(19)
(11)EP 2 440 681 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
29.07.2020 Bulletin 2020/31

(21)Application number: 10786903.4

(22)Date of filing:  11.06.2010
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
C23C 8/26(2006.01)
C23C 2/28(2006.01)
B29C 33/42(2006.01)
B29C 41/18(2006.01)
B29C 41/46(2006.01)
C23C 8/24(2006.01)
B29C 33/04(2006.01)
C23C 2/12(2006.01)
B29C 33/02(2006.01)
B29C 33/56(2006.01)
B29C 41/38(2006.01)
C23C 8/02(2006.01)
B29L 31/30(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/US2010/038291
(87)International publication number:
WO 2010/144786 (16.12.2010 Gazette  2010/50)

(54)

LOW CTE SLUSH MOLDS WITH TEXTURED SURFACE, AND METHOD OF MAKING AND USING THE SAME

SCHLAMMFORMEN MIT GERINGEM CTE MIT STRUKTURIERTER OBERFLÄCHE UND HERSTELLUNGS- UND VERWENDUNGSVERFAHREN DAFÜR

MOULES D'EMBOUAGE À FAIBLE COEFFICIENT DE DILATATION THERMIQUE AYANT UNE SURFACE TEXTURÉE, ET LEUR PROCÉDÉ DE FABRICATION ET D'UTILISATION


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 11.06.2009 US 268369 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
18.04.2012 Bulletin 2012/16

(73)Proprietor: Genius Solutions Engineering Company
Monclova, OH 43537 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • SHADE, Matthew, Martin
    Whitehouse OH 43571 (US)
  • GRINBERG, Grigoriy
    Sylvania OH 43560 (US)

(74)Representative: HGF 
1 City Walk
Leeds LS11 9DX
Leeds LS11 9DX (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 0 368 565
JP-A- 6 172 919
KR-A- 20080 057 677
US-A1- 2004 113 322
US-A1- 2005 274 438
US-A1- 2009 047 167
CA-A1- 2 532 497
JP-A- H04 263 909
US-A- 5 688 471
US-A1- 2005 274 438
US-A1- 2008 241 296
US-B1- 6 699 419
  
  • SPIEKERMANN P: "Alloys - a special problem of patent law", NONPUBLISHED ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF DOCUMENT, 31 December 1993 (1993-12-31), pages 1-20, XP002184689,
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

TECHNICAL FIELD



[0001] The present invention relates to molds useable for slush molding made of a material with a low coefficient of thermal expansion in the molding temperature range. The present invention also relates to methods of making and using the molds.

BACKGROUND



[0002] In at least one embodiment, the present invention is used for slush molding parts for use in the automotive industry. Slush molding is commonly utilized in the automotive industry to produce "class A" interior skins, which are used in the automobile interior, such as for instrument and door panels. A typical slush molding process involves casting a charge of powder polymeric material against a heated mold surface to form a molded part or skin with a desired shape and texture. Other processes that utilize a similar type of heated mold surface are commonly referred to as roto-molds, rotational molds and powder forming molds.

[0003] Depending upon the process and type of the part required, the polymeric material can be liquid or powder. In molding processes where powder polymeric material is used, the mold is heated to melt the polymeric material and cooled to cure the polymeric material. In processes where liquid polymeric material is used, the mold is heated to cure the polymeric material and cooled to remove the part. The molded part may be made by attaching and sealing an open upper end of a charge box to an outer rim of an open end of the mold. The charge box is then inverted to allow the polymeric material within the charge box to fall by gravity from the charge box and onto the heated mold surface. Once polymeric material is applied to the heated mold surface, the charge box is typically returned to its upright position to allow the excess polymeric material to return to the charge box. The cast material is then allowed to melt on the heated surface. The polymeric material is allowed to solidify before removing it from the mold surface. Additionally, the mold forming surface is typically grained or textured to produce the desired skin surface texture.

[0004] A typical construction for a slush mold comprises a self-supported metal shell capable of being heated and cooled. In one particular slush molding application, the mold temperatures can reach up to 260°C (500°F) during the melting of the polymeric material. Typically, the mold temperature is controlled by using a system of heated tubes attached to the back of the mold circulating hot oil, however other methods such as hot air, infrared or induction, and heated sand can be utilized to heat the mold. Regardless of the application, the metal shell thickness is typically relatively thin with respect to the mold forming areas to permit rapid heating and cooling of the mold.

[0005] Typically, automotive slush molding tools are made of nickel. The nickel molds are typically produced using electro-deposition or vapor-deposition processes. In both cases, nickel is the desired material primarily for grain and texture reproduction, but it also produces mold shells having good corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and release characteristics.

[0006] One drawback associated with the use of nickel molds produced in this manner is that the mold can have an unpredictable, and often relatively short life cycle. For instance, nickel molds typically have a life span capable of producing between 1,000 to 80,000 parts, with between 30,000 and 45,000 parts being most typical. Since a relatively typical vehicle program has a production requirement of 400,000 to 1,000,000 parts, it is not uncommon for up to 50 molds to be needed for a program life.

[0007] The primary failure mode in nickel shell cast skin tooling is the accumulated residual stresses resulting from thermal cycling. The thermal cycle stress is a result of the material manufacturing process and the CTE (coefficient of thermal expansion) of the material which over time results in a crack in the nickel mold. Cracking can be produced by thermal expansion and contraction producing localized areas of stress due to material properties and thickness variations in the mold. This is due to the non-uniform mold thickness resulting from the manufacturing procedure. Nickel shells are typically manufactured using an electro-deposition or vapor deposition process. During these processes, the sharp points or edges of the mold will build up charge and the shell will therefore be thicker at those locations. These thicker areas will expand at different rates across the mold surface during heating and cooling and this thickness variation can produce stress over time that results in the shell failure. The shell failure is often caused by shell cracking. For instance, in applications utilizing oil to heat nickel shells, the CTE difference between the silver solder, the steel oil tubes, and the nickel shell yields three different CTE's and this mismatch between the three different materials creates stress which can lead to cracking.

