The forming of plastic is usually aimed at the production of large quantities, for example in the optical industry, for lighting and displays, or for diagnostic or therapeutic tools in medical technology. These applications require mass production of low-cost components manufactured with high precision. With this goal in mind, Fraunhofer IPT has been researching and developing various replication processes for plastic materials for many years.
Tool use, shape accuracy and surface quality determine component quality
Three influencing factors strongly determine the quality of the replicated components: the quality of the replication tool, the microscopic and macroscopic shape accuracy, and the surface. A central question is always how accurately and reproducibly the desired target contour can be produced. The manufacturing costs of the tool usually determine the limit here.
Injection molding or roll-to-roll: from mold making to small series production
Depending on the application, different manufacturing processes can be used. Fraunhofer IPT is working on classic injection molding and hot stamping processes as well as roll-to-roll processes such as R2R-NIL and R2R-Hot-NIL for film production. For injection molding, we develop entire molds and mold inserts and test new manufacturing approaches for small series. To avoid centering errors, especially in plastic optical components, we develop concepts to improve positioning accuracy in multi-step hot stamping and ensure uniform pressure on the surface.
For R2R processes, which can be used to produce large-area plastic films with a variety of functionalized structures, we manufacture rolls and embossing plates that are tested on our in-house equipment on behalf of customers. For both processes, we are continuously researching production-oriented and production-optimized tool concepts and manufacturing routes. In this way, we enable our partners to test new manufacturing approaches and facilitate their entry into new technologies.