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Autoype launches of its innovative HiForm product

Autotype International : 11 August, 2007  (New Product)
Autotype International Limited, the UK
HiForm is a completely new type of coating, built on the advanced chemistry and coating technology used in Autotype International’s successful products for in-mould decoration applications.

Unlike most hardcoatings, which, due to their construction from highly cross-linked polymers, are extremely brittle and crack easily when formed even over gentle shapes, HiForm can be thermoformed to profiles up to 10mm deep. In addition, HiForm has been engineered so that it retains its cosmetic appearance.

'We had to reconsider the whole concept of hardcoating,' says Tim Wright, In-Mould Decoration Business Manager at Autotype International. 'The function of a hardcoating is to ensure that a product surface retains its cosmetic appearance for months and years of use. As a result of some 'out of the box' thinking, we realised that this did not necessarily mean that the surface had to resist scratching in the first place.'

“While initial tests revealed that HiForm had all the thermoformability that was required, when abraded the surface was easily marked. However, as soon as the surface was scuffed the coating began a process of self repair,” explains Mr Wright. “Depending on the depth of the scratches the surface will heal over within anything from a couple of minutes up to a few hours.”

HiForm’s surface has an exceptionally high gloss, and also has an attractive ‘soft’ feel. 'At first we could not believe how effective this coating was,' continues Mr Wright, 'for the first six months I had to keep a piece on my desk and abrade it every day to convince myself it was true!'

Suitable for a wide range of applications from telecommunications to the automotive industry, HiForm is designed for processing by using IMD. A flat film is printed with a decorative image and then thermoformed to shape, trimmed and inserted into an injection mould. This film ‘skin’ is backfilled with resin to produce a fully decorated three dimensional finished part. The process offers considerable performance benefits, increased design opportunity and cost reduction compared to more conventional decoration methods.

Industry standard measures of abrasion resistance, such as Taber and sand abrasion testing confirm the product to be at least as durable as typical conventional hardcoatings and in many cases even better.
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