Winners original, complex ... plastic

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: September 27, 2011 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Construction, Medical, Thermoforming, Design

SCHAUMBURG, ILL. (Sept. 27, 11 a.m. ET)  — A CT-scan enclosure assembly netted Productive Plastics Inc. of Mount Laurel, N.J., the two top honors — the People’s Choice and the Judges’ Award — at the SPE Thermoforming Division’s 2011 parts competition.

The large housing assembly is made from 10 components, all of them pressure formed from Kydex PVC/acrylic sheet. Productive Plastics also makes a bed to go with the CT scan equipment, according to Evan Gilham, vice president of manufacturing.

Thermoforming was the obvious choice for making the housing, a small-volume application with annual volumes of 225-250 units. The plastic parts fit onto a metal bracket assembly. Gilham said Productive makes the entire CT-scan enclosure then ships it to the customer. 

TekPackaging LLC (TEQ) of Huntley, Ill., picked up silver for sterile packaging for Thoratec Corp.’s HeartMate heart pump. TEQ turned out a more-sophisticated tool to improve the package and solve quality problems Thoratec was having. TEQ’s tool used plug-assist, special coding, heated cut dies and a special mold finish for better release of snaps. Also, TEQ converted the tool from male to female, for better sealing and flange-thickness distribution.

 Industrial:

Cleveland-based Amros Industries Inc. grabbed gold for its adjustable bathtub protector made for plumbing products supplier Oatey Co. Amros uses in-line thermoforming to mold the large part, which is 46 inches wide by 60 inches long.

Used to protect the tub during construction work, the product has a bellows-type design that crews can extend downward to fit tubs of different depths up to 16 inches — so distributors, retailers and contractors can carry one compact size.

Silver went to Oakwood Energy Management of Taylor, Mich., for its SafetyPlastic energy absorbers, made by roll-fed in-line thermoforming with a series of conical depressions, used to absorb energy on the 2011 Toyota Avalon. The sheet is super-high-impact polypropylene copolymer with 40 percent recycled content. The parts are formed, trimmed, marked by ink-jet printing and stacked in-line.

The lightweight part has undercuts designed to hook and snap to upper and lower surfaces of the aluminum bumper beam.

Heavy-gauge

Vacuum forming:

The giant ValuStair won gold for LRM Industries International Inc., which uses its patented STF Sheetless Thermoforming technology to make a set of stairs that measure 22 feet long and 4 feet wide at its plant in Rockledge, Fla.

LRM produces the big thermoformed parts by a process that uses trolleys moving around a circular track, said Bart Berghuis, vice president of product management and customer and technical service. An extruder equipped with a sheet die coats a mold with a sheet of warm plastic, which is then vacuum formed into the part, cooled and removed by a robot.

Minimizer of Blooming Prairie, Minn., earned silver for an exterior Chrome Poly fender to cover wheels on semi trucks. The mirror-finish fender uses a corrosion- and dent-resistant film. Orion Plastics Inc. of Edmonton, Alberta, extrudes the thermoplastic olefin sheet, which is laminated to Soliant Fluorex bright film from Akzo Nobel NV.

Pressure forming:

Freetech Plastics Inc. picked up gold for a DNA imaging system, a scanner that does genetic analysis using high-performance lasers and optics.

Freetech of Fremont, Calif., said the main challenge was to form variable geometries and extensive undercut features.

Silver went to Specialty Manufacturing Inc. of San Diego, for a pet-tag engraver. Design elements include the extensive use of undercuts for mounting purposes and added part stiffness and precise alignment to the surfaces of mating components. A window is mounted on formed-in threaded inserts. The company forms custom-color Kydex sheet into the engraver components.

Twin-sheet

Associated Thermoforming Inc. of Berthoud, Colo., won gold for a footboard used on a bariatric bed system. It functions as a footboard and has a handle to move the bed. The twin-sheet part has a molded-in aluminum weldment for structure — a challenge, officials said, because the sheet loses heat due to the delay between leaving the oven and forming to the mold as the inserts are installed. Associated Thermoforming used various process controls and molding techniques to overcome those issues.

Spencer Industries Inc. of Dale, Ind., won silver for Resistall partitions used in public restroom stalls, which replace traditional metal dividers. Spencer pressure forms the high density polyethylene side walls, doors and pilasters using a new patent-pending air-displacement system that assists with the forming and internal cooling. That eliminates the “blow needles” found with twin-sheet products.

Extruded profile HDPE interior rails are robotically placed between the two sheets during the forming process. Tooling Technology LLC provided 15 twin-sheet molds for the project. The high-volume partitions require five-axis trimming stations.


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Winners original, complex ... plastic

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: September 27, 2011 6:00 am ET

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