What technical trends are impacting the types of mold release agents offered for various end uses?

Industries are molding more exotic materials to produce parts with better performance under increasingly demanding conditions in which the finished products operate. These exotic materials are not always easy to mold. One good example comes from the automotive sector, where engine components (molded parts) are subject to chemical and physical challenges to withstand more aggressive operating conditions. As a result, newly developed, tougher materials (like fluoro-polymer based compounds), are required to be molded at high production rates with minimal scrap levels (given their higher unit formulation cost). This poses a challenge to the release agent industry, due to their chemical and physical properties which make them difficult to mold and release.

Part appearance has also become more demanding, and in many cases the parts are being used as molded with very minimal subsequent finishing done to the parts. The automotive industry requires that highly visible components like steering wheels or dashboards have exacting cosmetic properties (e.g. texture, gloss and marring resistance) directly following release.

In recent years high-pressure aluminum die casting has seen an increase in the complexity of the molds, with an increase in high integrity (semi-solid and squeeze) casting, as well as a reduction in cycle times and further increasing die temperatures. These factors require the release agent to provide improved anti-solder properties as well as better release and lubrication properties to produce quality parts under the more difficult casting conditions. This has to be achieved without compromising on other performance attributes of the release agent.

More complex and sophisticated mold designs are created for other industries as well, such as the low profile tires made by tire manufacturers. These mold designs place higher performance demands on the release agents with regard to release ease and rubber flow. The post molding appearance of tires is also critically important as well, resulting in significant challenges to easily release these types of tires while also achieving high appearance standards.

The use of lower VOC (volatile organic compound) products continues to be enforced by manufacturing facilities as a result of HSE regulations, being particularly important in processes that require higher direct involvement of operators, like in the composite segment. There will continue to be increased focus on developing products that are more environmental friendly and safer to use. This will stimulate new release agent develop to meet these needs while still providing the same, or greater, level of performance of the products currently in use.