[0008] As set forth above, the life of a nickel slush mold is relatively unpredictable. Because of the uncertainty of when the mold will fail, and because of the associated cost with downtime on a manufacturing line, molders of automotive parts typically maintain a relatively large number of molds on hand in order to account for and replace broken molds. In addition to the manufacturing downtime associated with replacing broken molds on a molding line and the associated costs with keeping a large number of molds on site in storage, the replacement cost of the molds are relatively expensive, as each tool costs roughly $50,000 to $500,000.

[0009] Accordingly, there is a need for a mold that has a longer life than the currently available nickel molds.

[0010] US2009047167 A1 describes a creep-resistant low-expansion iron-nickel alloy having a mean coefficient of thermal expansion 5x10-6/K in the temperature range of 20 to 200 °C.

[0011] JPH04263909 A describes a slush molding electroformed mold with a nickel plated surface. Regions of the mold surface are masked and covered with partially stabilized zirconium, to produce areas with different heat conductivity.

SUMMARY



[0012] The present invention solves one or more of the problems in the prior art by providing, in accordance with claim 1, a slush molding tool or a rotomolding tool with a textured surface, wherein the molding tool comprises a shell having a body portion and an upper mold surface having a grain texture, and having undergone a nitriding treatment so as to provide a top surface of the tool with a Knoop microhardness that is higher than a Vickers hardness of the body, at least the body portion comprising a nickel iron alloy having a coefficient of thermal expansion of at most 9.0 x 10-6 °C-1 at temperatures between 38° and 260°C. In at least one embodiment, the shell is made of a nickel-iron alloy having a coefficient of thermal expansion of no more than 9x10-6 °C-1 (5x10-6 inch/inch/°F) at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F) with the body portion having a Vickers hardness (HV) of at least 100 HV.

[0013] In at least one embodiment, the microhardness has a value of 350 to 4,000 HK.

[0014] In another embodiment, the nickel-iron alloy has a composition comprising at least 0.1 weight percent aluminum and 0.25 weight percent chromium. In another embodiment, the nickel-iron alloy has a composition comprising at least 0.1 weight percent aluminum, 0.25 weight percent chromium, and comprising 0.1 weight percent zirconium, and 0.1 weight percent titanium.

[0015] An alternative nickel-iron alloy may have a composition comprising at least 30 weight percent nickel, 0.3 weight percent aluminum and 0.7 percent weight chromium. In yet another embodiment, the nickel-iron alloy has a composition comprising at least 30 weight percent nickel, at least 1% cobalt, and at least one element selected from the group consisting of aluminum, chromium, zirconium, silicon and titanium.

[0016] In still yet another embodiment, the upper mold surface has a coating disposed thereon wherein the coating has a microhardness of 500 to 9,000 HK.

[0017] In still yet another embodiment, the shell body has a plurality of molded in temperature controlled channels for providing heated mediums, such as oil, therethrough to heat the shell.

[0018] In still yet another embodiment, the shell body has a plurality of fins or grooves on the backside of the shell for providing heated mediums, such as air, therethrough to heat the shell more efficiently.

[0019] In accordance with claim 1, the nickel-iron alloy has a composition comprising at least 30 wt.% nickel, 0.05 wt.% aluminum, and 0.01 wt.% chromium.

[0020] An alternative nickel-iron alloy not according to the invention may have a composition comprising at least 30 wt.% nickel, 0.05 to 0.75 wt.% aluminum, and 0.01 to 1.5 wt.% chromium.

[0021] In one aspect, the body portion has a first hardness having a Vickers hardness (HV) of at least 100 and the upper surface has a second hardness that is higher than the first hardness and a thickness of at most 1.5 mm. In certain of these aspects, the first hardness is 100 to 350 HV and the second hardness is a microhardness of above 350 Knoop hardness (HK). In certain other of these aspects, the microhardness is 350 to 9,000 HK. In yet certain other of these aspects, the microhardness is 400 to 1,500 HK. In still yet certain other of these aspects, the microhardness is 600 to 1 ,000 HK. In still yet even certain other of these aspects, the microhardness is 800 to 1,000 HK. In further certain other of these aspects, the microhardness is 500 to 2,000 HK.

[0022] In other aspects, the upper surface has a thickness of 0.002 to 1.5 mm. In another aspect, the upper surface has a thickness of 0.4 to 0.6 mm.

[0023] In certain aspects, the nitriding treatment is ion nitriding.

[0024] In other aspects, the upper mold surface comprises a nickel-iron alloy that has undergone an aluminizing treatment and nitriding treatment.

[0025] In other aspects, the upper mold surface comprises a nickel-iron alloy having a coefficient of thermal expansion of 0.2 x 10-6 to 7.2 x 10-6°C-1 (0.1 x 10-6 to 4.0 x 10-6 in/in/°F) at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F).

[0026] In other aspects, the upper mold surface comprises a coating. In certain of these aspects, the coating is a nitride coating. In yet certain other of these aspects, the coating has a thickness of 0.5 to 25 µm. In still yet certain other of these aspects, the coating has a thickness of 1 to 5 µm. In further certain other of these aspects, the coating has a thickness of 1 to 500 µm.

[0027] Alternative mold tools may have an upper mold surface with one of a nickel, DLC, chrome, titanium, zirconium or silicon coating.

[0028] In other aspects, the tool has a thickness of 3 to 10 mm. In certain of these aspects, the tool has a thickness of 3.5 to 4.5 mm. In certain other of these aspects, the thickness is uniform throughout the tool. In other aspects, the coefficient of thermal expansion at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F) is at most 4.5 x 10-6 °C-1 (2.5 x 10-6 in/in/°F).

[0029] In yet other aspects, the coefficient of thermal expansion at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F) is at most 2.7 x 10-6 °C-1 (1.5 x 10-6 in/in/°F). In still yet other aspects, the grain texture has a depth of 0.005 to 1.0 mm. In certain of these aspects, the grain texture has a depth of 0.1 to 0.4 mm.

