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CO-DEVELOPING THROUGH FIM

J. KREBS & CO.

J. Krebs & Co is a Danish company producing injection molded and injection blow- molded plastic components. Family-owned, they have been in business for more than 60 years, and serve customers in the medical, military and other demanding industries. 

KEY TAKE-AWAYS
  1. FIM allows injection molders to dramatically reduce costs and lead-times on injection-molded components

  2. Injection Molders can implement FIM in their operations without having to invest in new machines

  3. The strongly increased design freedom of FIM allows injection molders to solve design challenges normally reserved for 3D-printing

CHALLENGE

As part of a shift in strategy, Krebs wanted to strengthen their ability to support customer development projects. A first focus area, that would bring Krebs closer to customer development teams, was the transition from prototyping to 0-series injection molding. 

In the conventional product development process, this transition is one of the highest-risk milestones. It involves significant investments in injection mold prototype tooling and requires the freeze of a component design – and it needs to be done before solid evidence of market acceptance can be observed. This means that development teams typically spend significant resources on market analyses, business case development and design reviews to mitigate investment risks. In spite of these efforts, research shows that approximately 40% of products fail to recover investments.

Krebs thus sought a solution that would allow their customers to bridge the gap from prototyping to 0-series production, but without the need for tooling investments and product design freeze.

SOLUTION

To build this bridge, while staying true to the company’s roots as an injection molder, Krebs decided to implement Freeform injection Molding (FIM). FIM is a solution developed by Danish company AddiFab to bring the low start-up costs and product lead-times from additive manufacturing into injection molding. 

In FIM, conventional (metal) injection mold inserts are replaced with 3D-printed inserts.  These inserts are compatible with standard mold-base concepts and injection mold machines, and Krebs therefore did not have to invest in new tools or molding machines during the implementation. 

In addition, FIM inserts are dissolvable. This unique feature eliminates the need for split lines and drafts, and allows one-piece insert designs. Moreover, dissolvable mold inserts do not have to be taken apart to release a component, which provides the injection molder with a unique level of geometrical freedom. Among the first jobs solved by Krebs was a highly complex, glass-filled component that would normally have required a USD 40.000 mold tool. With FIM, Krebs dropped tooling costs to USD 4,000.

Finally, FIM molds are compatible with the entire range of injection molded materials. For Krebs, this feature is particularly important as the company solves jobs for a wide range of customers. Aside from POM and PBT, more demanding materials such as glass-filled PPS, glass-filled PA and elastomeric compounds have been injected, and PEEK has been tested with success.

OUTCOME

As the first Danish injection molder to implement Freeform Injection Molding, J. Krebs & Co. has been able to attract a number of strategic partners, including the Danish Technology Institute and Aalborg University, among new customers, including several Danish top industrials. Peter Bay, CEO of Krebs, says: “Freeform Injection Molding has provided Krebs with a highly effective set of tools that increase our ability to co-develop with our customers. Learning curves are steep, and product qualitay levels will need to come up if FIM is to match conventional injection molding. However, the speed and versatility of FIM makes it a highly effective choice for companies wanting to speed up their product development.”

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Grant receipients of EU's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme.

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