In Europe, a trio of companies with different specialties have collectively developed a new molding capability. Germany's Bond Laminates (laminates) and Kurz (stamping) partnered with Engel Austria (injection molding) to create an as-yet-unnamed production method that combines hybrid molding, a/k/a overmolding, with the application of foil and lacquer—all in a single shot.
Their hybrid molding technique sounds common enough: A sheet of Tepex (Bond Laminates' branded carbon fiber variant) is heated and inserted into the mold, which then closes while they squirt the second material inside. In this manner they can create, say, an iPad case that is hard-shelled Tepex on the outside and a more rubbery material on the inside.
The innovation lies in the new step they've added, which occurs simultaneously. Some kind of foil-feeding mechanism that's integreated into the mold--unsurprisingly, details on how they've accomplished this are light--allows decorative foil to be applied to the surface of the part. (Think of a shiny company logo, for instance.) A lacquer coating system then seals the whole thing off. "This efficient one-shot process significantly shortens the time required to decorate composites, as the customary lacquering and polishing steps are no longer required," Kurz states.
Kurz executive Nick Wagner calls the process "a quantum leap in the economical decoration of thin-walled components." They see applications in automotive interiors and the consumer products space.
With all of the money they've presumably spent on developing this, it does boggle my mind a bit that they've not ponied up for a high-end photography session to show the finished samples off. This is the only sample image they've released, showing what looks like a smartphone case with a brushed-metal finish:
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Kurz will be showing samples in person at next week's K 2016, a plastics trade show in Dusseldorf. For industrial designers who are interested in the process but can't make it to Germany, Kurz's contact information is here.