[0030] In other aspects, a process of making an automotive interior part molding tool in accordance with claim 7 is provided, with the process comprising (a) providing a tool blank of nickel-iron alloy having a coefficient of thermal expansion of at most 9.0 x 10-6 °C-1 (5.0 x 106 in/in/°F) at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F); (b) machining the tool blank to a tool shape having an upper mold surface and an underlying body portion; and (c) creating a grain texture on the upper mold surface.

[0031] The process further comprises performing a surface treatment on the upper mold surface to provide a top surface of the tool with a Knoop microhardness that is higher than a Vickers hardness of the body.

[0032] In yet other aspects, the nickel-iron alloy has a composition comprising at least 30 wt.% nickel, 0.05 wt.% aluminum, and 0.01 wt.% chromium.

[0033] In other aspects, machining the tool blank includes machining the tool blank with a computed numerically controlled (CNC) machine.

[0034] In other aspects, machining the tool blank includes the use of an electrical discharge machine.

[0035] In certain aspects, the CNC machining comprises machining on at least 5 axes. In certain aspects, creating the grain texture comprises acid etching the upper mold surface. In other aspects, creating the grain texture comprises laser etching the upper mold surface.

[0036] In certain aspects, the grain texture has a depth of 0.005 to 1.0 mm, and in other aspects, the grain texture has a depth of 0.1 to 0.4 mm.

[0037] In certain aspects, the surface treatment comprises ion nitriding the upper mold surface. In other aspects, the surface treatment comprises aluminizing the upper mold surface and then nitriding the upper mold surface.

[0038] In other aspects, the surface treatment comprises applying a coating to the upper mold surface. In certain of these aspects, the coating comprises a nitride.

[0039] In alternative methods a coating may comprise nickel, DLC, chrome, titanium, zirconium or silicon. Certain coatings may be applied using electroplating, electroless plating, CVD, or PVDA coating may not affect the grain texture. A surface treatment may comprise electroplating nickel or electroless nickel plating at a thickness of 1 to 500 µm onto the upper mold surface.

[0040] In at least one aspect, the surface treatment provides the top surface with a Knoop microhardness value of 350 to 4,000 HK. In certain of these aspects, the surface treatment provides the top surface with a Knoop microhardness value of 500 to 2,000 HK, in other aspects, with a Knoop microhardness value of 400 to 1,500 HK, and in yet other aspects with a Knoop microhardness value of 600 to 1,000 HK.

[0041] In at least on aspect, the upper mold surface has a thickness of up to 1.5 mm. In other aspects, the upper mold surface has a thickness of 0.2 to 1.0 mm, and in yet other aspects of 0.4 to 0.6 mm.

[0042] In certain aspects, the coating has a thickness of 0.5 to 12 µm, and in other aspects, of 1 to 5 µm. In certain aspects, the shell has a thickness of 3 to 10 mm, and in other aspects of 3.5 to 4.5 mm.

[0043] In certain aspects, the thickness of the shell is uniform throughout.

[0044] In certain other aspects, the alloy has a coefficient of thermal expansion at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F) of at most 4.5 x 10-6 °C- 1 (2.5 x 10-6 in/in/°F), and in yet other aspects, a coefficient of thermal expansion at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F) is at most 2.7 x 10-6 °C-1 (1.5 x 10-6 in/in/°F).

[0045] In at least one aspect, a process for making an automotive part is provided, with the process comprising providing any one of the rotomolding tools described above; introducing polymeric material into the tool; heating the tool; allowing the tool to cool to form a polymeric skin; and removing the polymeric skin from the tool.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0046] 

FIGURE 1 is a side view of a molding tool in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIGURE 2 is a view similar to Figure 1 illustrating another embodiment of the present invention;

FIGURE 3 is a view similar to Figure 2 illustrating yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIGURE 4A is a view similar to Figure 1 illustrating still yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIGURE 4B is a view similar to Figure 1 illustrating still yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIGURE 5 is a flow chart illustrating an exemplary technique for making one embodiment of the present invention;

FIGURE 6 is a flow chart illustrating the manufacture of yet another embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGURE 7 is similar to Figure 6 illustrating yet another embodiment of the present invention.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION



[0047] As required, detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein; however, it is to be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention that may be embodied in various and alternative forms. The figures are not necessarily to scale; some features may be exaggerated or minimized to show details of particular components. Therefore, specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention.

[0048] Except in the examples, or where otherwise expressly indicated, all numerical quantities in this description indicating amounts of material or conditions of reaction and/or use are to be understood as modified by the word "about" in describing the broadest scope of the invention.

[0049] It is also to be understood that this invention is not limited to the specific embodiments and methods described below, as specific components and/or conditions may, of course, vary. Furthermore, the terminology used herein is used only for the purpose of describing particular aspects or embodiments of the present invention and is not intended to be limiting in any way.

[0050] It must also be noted that, as used in the specification and the appended claims, the singular form "a," "an," and "the" comprise plural referents unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. For example, reference to a component in the singular is intended to comprise a plurality of components.

[0051] Referring to Figure 1, in at least one embodiment, the present invention provides a slush molding tool 10. The slush molding tool 10 has a body portion 12 and an upper mold surface portion 14. In at least one embodiment, the upper mold surface portion 14 has a grained texture, shown schematically as 16. The molding tool 10 is usable in any suitable slush molding process.

[0052] In certain embodiments, the grain 16 will have a depth or texture of 5 to 1,000 microns, in other embodiments of 50 to 600 microns, and in yet other embodiments of 100 to 400 microns. While the molding tool 10 can have any suitable thickness, in certain embodiments the mold tool 10 will have an average thickness of 3 to 10 mm and in other embodiments of 3.5 to 4.5 mm with the body portion 12 comprising the majority of the thickness. In one embodiment, the molding tool 10 has a substantially uniform thickness, wherein uniform means that no portion of the tool has a thickness that varies by more than 0.1 mm from any other portion of the tool. In certain embodiments the upper mold surface portion 14 has a thickness of 0.002 to 1.5 mm, in other embodiments of 0.2 to 1.0 mm, and in yet other embodiments of 0.4 to 0.6 mm.

