Creating, designing and rotomolding a toy that will last

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: June 27, 2014 2:11 pm ET
Updated: June 27, 2014 2:28 pm ET

Image By: Little Tikes Co. The Little Tikes design team works on 50 to 100 projects every year. Some of them, like the Crazy Coupe, are a winner for the ages and continue to spin off toys.

Related to this story

Topics Rotomolding, Toys
Companies & Associations Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE)

CLEVELAND — Tom Fish loves the rotational molding process, and the Little Tikes Co. creative director explained how the Hudson, Ohio, company uses CAD models and rapid prototyping to create new toys, in a presentation at TopCon 2014, the Society of Plastics Engineers’ rotomolding conference.

“Rotomolding is the best process for a designer to work with. The fact that you make big sweeping curves, that’s a plus, not a minus,” he said. “Little Tikes gets a lot of credit for making soft, rounded products. It wasn’t that it was brilliant, you just have to make them soft and round to mold.”

Rotomolding also allows for easy color changes, something that is harder to do in injection and blow molding, he said.

Fish outlined a process he developed to design the layout of the spider — the framework molding a set of rotational molds — using three-dimensional CAD. The goal is to fit numerous parts onto one spider — such as all the parts in a playhouse. That makes efficient rotomolding, for the high-volume toys.

“The parts get thrown down a chute, trimmed and they’re put into a box. And at our factory, they go on a conveyor that lifts them up, and out to the warehouse they go. Done!” he said.

Using CAD, during the design process, Fish can put in part parameters and adjust things like spacing between the parts and seeing comparative parting lines. If you make a change, the entire CAD drawing adjusts.

“As a designer, I change my design as I work through this, knowing what would or wouldn’t fit,” he said.

Early on in the development process, Tikes’ marketing department brings ideas for, say, a kitchen set, complete with the look, features and price of competitor’s kitchens. Then the design team makes lots of sketches. A group comes together including marketing and consumer service people, who answer the 800 number for complaints.

Each component is costed-out, and they know beforehand the maximum size. “No matter how you do it, it has to fit in that box” on store shelves, Fish said.

Image By: Little Tikes Co. Little Tikes Co.'s "Cook-n-Grow Kitchen" can be changed over the years as children grow.

The CAD drawings and spider layout also helps to figure machine usage, a key aspect of pricing. Tikes also uses a stereolithography machine to make small models.

The toy designers make models using foam, then colors them to look like the finished product. They bring moms in to get their opinions.

Fish said the Tikes design team works on 50 to 100 projects every year. A constant flow of new products is critical, since toys inherently have a short lifespan. “My average consumer starts at 26 inches tall and a few years later they’re 40 inches tall,” Fish quipped. But sometimes you hit on a big winner for the ages — like the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, turned out at a rate of 500,000 a year.

Fish said Tikes uses robotics to load and trim the Cozy Coupes. Resin is preheated in dedicated hoppers right at the machine, “so we’re already putting resin into the molds at a raised temperature,” he said.

It’s mass production makes it one of the best-selling cars in America.


Comments

Creating, designing and rotomolding a toy that will last

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: June 27, 2014 2:11 pm ET
Updated: June 27, 2014 2:28 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Plastics News Now: PVC pipe used to help repel sharks from beaches

July 31, 2014 6:00 am ET

Also, we visit Nicolet Plastics which is using a unique employee structure, and Washington D.C. bans polystyrene.    More

Image

Pressure is on to replace aging gas pipes

July 30, 2014 2:47 pm ET

Polyethylene is the plastic replacement material of choice for modernizing the natural gas distribution system — so much so some are concerned...    More

Image

Vinyl siding's lead slips, but industry pushing back

July 29, 2014 2:04 pm ET

Vinyl siding continues to be the top cladding choice for home builders and remodelers but fiber cement is gaining ground — at an alarming rate...    More

Image

Material Insights: Bioplastics firms win government funding

July 28, 2014 12:51 pm ET

Also this week, a study takes a look plastic at the ocean surface and comes away with a surprise finding, and new materials capacity announced.    More

Image

Topcon to cover TPE market

July 28, 2014 1:19 pm ET

The Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoplastic Elastomers TopCon returns to the Akron, Ohio, area Sept. 16-18, with speakers addressing global mark...    More

Market Reports

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events