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SPE honors innovation

By: Bill Bregar

September 27, 2013

ATLANTA — A see-through beverage cooler that fully displays cans and bottles netted two awards for Innovative Plastech Inc. of Batavia, Ill., at the SPE Thermoforming Division's annual parts competition.

The Clearly Cooler ice bucket won first place in the roll-fed food packaging category and picked up the Judges Award at the SPE Thermoforming Conference in Atlanta.

Innovative Plastech molds the cooler from recycled PET. It holds a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles and stores ice in the middle section. The bottles stay secure even when the cooler is turned upside down.

Also at the conference, Hampel Corp. of Germantown, Wis., won two awards for two separate heavy-gauge products. The People's Choice Award went to Say Plastics Inc. of McSherrytown, Pa., for a thermoformed rear emergency- exit door for a medium-duty transit bus that replaced a steel door.

Jim Arnet, parts competition chairman, announced the winners Sept. 10 during the conference, which ran Sept. 9-12.

For the first year, the SPE Thermoforming Division held a student awards competition. The winner, Ryan Enzler of the University of Wisconsin-Stout, won for a thermoformed heal guard to protect hospital patients. Division leaders will deliver a large cup — the Stanley Cup of thermoforming — to the university with Enzler's name engraved. The award will remain at the school for one year, then return to the 2014 conference.

Second-place in the student contest went to Benjamin Miller of Carleton University in Ontario. He designed a self-contained, safe alternative to a road emergency flare.

Here is a recap of the winners:

People's Choice Award

Conference attendees voted for the rear bus door from Say Plastics.

Say thermoforms the door from thermoplastic olefin sheet, capped with white acrylic, for a high-gloss, weather-resistant finish.

An inner frame provides additional rigidity. The door comes completely assembled with the glass windows, frame, wiring harness and hardware. The assembly process uses several adhesive methods for bonding TPO to TPO, glass to TPO and aluminum/steel to TPO.

The old metal doors could corrode — picture an aging shuttle bus for the airport parking lot in Buffalo. That won't happen with plastic.

Roll-Fed, Industrial/Medical

Plastic Ingenuity Inc. of Cross Plains, Wis., won first place for a glycol-modified PET package that holds an implantable medical device, with a catheter delivery system. Judges said the package is unique because of its length, perforated hinges, and three perforated snap features. The previous package did not have a snap element to keep the package closed, instead relying on a friction fit.

By incorporating a roll-fed process, Plastic Ingenuity cut the price by two-thirds and can manufacture the package five times faster than the prior version.

Second place went to CMI Plastics Inc. of Ayden, N.C., for a clamshell for the Bona hardwood floor mop, which had been packaged in a printed cardboard box. Now consumers can see the product through the clear PET package. The challenge was to display the mop so that the consumer could touch the cleaning pad and handle.

Roll-Fed, Food Packaging

Innovative Plastech won first place for the ice bucket.

A high-impact polystyrene lid for hot beverages netted second place for uVu Lid Co. LLC of Boca Raton, Fla.

The patented, proprietary lids include a deep trough with a double inner seal, for a leakproof, secure fit. According to uVu Lid officials, this trough can be a challenge to thermoform with thin sheet at high speeds. Another difficult-to-form feature: view slots around the perimeter of the lid.

Heavy-Gauge, Vacuum-Formed/ Twin Sheet

Hampel won first place for a pen to house dairy calves from birth to 60 days old, and a weight of about 180 pounds. The company designed the pen to be light, very durable, easy to clean, modular and completely free-standing.

Hampel coextrudes a polyethylene sheet, which gives the pen walls the required rigidity. A steel-reinforcement frame, as well as a wire fence for ventilation, are inserted between the two sheets of plastic during forming.

The pen door, door frame, handle and a snap-on feed divider are formed together on one family mold.

San Diego-based Specialty Manufacturing Inc. grabbed second place for a pair of twin-sheet doors for a large medical diagnostic system. The material is a custom color, formed with a combination of textured and smooth tool surfaces for a highly aesthetic and durable part. The doors are formed from an acrylic-PVC blend.

The design allows for formed-in threaded inserts for quick assembly by the customer.

Thermoformed plastic replaced the previous generation of doors that were single-sheet material requiring metal reinforcement and additional hardware for attachment. Specialty Manufacturing was able to reduce part cost by 27 percent and improve the door's rigidity and look.

Heavy-Gauge, Pressure-Formed

Ray Products Co. Inc. of Ontario, Calif., picked up first place for a multipart enclosure for a desktop medical instrument, about the same size as a printer.

Ray Products formed all parts using a flame-rated material, in various thicknesses. All parts were painted, silk-screened and had an electromagnetic-interference shielding applied.

Undercuts along the side walls of many parts reduced assemble time, and added structural rigidity. Molded-in mating surfaces and formed tabs allow for precise alignment, without the need for extra mounting hardware and bonding.

Hampel won second place for a cover for a hydraulic pump used on a commercial snowplow assembly.

The part is made from black PE sheet, with a highly detailed logo to meet strict customer requirements.

Hampel forms four parts at a time, which led to ribbing, with material folding over between the finished parts. The company overcame that problem by adding de-ribbers.