[0053] The tool 10 shown in Figure 1 is schematically illustrated to have a relatively unique shape, however, it should be understood that the shape of the tool 10 in Figure 1 is for illustrative purposes only and should not be construed to limit the side or shape of the molding tools in accordance with the present invention in anyway, shape or form. In that regard, molding tools 10 of the present invention can be used to make automotive parts of any suitable shape or size. Without being limited, some examples of suitable parts to be made by the tools of the present invention include, but are not limited to instrument panels, door panels, consoles and other parts such as headliners and seats. Typical parts molded from the tools of the present invention are PVC or other suitable polymeric material such as polyurethane, and have thicknesses of 0.5 to 3 mm and have lengths and widths between 2 inches and 8 feet, corresponding to 5cm to 2,4m. In some embodiments, the molded parts may have lengths and/or widths of 2 to 6 feet, corresponding to 60cm to 1,8m.

[0054] The molding tool 10 is made of a material having a low coefficient of thermal expansion (low CTE) in the molding process temperature range. In at least one embodiment, the molding material comprises a nickel-iron alloy having a coefficient of thermal expansion of no more than 9 x 10-6 °C-1 (5x10-6 in./in./°F) at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F). In another embodiment, the nickel-iron alloy has a coefficient of thermal expansion of 0.2 x 10-6 °C-1 (0.1 x10-6) to 7.2 x 10-6 °C-1 (4.0x10-6) in./in./°F at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F), in other embodiments of 0.45 x 10-6 °C-1 (0.25x10-6) to 4.5 x 10-6 °C-1 (2.5x10-6 in./in/°F) at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F), and in yet other embodiments of 0.9 x 10-6 °C-1 (0.5x10-6) to 2.7 x 10-6 °C-1 (1.5x10-6 in./in./°F) at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F). In at least one embodiment, the nickel-iron alloy has a Vickers hardness of at least 100 HV as measured by ASTM Test Method No. E-384. In other embodiments, the nickel-iron alloy has a Vickers hardness of 200 HV to 350 HV, in other embodiments of 200 to 325 HV and in yet other embodiments of 250 to 300 HV, as measured by ASTM Test Method No. E-384.

[0055] While any suitable material can be used to make a molding tool, in accordance with the invention, the resulting tool comprises a nickel-iron alloy and has a coefficient of thermal expansion of no more than 9 x 10-6 °C-1 (5x10-6 in./in./°F) at temperatures between 38°C and 260°C (100° and 500°F) and optionally a Vickers hardness of at least 100. In one embodiment, the nickel-iron alloy has the following composition:
ElementsWt. %
Nickel 36 wt. %
Silicon 0.25 wt. %
Aluminum 0.1 wt.%
Manganese 0.5 wt. %
Sulfur 0.02 wt. %
Chromium 0.25 wt. %
Zirconium 0.1 wt. %
Titanium 0.1 wt. %
Iron balance


[0056] Turning to Figure 2, in another embodiment, a molding tool 20 is provided having a body portion 22 and an upper mold surface portion 24. Body portion 22 has a composition and properties similar to those of body portion 12 described with reference to Figure 1. In at least one embodiment, the upper mold surface portion 24 will have graining represented schematically by 26. In certain embodiments, the grain 26 will have a depth or texture of 5 to 1,000 microns, in other embodiments of 50 to 600 microns, and in yet other embodiments of 100 to 400 microns. While the molding tool 20 can have any suitable thickness, in certain embodiments the mold tool 20 will have an average thickness of 3 to 10 mm and in other embodiments of 3.5 to 4.5 mm with the body portion comprising the majority of the thickness. In one embodiment, the molding tool 20 has a substantially uniform thickness, wherein uniform means that no portion of the tool has a thickness that varies by more than 0.1 mm from any other portion of the tool. In certain embodiments the upper mold surface portion 24 has a thickness of 0.002 to 1.5 mm, in other embodiments of 0.2 to 1.0 mm, and in yet other embodiments of 0.4 to 0.6 mm.

[0057] In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 2, the upper mold surface portion 24 has a higher hardness than the hardness of the body portion 22 of the mold tool 20. In this embodiment, the body portion 22 has a Vickers hardness in the range of 100 to 350 as measured by ASTM Test Method No. E-384 and the upper surface portion 24 has a microhardness in the range of 350 to 2,000 HK and in yet other embodiments of 400 to 1,500 HK, in yet other embodiments of 600 to 1,000 HK, and in yet other embodiments of 700 to 900 HK as measured by ASTM Test Method No. E-384. The increased hardness of the upper mold surface portion 24 can be provided by surface treating the upper mold surface portion 24. The upper mold surface 24 is also referred to as a case hardened surface.

[0058] The upper mold surface portion 24 can be case hardened by ion nitriding the surface. Ion nitriding is generally known in the art and will not be explained in great detail here. Generally, the tool is exposed to a ion nitriding process to provide the desired hardness of the upper surface portion 24. Generally, the tool 20 is heated and in a chamber with nitrogen being introduced into the chamber. A voltage is biased on the tool 20 to accelerate nitrogen particles toward the tool. When nitrogen particles hit the aluminum, chromium, zirconium, silicon, or titanium in the tool 20, the nitrogen reacts with the element to form aluminum nitride, chromium nitride, zirconium nitride, silicon nitride, or titanium nitride respectively, in the surface of the tool 20. The aluminum nitride, chromium nitride, zirconium nitride, silicon nitride, or titanium nitride have a higher hardness than the nickel-iron alloy that forms the remainder of the body portion 22.

