This injection molding technology creates super lightweight yet durable materials
Covestro and Arcesso Dynamics have successfully pioneered a groundbreaking manufacturing solution that employs reaction injection molding (RIM) on aliphatic polyurethanes, an achievement once deemed unattainable
Not all “plastics” are made alike. Occasionally, research and industry come together to generate an innovative material outperforming those which came before. This is the case of Arfinio®.
A new injection molding mix allows to create complex and seamless shapes characterized by low weight and embedded reparability. The material is available to designers and architects looking at achieving shape complexity and high performance in multiple fields of application.
When hygiene, light weight, sustainability, and formability are all required, not many materials can answer the call. Furthermore, to create a mix of polymers and minerals for a Reaction Injection molding (RIM) process was not a given – in fact it was something deemed impossible.
Covestro, a global giant in the polymer industry rooting back to Bayer, teamed up with Arcesso Dynamics SL, an innovative Spanish SME that manufactures custom polyurethane products, to engineer a material holding all these features, and more.
Arfinio®, launched in October 2022, won the “Best of the Best” award at the Interzum trade fair in May 2023, among other reasons because of its first-ever use of aliphatic polymers in RIM. The injection molding results in truly seamless surfaces, with no joints or structural weak points. The material is extremely resistant to scratches and abrasions, comes in countless colors and gloss-levels and is incredibly lightweight – even the heaviest version is still 40% lighter than standard solid surface materials.
Arfinio® gives designers the freedom to create highly customized and complex shapes that can easily be upscaled
It is suitable for a wide range of applications, from hygienic bathroom interiors to sturdy casings for medical devices, but even to interior cladding e and building facades.
The technology is particularly well suited for manufacturing products that are regularly exposed to water such as shower plates or bathtubs because the resulting surfaces are non-slip, hygienic and easy to clean. This material also has highly effective insulating properties, thanks to its outstanding thermal coefficient when compared to standard solid surfaces.
Despite its quite recent availability in the market, Arfinio® has been introduced by companies manufacturing shower plates and washbasins and used in custom furniture installations. A material engineered with sustainability in mind, it is partially composed of bio-based raw materials and its high impact resistance ensures a long service life, after which products can be mechanically recycled along a reasonably controllable chain.
Its visual and tactile features make it fully comparable to any other solid materials
However, Reaction injection molding (RIM) saves time and is less complicated than solid sheet manufacturing. A specially designed mold creates the shape in a single step, so there is no need for thermoforming, CNC cutting, gluing, sanding, or polishing. Its lightness and the fact it can be produced in any color add to the features that make it an extremely interesting material for large scale manufacturing.
On the other hand, as for any other processes implying the creation of a custom mold, the use of Arfinio® is not reasonable for small scale productions or single pieces. Costs associated with RIM must be also considered, usually making it suitable only for specific purposes.
Looking at the relevant properties of this material several potential applications become visible
The possibility to obtain truly seamless surfaces and thinner shapes with excellent strength and hardness make it an excellent match for baths and showers. Its high thermal insulation means surfaces can withstand daily exposure to water and for example this helps bath water stay warm for longer. Salable medical equipment casing, also requiring high hygienic properties and impact-resistant molding materials, can benefit from Arfinio®’s characteristics.
When it comes to tech-rich designs, this innovative material is suitable also for interactive surfaces like on/off buttons or phone charging stations and allows for easy incorporation of built-in fittings, electronic components, and backlighting. Moreover, it can provide a durable and thin solid surface for lightweight consumer products.
In architectural or interior design applications, the material provides a lightweight solid surface with excellent mechanical and insulation properties for easy-to-install façade elements or lightweight interior cladding, being also suitable for the addition of built-in fittings or lighting effects with minimal effort)
The easiest way to evaluate the use of Arfinio ® for a project and receive a sample is to visit the Covestro dedicated page here.