Closed molding provides composites manufacturers with many advantages over traditional processes, including consistent part quality, and environmental advantages like lower emissions and a cleaner working environment. We became more involved in closed mold technologies ten years ago and have progressively applied more resources to help customers make the transition to several closed mold options. Of course, it’s not applicable for all parts, but in many areas, closed molding is an excellent choice for manufacturers.
Is there still a place for open molding?
Absolutely! The part configuration must be considered along with other factors. A pool manufacturer could have a more difficult time making closed mold parts. We’ve had some manufacturers look at closed mold and say, “No, thanks!’ It depends on part size, number of and variety of parts produced. In addition to those factors, transitioning from open mold to closed mold requires an openness to change because it can mean retraining of staff, altering the production floor and re-qualifying with end-use customers in some cases.
What changes have you noticed since adopting closed molding?
We’ve increasingly seen many of our customers show more and more interest in closed mold that ranges from asking questions and attending demonstrations and classes, to working with our staff and the support staff from our suppliers to convert to closed mold processes. We sharpened our level of expertise and attracted suppliers who see the advantages of participating with us to support customers who desire to get involved in these processes.
Where do you see room for improvement within composites?
There is a real opportunity to promote the use of composites to specifiers, engineers, end-users, contractors and the government, which can specify and require the use of composites for all the right reasons. We need to get composites written into codes and standards and provide engineers and end-users the tools and information they need to accurately compare the advantages of composites against other materials.
The American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) is actively pursuing these activities through its Composites Growth Initiative (CGI) and other programs. A good example is the Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) program the ACMA has undertaken along with its active members to provide end-users clear criteria and comparisons to other materials that compete with pultruded composites. The Composites Caucus, a group of over 35 U.S. Representatives, has been created on Capitol Hill to proactively introduce the use of composites to infrastructure, construction and other projects funded by the government. In my opinion, the greatest area for improvement for composites is for all those associated with our industry to get actively involved in these efforts and others to grow our industry and help those who make material decisions to understand the real advantages of composites.