[0059] It should be understood that the ion nitride will cause nitride formation that extends or diffuses somewhat into the body of the tool, such as up to 1.5 mm into the body. The hardness of the nitrided portion of the tool 20 will decrease as the case hardening depth extends further into the body portion 22 such that typically the hardest portion of the tool will be just at the upper mold surface 24 of the tool 20. In that regard, when mentioning microhardness of the upper mold surface portion 24 of the tool 20, it should be understood that the measurements are being taken just at the upper mold surface and that the entire nitrided portion of the molding tool does not necessarily have the same hardness as that of the upper surface and thus the present invention and claims are not to be limited as such. It should also be understood that those experienced in the art of nitriding can incorporate other elements such as carbon during nitriding to produce nitride materials such as titanium carbo nitride (TiCN) and silicon carbide (SiC). In some embodiments, a substantial portion or the entire body surface will be subjected to the nitriding process, resulting in case hardening of a substantial portion or the entire body surface, not just the upper mold surface.

[0060] In one embodiment, the nickel-iron alloy has a higher level of nitriding elements, such as aluminum, chromium, zirconium, silicon, and/or titanium to provide even yet a harder surface portion to the tool. In this embodiment, not according to the invention, the nickel-iron alloy has the following composition:
ElementsWt. %
Nickel 30 - 38 wt. %
Cobalt 0 - 6.0 wt. %
Silicon 0.05 - 0.3 wt. %
Aluminum 0.05 - 0.75 wt.%
Copper 0 - 0.1 wt. %
Manganese 0.3 - 0.6 wt. %
Carbon 0 - 0.07 wt. %
Sulfur 0.005 - 0.03 wt. %
Chromium 0.01 - 1.5 wt. %
Zirconium 0 - 1.5 wt. %
Titanium 0 - 2.0 wt. %
Iron balance


[0061] In yet another embodiment not according to the invention, the nickel-iron alloy has the following composition:
ElementsWt. %
Nickel 31 - 37 wt. %
Cobalt 0 - 5.75 wt. %
Silicon 0.07 - 0.28 wt. %
Aluminum 0.06 - 0.6 wt.%
Copper 0 - 0.09 wt. %
Manganese 0.35 - 0.55 wt. %
Carbon 0 - 0.06 wt. %
Sulfur 0.01 - 0.02 wt. %
Chromium 0.02 - 1.3 wt. %
Zirconium 0 - 1.0 wt. %
Titanium 0 - 1.0 wt. %
Iron balance


[0062] In yet another embodiment not according to the invention, the nickel-iron alloy has the following composition:
ElementsWt. %
Nickel 36 wt. %
Silicon 0.25 wt. %
Aluminum 0.3 wt.%
Manganese 0.5 wt. %
Sulfur 0.02 wt. %
Chromium 0.7 wt. %
Zirconium 0.8 wt. %
Titanium 0.5 wt. %
Iron balance


[0063] In yet another embodiment not according to the invention, the nickel-iron alloy has the following composition:
ElementsWt. %
Nickel 36 wt. %
Silicon 0.25 wt. %
Aluminum 0.5 wt.%
Manganese 0.5 wt. %
Sulfur 0.02 wt. %
Chromium 0.8 wt. %
Iron balance


[0064] In other embodiments, an optional pre-treatment step can be done prior to the ion nitriding to increase the amount of aluminum in the surface area of the mold tool. In this embodiment, the mold tool 20 can undergo aluminization prior to ion nitriding. Aluminizing is well known and as such will only be generally described here. Generally, aluminizing is a high temperature chemical process whereby aluminum vapors diffuse into the surface of the base metal forming new metallurgical aluminized alloys. The aluminide alloys formed at the surface can contain up to 20% aluminum. Also, aluminizing can be performed by hot dipping. While the tool may be aluminized in any suitable manner, in one embodiment, the tool is exposed to vapor diffusion of aluminum on the surface of the tool. With the amount of available aluminum for nitriding increased via the aluminum process, the resulting ion nitrided tool 20 will have a higher surface hardness than those similarity treated but having lesser amounts of aluminum. In these embodiments, the surface harness will be 500 to 2,000 HK and in other embodiments 600 to 1,500 HK and in yet other embodiments 700 to 1,000 HK.

[0065] Referring to Figure 3, a tool 30 is provided having a coating. This embodiment differs from the embodiment described and illustrated with respect to Figure 2 in that the tool 30 is not surface treated but instead has a surface coating 34 deposited on top of the upper mold surface to create a new top surface of the tool. For instance, the characteristics of the body 32 in Figure 3 is similar to that of body 22 in Figure 2. Typically, when the surface coating 34 is provided, the grain 36 will be deeper than those in which the surface is case hardened or diffusion hardened. In this instance, the surface grain texture may be at least 200 microns. In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 3, the coating 34 has a thickness of 0.1 to 25 microns, and in other embodiments 0.5 to 12 microns, and in other embodiments 1 to 5 microns and in yet other embodiments of 3 to 4 microns. While the molding tool 30 can have any suitable thickness, in certain embodiments the mold tool 30 will have an average thickness of 3 to 10 mm and in other embodiments of 3.5 to 4.5 mm with the body portion 32 comprising the majority of the thickness. In one embodiment, the molding tool 30 has a substantially uniform thickness, wherein uniform means that no portion of the tool has a thickness that varies by more than 0.1 mm from any other portion of the tool.

[0066] The coating 34 can be any suitable coating and provided in any suitable manner such that the resulting coating has a microhardness of 350 to 9,000 HK, in yet other embodiments 500 to 4,000 HK, in yet other embodiments 600 to 2,000 HK, and in yet other embodiments 700 to 1,500 HK. The coatings 34 can be provided in any suitable process such as electroplating, electroless plating, physical vapor deposition (PVD), or chemical vapor deposition (CVD). While any suitable coating can be provided, examples of suitable coatings include aluminum nitride, zirconium nitride, silicon nitride, titanium nitride and chromium nitride. The surface coatings 34 can also be in addition to metal, ceramic or high temperature polymers or combinations of these coatings. Metallic and ceramic coatings containing nickel, chromium, titanium, aluminum and other metals and alloys can be used to protect and seal the shell as well as improved mold release properties. Certain coatings, such as electroplating, range in thickness from 1 to 500 microns, in other embodiments from 5 to 200 microns, and in yet other embodiments 10 to 100 microns.

