Fitzpatrick said injection moulders have “faced the same problems” for years. Thinking about the process, he thought: “The viscosity of the plastic always depends on the temperature of the plastic. Is there a way to bring it to its melting temperature and then bring it into the mold in a controlled manner and without shear thinning? “What’s the cheapest way to turn a pile of resin pellets into a finished part?
“All plastic in its free form is in its lowest natural state, which is why if you look at a purge patty down on the machine bed, it’s pliable and flexible, how come the same material that’s so fluid in some ways seems so hard to shape? ”he recalled.
After years of work, Fitzpatrick developed the X2F process. Then he connected with an old college buddy, Ronald Leach, who lived in a dormitory across from Fitzpatrick New Year at Michigan State University. They joined the same brotherhood.
The friends stayed in contact until the mid-1980s, then, as so often, lost contact with each other. Leach pursued his own plastics career, working in engineering and management roles, and then entering the private equity sector. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick was a consultant and signed up for a professional networking site. Someone from a private equity firm was looking for an injection molding expert.
That someone was Ron Leach.
“That’s a million-for-one take, and that’s how we reconnected,” said Fitzpatrick. He told his old college roommate what he was doing. Leach was skeptical until he got to Colorado. Then he got it.
Leach, who was the initial investor, is President and CEO of Extrude To Fill. Both men attended the Innovation and Emerging Technologies Conference.
Fitzpatrick said skepticism was widespread and he encouraged injection moulders to visit the company or send it molds for parts that were considered difficult or even impossible. He’s faced a sales issue regarding the technology and its ability to significantly reduce the cost of parts, as opposed to, he said, “what we accept today because it’s always been done that way.”
Fitzpatrick said the X2F process is easy to scale and can perform a wide range of materials. The self-adjusting nature makes it possible to switch between material qualities, e.g. B. 50 melt to 20 melt without manually adjusting the machine, he said. The process can also process heavily filled materials, recycled plastics such as heavy plastic sheets from construction sites, as well as recycled shopping bags and metalized snack bags.
X2F also processes metal-filled materials at high loads, including stainless steel, carbon steel and aluminum, which it believes should be a growing area in the next five or ten years as shaped aluminum can replace die casting.
“We don’t rely on pressurized heat, so the purity of the material means nothing to the system,” he said.
Fitzpatrick’s experience with high cavitation tools has made Fitzpatrick an advocate of running parts on larger numbers of machines with smaller cavitation tools to reduce power consumption and avoid downtime or locking of tool cavities.
Extrude To Fill also offers a patented multiport setup that runs a group of extruders, each controlled individually, that feed multi-cavity molds or work together to fill large parts like car bumpers. Fitzpatrick described the configuration as a kind of “live hot runner system” that keeps the clamping pressure and power consumption low and enables the use of smaller machines.
X2F can also run four different materials or colors through four different extruders and cycle through them at the same time. “If you have a four-piece assembly, it could be a family shape with four pieces of the same material, four pieces of different colors done. You could use different size extruders for different shot sizes because you can tweak them,” said Fitzpatrick, “It’s very easy to scale them.
He said you can easily change the colors too, usually in three to five minutes.
Fitzpatrick remains loyal to the X2F process as an alternative to the piston screw, which is now over 60 years old.
“Basically, we’ve changed the whole economic picture of plastic part pricing because you don’t need the same talent, performance, and type of tools,” he said. “The whole front-to-back workflow changes as you also lower your material costs because you have so many different ways to be flexible with materials.”