mold shrinkage, and reduced flash.

Preheating methods are convection, infrared, radio frequency, and steam. Thermostatically controlled gas or electrically heated ovens are inexpensive methods of heating. The quickest, and possibly the most efficient, method is radio-frequency heating, but it is also the most expensive. Preheaters are located adjacent to the molding press and are manually operated for each cycle.

PP.4.5 Preforming

Preforming refers to the process of compressing the molding powder into the shape of the mold before placing it in the mold or to pelleting, which consists of compacting the molding powder into pellets of uniform size and approximately known weight. Preforming has many advantages, which include avoiding waste, reduction in bulk factor, rapid loading of charge, and less pressure than uncompacted material. Preformers are basically compacting presses. These presses may be mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, or rotary cam machines.

PP.4.6 Flash Removal

Although mold design takes into consideration the fact that flash must be reduced to a minimum, it still occurs to some extent on the molded parts. It is thus necessary to remove the flash subsequent to molding. This removal is most often accomplished with tumbling machines. These machines tumble molded parts against each other to break off the flash. The simplest tumbling machines are merely wire baskets driven by an electric motor with a pulley belt. In more elaborate machines blasting of molded parts is also performed during the tumbling operation.


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