[0067] Referring to Figure 4A, a mold tool 40 is provided comprising a shell 42 having a schematically illustrated reinforcing element 52 and generally rectangular shaped heating/cooling elements cut or cast therein as schematically illustrated by 48. However, it should be understood that heating/cooling elements 48 can have any suitable shape.

[0068] Referring to Figure 4B, a mold tool 41, similar to that shown and described with respect to Figure 1, is provided. The mold tool 41 comprises a shell 43 having generally circular shaped heating/cooling elements cut or cast therein as schematically illustrated by 49. However, it should be understood that heating/cooling elements 49 can have any suitable shape.

[0069] Elements for controlling temperatures such as channel, grooves and fins for heating and cooling can be incorporated into the mold either during the forming process by casting them in (Fig. 4B) or after the mold has been formed by machining, welding, soldering, or brazing them to the back of the shell (Fig. 4A) to improve efficiency.

[0070] Referring to Figure 5, an embodiment for making the molding tool is illustrated. A mass of iron nickel alloy 60 is provided. The alloy can then be machined or cast to shape 70. While any suitable shaping technique can be used, two suitable techniques are CNC cutting and electrical discharge machining (EDM). CNC cutting is well known and generally comprises cutting the metal to the desired shape and geometry. CNC EDM is also well known, and generally comprises removing metal by burning it away with electrical discharge.

[0071] Another technique for making the molding tool is to cast the material to a near net shape. After casting, CNC machining can be used to further modify the shape of the tool to the desired geometry and size. After the tool has been shaped, the tool may undergo an optional annealing step 72. After optional annealing, the CTE of the material will be stabilized or improved.

[0072] Lastly, the tool has grain provided on the upper mold surface. The graining can be provided in any suitable manner such as by acid etching, laser etching, or mechanical etching. The graining will typically have a depth of 5 to 1,000 microns, in other embodiments of 50 to 600 microns, and in yet other embodiments of 100 to 400 microns.

[0073] Referring to Figure 6, after the tool 10 has been formed, the tool can undergo surface treatment as discussed above wherein the surface is either nitrided or aluminized and then nitrided.

[0074] Referring to Figure 7, the tool 10 after being manufactured can then be coated as described above.

[0075] While exemplary embodiments are described above, it is not intended that these embodiments describe all possible forms of the invention. Rather, it should be understood that various changes may be made without departing from the scope of the appended claims. Additionally, the features of various implementing embodiments may be combined to form further embodiments of the invention.


Claims

1. A rotomolding tool (20, 30) having a textured surface, the tool comprising:
a shell having;

a body portion (22, 32); and

an upper mold surface (24, 34) having a grain texture (26, 36), and having undergone a nitriding treatment so as to provide a top surface of the tool with a Knoop microhardness that is higher than a Vickers hardness of the body, as measured by ASTM Test Method No. E-384;

at least the body portion comprising a nickel iron alloy having a coefficient of thermal expansion of at most 9.0 x 10-6 °C-1 at temperatures between 38° and 260°C, wherein the nickel iron alloy comprises:

nickel in an amount ranging from 30 wt.% to 38 wt.%;

from 0 wt.% to 6.0 wt.% cobalt;

from 0.05 wt.% to 0.3 wt.% silicon;

from 0.05 wt.% to 0.2 wt.% aluminum;

from 0 wt.% to 0.1 wt.% copper;

from 0.3 wt.% to 0.6 wt.% manganese;

from 0 wt.% to 0.07 wt.% carbon;

from 0.005 wt.% to 0.03 wt.% sulfur;

from 0.01 wt.% to 0.4 wt.% chromium;

from 0 wt.% to 0.1 wt.% zirconium;

from 0 wt.% to 0.1 wt.% titanium; and

iron being the balance.


 
2. The tool (20, 30) of claim 1, wherein the body portion (22, 32) has a first hardness having a Vickers hardness (HV) of at least 100, as measured by ASTM Test Method No. E-384, and the upper surface (24, 34) has a second hardness that is higher than the first hardness and a thickness of at most 1.5 mm.
 
3. The tool (20, 30) of claim 2, wherein the first hardness is 100 to 350 HV and the second hardness is a microhardness of above 350 to 9,000 Knoop hardness (HK), as measured by ASTM Test Method No. E-384.
 
4. The tool (20, 30) of claim 1, wherein the upper mold surface (24, 34) comprises the nickel iron alloy and has undergone an aluminizing treatment and subsequent nitriding treatment.
 
5. The tool (20, 30) of claim 1, wherein the upper mold surface (24, 34) comprises a nickel iron alloy having a coefficient of thermal expansion of 0.2 x 10-6 to 7.2 x 10-6 °C-1 at temperatures between 38° and 260°C.
 
6. The tool (30) of claim 1, wherein the upper mold surface (34) comprises a nitride coating and the tool has a thickness of 3 to 10 mm.
 
7. A process of making an automotive interior part molding tool, the process comprising:

(a) providing a tool blank of nickel iron alloy (60) having a coefficient of thermal expansion of at most 9.0 x 10-6 °C-1 at temperatures between 38° and 260°C, wherein the nickel iron alloy comprises:

nickel in an amount ranging from 30 wt.% to 38 wt.%;

from 0 wt.% to 6.0 wt.% cobalt;

from 0.05 wt.% to 0.3 wt.% silicon;

from 0.05 wt.% to 0.2 wt.% aluminum;

from 0 wt.% to 0.1 wt.% copper;

from 0.3 wt.% to 0.6 wt.% manganese;

from 0 wt.% to 0.07 wt.% carbon;

from 0.005 wt.% to 0.03 wt.% sulfur;

from 0.01 wt.% to 0.4 wt.% chromium;

from 0 wt.% to 0.1 wt.% zirconium;

from 0 wt.% to 0.1 wt.% titanium; and

iron being the balance;

(b) machining the tool blank to a tool shape (70) having an upper mold surface (24, 34) and an underlying body portion; and

(c) creating a grain texture (26, 36) on the upper mold surface; and

(d) performing a nitriding surface treatment on the upper mold surface to provide a top surface of the tool with a Knoop microhardness that is higher than a Vickers hardness of the body, as measured by ASTM Test Method No. E-384.


