SWITCH FROM METAL SAVES PARTS IN PRINTER

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CHICAGO — GE Plastics' engineered thermoplastic resin Noryl forms the process chassis of a new Lexmark monochrome laser printer, consolidating parts and replacing metal.

The previous model had a stamped steel base.

Twelve parts form the new three-component chassis, a dramatic drop from 189 previously. Cost reduction and dimensional stability drove an aggressive product re-engineering.

GE Plastics displays Lexmark International Inc.'s Optra S 1250 printer in NPE Booth S2311.

More than 10 injection molders use GE Plastics' resins in Optra S 1250 parts. Lexmark assembles the printer in Lexington, Ky., and uses a total of 24 plastics processors and specialized molders on the new Optra line.

All Service Plastic Molding Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, molds the electro-photographic-process chassis using Noryl HM4025 polyphenylene oxide filled with 25 percent glass and 15 percent mineral filler, and the left and right side frames using 20 percent glass-filled Noryl SE1GFN2 resin. Lexmark uses the same chassis on two other new Optra models, the S 1650 and S 2450.

Beach Mold & Tool Inc. in New Albany, Ind., molds the paper tray with the ABS resin Cycolac T; and both Frankfort Plastics of Frankfort, Ky., and Alliance-Carolina Tool & Mold of Arden, N.C., produce the printer's main cover set using the polycarbonate-ABS alloy Cycoloy C6200.

Lexan 500R resin, a 10 percent glass-filled PC, is used for various internal components.

``Higher value-added products, such as Noryls and Lexans, provide more value to the design community,'' said John Getz, industry manager for document management with GE Plastics in Pittsfield, Mass.

Polymer Solutions Inc. of Pittsfield, a joint venture of GE Plastics and Fitch Design of Boston, worked with Lexmark engineers in developing the Optra chassis while challenging traditional concepts. Discussions began in May 1995 and led, within a few months, to a cost-driven manufacturing design. The process shook down the 189 parts in a previous model's chassis to 12.

``The key was the actual chassis,'' said Joseph Henderson, field market developer in Lexington for GE Plastics. ``A normal laser printer has plastic covers, but most still have a metal chassis. We were able to take plastic into a dimensionally stable product.''

Tim Craig, Lexmark's director of laser printer development in Lexington, was converted.

``We believe in plastics as a functional material in this type of application,'' he said in a news release.

GE Plastics resins were used to reduce parts in an earlier Lexmark printer chassis in 1993.

``Our real concern was [losing the] secondary benefits from metal,'' said Dan Huber, Lexmark manager of product development.

Designers created nonstructural metal enclosures to shield electronics from electrostatic discharge and electromagnetic interference and to meet fire-retardation requirements.

Lexmark estimates the redesign will cut overall systems costs by more than 50 percent. The firm improved productivity through cuts in assembly time and elimination of several secondary operations.

In a May 19 announcement about the new line of printers, Lexmark said that the Optra S 1250 has a retail price of $1,125; the Optra S 1650 is $1,275; and the Optra S 2450 is $2,250. Network-ready configurations, including Ethernet adapters have retail prices of $1,400, $1,600 and $2,650, respectively.

Lexington-based parent firm Lexmark International Group Inc. had 1996 sales of $2.4 billion.