To bond metal and plastic together, you traditionally had to use rivets or bonding adhesives; now, a new bonding gun has been developed by engineers in Germany that enables the two materials to be bonded faster and more cost-effectively.
The main downfall of using metal bonding adhesives is the need to leave the items while the adhesives set, which causes a delay to the next steps of production. The main issue with using rivets is that plastic items are easily damaged using this process. Both processes also require the manufacturer to have to continually pay for more rivets or adhesives, making them costly production methods.
The engineers in Germany have managed to solve these issues by using the HeatPressCool-Integrative (HPCI) process, which involves pinching the thermoplastic and metal items together at the location that needs to be bonded. Inductive heat is then targeted at the location on the metal, which makes the plastic partially melt. This process means that the surface layer of the item made of plastic can bond with tiny anchoring structures etched onto the metal item using a laser. This provides a very secure bond.
As soon as the plastic has cooled and contracted, it creates a bond between the two items. This process takes only a few seconds, alleviating the need to leave the items during the setting process. HPCI does not require the companies to continually purchase material to enable the process to take place, as is needed with metal bonding adhesives and rivet bonding.
When adhesives are used to bond metal and plastic, different adhesives are required for different types of plastic. HPCI does not need to be adjusted in this way, as different plastics are used.
The German engineers that created the technology state that this method can easily be integrated into existing production lines. This alleviates the need to completely redesign the production process, which would obviosuly be very costly. As an example, the HPCI guns can easily replace spot-welding guns by mounting them onto robots. Other possibilities include the use of HPCI guns in the manufacture of vehicle bodies and shells and in bonding panels of stainless steel to refrigerators or dishwashers. The possibilities would appear to be endless.