 
8. The process of claim 7, wherein machining the tool blank (70) includes computed numerically controlled (CNC) machining.
 
9. A process for making an automotive part, the process comprising:
providing the rotomolding tool (20, 30) of claim 1;

introducing polymeric material into the tool;

heating the tool;

allowing the tool to cool to form a polymeric skin; and

removing the polymeric skin from the tool.


 


Ansprüche

1. Werkzeug (20, 30) zum Rotationsformen mit einer strukturierten Oberfläche, wobei das Werkzeug folgendes umfasst:
ein Gehäuse, mit:

einem Körperteil (22, 32); und

einer oberen Formoberfläche (24, 34) mit einer Kornstruktur (26, 36) und wobei die Oberfläche eine Nitrierbehandlung erfahren hat, um eine obere Oberfläche des Werkzeugs mit einer Knoop-Mikrohärte bereitzustellen, die höher ist als eine Vickers-Härte des Körpers, gemessen gemäß dem ASTM Prüfverfahren E-384;

wobei mindestens der Körperteil eine Nickel-Eisen-Legierung mit einem Wärmeausdehnungskoeffizienten von höchstens 9,0 x 10-6 °C-1 auf Temperaturen zwischen 38 °C und 260 °C umfasst, wobei die Nickel-Eisen-Legierung folgendes umfasst:

Nickel in einer Menge von 30 Gew.-% bis 38 Gew.-%;

0 Gew.-% bis 6,0 Gew.-% Kobalt;

0,05 Gew.-% bis 0,3 Gew.-% Silizium;

0,05 Gew.-% bis 0,2 Gew.-% Aluminium;

0 Gew.-% bis 0,1 Gew.-% Kupfer;

0,3 Gew.-% bis 0,6 Gew.-% Mangan;

0 Gew.-% bis 0,07 Gew.-% Kohlenstoff;

0,005 Gew.-% bis 0,03 Gew.-% Schwefel;

0,01 Gew.-% bis 0,4 Gew.-% Chrom;

0 Gew.-% bis 0,1 Gew.-% Zirkonium;

0 Gew.-% bis 0,1 Gew.-% Titan; und

Eisen als Rest.


 
2. Werkzeug (20, 30) nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Körperteil (22, 32) eine erste Härte mit einer Vickers-Härte (HV) von mindestens 100 aufweist, gemessen gemäß dem ASTM Prüfverfahren E-384, und wobei die obere Oberfläche (24, 34) eine zweite Härte aufweist, die höher ist als die erste Härte, und eine Dicke von höchstens 1,5 mm.
 
3. Werkzeug (20, 30) nach Anspruch 2, wobei die erste Härte 100 bis 350 HV beträgt, und wobei die zweite Härte eine Mikrohärte von über 350 bis 9.000 Knoop-Härte (HK) ist, gemessen gemäß dem ASTM Prüfverfahren E-384.
 
4. Werkzeug (20, 30) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die obere Formoberfläche (24, 34) die Nickel-Eisen-Legierung umfasst und eine Aluminisierungsbehandlung und eine folgende Nitridbehandlung erfahren hat.
 
5. Werkzeug (20, 30) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die obere Formoberfläche (24, 34) eine Nickel-Eisen-Legierung mit einem Wärmeausdehnungskoeffizienten von 0,2 x 10-6 bis 7,2 x 10-6 °C-1 auf Temperaturen zwischen 38 °C und 260 °C umfasst.
 
6. Werkzeug (30) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die obere Formoberfläche (34) eine Nitridbeschichtung umfasst, und wobei das Werkzeug eine Dicke von 3 bis 10 mm aufweist.
 
7. Verfahren zur Herstellung eines Formwerkzeugs für ein Automobil-Innenraumbauteil, wobei das Verfahren folgendes umfasst:

(a) Bereitstellen eines Werkzeugrohlings aus einer Nickel-Eisen-Legierung (60) mit einem Wärmeausdehnungskoeffizienten von höchstens 9,0 x 10-6 °C-1 auf Temperaturen zwischen 38 °C und 260 °C, wobei die Nickel-Eisen-Legierung folgendes umfasst:

Nickel in einer Menge von 30 Gew.-% bis 38 Gew.-%;

0 Gew.-% bis 6,0 Gew.-% Kobalt;

0,05 Gew.-% bis 0,3 Gew.-% Silizium;

0,05 Gew.-% bis 0,2 Gew.-% Aluminium;

0 Gew.-% bis 0,1 Gew.-% Kupfer;

0,3 Gew.-% bis 0,6 Gew.-% Mangan;

0 Gew.-% bis 0,07 Gew.-% Kohlenstoff;

0,005 Gew.-% bis 0,03 Gew.-% Schwefel;

0,01 Gew.-% bis 0,4 Gew.-% Chrom;

0 Gew.-% bis 0,1 Gew.-% Zirkonium;

0 Gew.-% bis 0,1 Gew.-% Titan; und

Eisen als Rest;

(b) Bearbeiten des Werkzeugrohlings in eine Werkzeugform (70) mit einer oberen Formoberfläche (24, 34) und einem darunter liegenden Körperteil; und

(c) Erzeugen einer Kornstruktur (26, 36) auf der oberen Formoberfläche; und

(d) Durchführen einer Nitridoberflächenbehandlung auf der oberen Formoberfläche, um eine obere Oberfläche des Werkzeugs mit einer Knoop-Mikrohärte bereitzustellen, die höher ist als eine Vickers-Härte des Körpers, gemessen gemäß dem ASTM Prüfverfahren E-384.


