Micro- and nanometer structuring has proven to be an efficient method to functionalize surfaces, and is attractive to manufacturers of plastic products. Plastic components are volume manufactured by injection moulding. Compact Discs and Digital Video Discs are today manufactured with nanometer range lateral resolution but, only on planar surfaces. Free-form (double-curved) moulding tools today offer resolutions down to 100 μm, limited by the methods used for creating the injection moulding tools.
The objective of the project is to upgrade existing injection moulding production technology for manufacture of plastic components by enhancing the lateral resolution on free-form surfaces down to micro- and nanometer length scales. This will be achieved through the development of a complete nanoimprint lithography solution for structuring the free-form surface of injection moulding tools and tool inserts. This will enable a cost effective and flexible nanoscale manufacturing process that can easily be integrated with conventional mass production lines.
The proposed technology enables functionality of plastic surfaces by topography instead of chemistry. This will significantly simplify the introduction of new products to the market, safer to produce and use. The proposed technology allows production of plastic surfaces with several different functionalities using the same material. This simplifies recycling and supports a cradle-to-cradle production philosophy.
The proposed technology will be developed to meet specific industry demands from partners representing the plastic industry including the automotive, lighting and toy industries. During the project the European Trade Organisation representing the European plastic industry will disseminate the PLAST4FUTURE technology towards inter-sectoral end-users. An OEM service, provided by participating SMEs and Large Enterprises, will be established to secure a lasting value supporting European competitive strength.