Recyclable Fabrics for Injection Molding Assist Automotive Manufacturers Increase Efficiencies, Lower Costs And Offer Improved Part Moldability

Polymer Group, Inc. today announced the commercial availability of new engineered materials offering benefits for injection molders in a wide range of automotive, and other recreational and residential applications.

The new, 100 percent-recyclable polyester (PET) fabrics are used as a backing material in the one-step injection molding process, which is increasingly being used by auto parts manufacturers for interior trim applications.

Laminated to knit facing materials for use in the injection molding process, these new lighter fabrics offer numerous benefits over traditional needle punched fleece synthetic fabrics in the manufacturing process. In addition, these new fabrics help increase interior space in automobiles and improve acoustics.

"These new spunlace fabrics from PGI can help automotive parts manufacturers increase the efficiencies of their manufacturing operations in the one-step injection molding process, reduce quality defects and potentially save on labor costs," said Gerry Rumierz, PGI's Director of Sales, Automotive. "They are easier and less cumbersome to work with than needle punch fabrics and also less expensive to ship."

Spunlace Fabric Enhances Molding Performance

The new fabrics are made with a spunlace manufacturing process that maintains elongation properties of the fibers in both machine and cross machine directions for enhanced performance during molding. As a result, the mold barrier fabric easily conforms to the shape of the mold while maintaining structural integrity and barrier properties.

PGI developed the new family of mold barrier fabrics in response to a growing demand from luxury car manufacturers for technical fabric coverings for use in molded interior parts, such as pillars, door trim and panels and trays, to enhance the appearance and add value for consumers. The trend, which began in Europe, is now expanding into the United States.

"We see a wide range of applications for these new spunlace materials moving beyond automotive to home and office furnishings, buses, trains, airplanes, boats, recreational vehicles, race cars, off-road vehicle and tractors, and even video gaming and home audio theaters," Rumierz said.

Thinner Fabric Easier to Work With

PGI is the world's largest manufacturer of spunlaced fabrics, which are made by entangling fibers in a repeated pattern to form a strong fabric free of binders. Needlepunching is the process of converting batts or webs of loose fibers into a coherent nonwoven fabric on a needle loom.

Benefits of the thinner spunlace fabric in the one-step injection molding process over bulkier needlepunch fabrics include excellent conformity to the facing fabric, better protection of the fabric in extremely high temperatures and improved moldability to the part.

The new fabrics offer automotive customers enhanced acoustical performance, as much as 3.5 times better than comparable products, as measured by ASTM C522-03. ASTM C522-03 is the industry standard test for sound absorption of acoustical fabrics that measures the specific airflow resistance of porous materials. The airflow resistance for a typical 6.5-ounce mold barrier product made with spunlace fabrics is 730 Ryals versus 210 Ryals for needle punch traditional fleece fabrics, representing a dramatic improvement in sound absorption.

PGI's mold barrier fabrics meet automotive performance standards for physical properties, content and application. Fabrics are available in a variety of weights to meet a range of temperatures for high- and low-pressure injection molding. Currently produced in white, the company also has the capability to provide colored materials.

PGI has a broad range of technological expertise to combine various raw materials to produce spunlace fabrics with value-added characteristics such as flame retardant fabrics for automotive and other applications.

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