 
8. Verfahren nach Anspruch 7, wobei das Bearbeiten des Werkzeugrohlings (70) eine CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled)-Bearbeitung aufweist.
 
9. Verfahren zur Herstellung eines Automobilbauteils, wobei das Verfahren folgendes umfasst:
Bereitstellen des Werkzeugs (20, 30) zum Rotationsformen nach Anspruch 1;

Einführen von polymerem Material in das Werkzeug;

Erhitzen des Werkzeugs;

Abkühlen lassen des Werkzeugs, so dass sich eine polymere Haut bildet; und

Entfernen der polymeren Haut von dem Werkzeug.


 


Revendications

1. Outil de rotomoulage (20, 30) ayant une surface texturée, l'outil comprenant :
une enveloppe ayant ;

une partie corps (22, 32) ; et

une surface de moule supérieure (24, 34) ayant une texture de grain (26, 36), et ayant subi un traitement de nitruration de sorte à donner à une surface supérieure de l'outil une microdureté Knoop qui soit supérieure à une dureté Vickers du corps, telle que mesurée par la méthode d'essai ASTM n° E-384 ;

au moins la partie corps comprenant un alliage nickel-fer ayant un coefficient de dilatation thermique d'au plus 9,0 x 10-6 °C-1 à des températures comprises entre 38 °C et 260 °C, l'alliage nickel-fer comprenant :

du nickel dans une quantité comprise entre 30 % en poids et 38 % en poids ;

de 0 % en poids à 6,0 % en poids de cobalt ;

de 0,05 % en poids à 0,3 % en poids de silicium ;

de 0,05 % en poids à 0,2 % en poids d'aluminium ;

de 0 % en poids à 0,1 % en poids de cuivre ;

de 0,3 % en poids à 0,6 % en poids de manganèse ;

de 0 % en poids à 0,07 % en poids de carbone ;

de 0,005 % en poids à 0,03 % en poids de soufre ;

de 0,01 % en poids à 0,4 % en poids de chrome ;

de 0 % en poids à 0,1 % en poids de zirconium ;

de 0 % en poids à 0,1 % en poids de titane ; et

du fer en complément.


 
2. Outil (20, 30) selon la revendication 1, la partie corps (22, 32) ayant une première dureté ayant une dureté Vickers (HV) d'au moins 100, telle que mesurée par la méthode d'essai ASTM n° E- 384, et la surface supérieure (24, 34) ayant une seconde dureté qui est supérieure à la première dureté et une épaisseur d'au plus 1,5 mm.
 
3. Outil (20, 30) selon la revendication 2, la première dureté étant comprise entre 100 et 350 HV et la seconde dureté étant une microdureté comprise entre plus de 350 et 9 000 Knoop (HK), telle que mesurée par la méthode d'essai ASTM n° E-384.
 
4. Outil (20, 30) selon la revendication 1, la surface de moule supérieure (24, 34) comprenant l'alliage nickel-fer et ayant subi un traitement d'aluminisation et un traitement de nitruration ultérieur.
 
5. Outil (20, 30) selon la revendication 1, la surface de moule supérieure (24, 34) comprenant un alliage nickel-fer ayant un coefficient de dilatation thermique compris entre 0,2 x 10-6 et 7,2 x 10-6 °C-1 à des températures comprises entre 38 °C et 260 °C.
 
6. Outil (30) selon la revendication 1, la surface de moule supérieure (34) comprenant un revêtement de nitrure et l'outil ayant une épaisseur comprise entre 3 et 10 mm.
 
7. Procédé de fabrication d'un outil de moulage de pièces intérieures d'automobile, le procédé comprenant les étapes suivantes :

(a) fourniture d'une ébauche d'outil en alliage nickel-fer (60) ayant un coefficient de dilatation thermique d'au plus 9,0 x 10-6 °C-1 à des températures comprises entre 38 °C et 260 °C, l'alliage nickel-fer comprenant :

du nickel dans une quantité comprise entre 30 % en poids et 38 % en poids ;

de 0 % en poids à 6,0 % en poids de cobalt ;

de 0,05 % en poids à 0,3 % en poids de silicium ;

de 0,05 % en poids à 0,2 % en poids d'aluminium ;

de 0 % en poids à 0,1 % en poids de cuivre ;

de 0,3 % en poids à 0,6 % en poids de manganèse ;

de 0 % en poids à 0,07 % en poids de carbone ;

de 0,005 % en poids à 0,03 % en poids de soufre ;

de 0,01 % en poids à 0,4 % en poids de chrome ;

de 0 % en poids à 0,1 % en poids de zirconium ;

de 0 % en poids à 0,1 % en poids de titane ; et

du fer en complément ;

(b) usinage de l'ébauche d'outil pour obtenir une forme d'outil (70) ayant une surface de moule supérieure (24, 34) et une partie corps sous-jacente ; et

(c) création d'une texture de grain (26, 36) sur la surface de moule supérieure ; et

(d) réalisation d'un traitement de surface de nitruration sur la surface de moule supérieure de sorte à donner à une surface supérieure de l'outil une microdureté Knoop qui soit supérieure à une dureté Vickers du corps, telle que mesurée par la méthode d'essai ASTM n° E-384.


 
8. Procédé selon la revendication 7, l'usinage de l'ébauche d'outil (70) comprenant l'usinage à commande numérique calculée (CNC).
 
9. Procédé de fabrication d'une pièce automobile, le procédé comprenant les étapes suivantes :

fourniture de l'outil de rotomoulage (20, 30) selon la revendication 1 ;

introduction d'un matériau polymère dans l'outil ;

chauffage de l'outil ;

refroidissement de l'outil pour former une peau polymère ; et

enlèvement de la peau polymère de l'outil.


 




Drawing

















Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description