ATLANTA - A thermoplastic composite wheelchair and an automotive instrument panel carrier made using gas-assisted injection molding took top honors at the SPI Structural Plastics Division's annual new-product design competition in Atlanta. Other winners among the 71 entries included a paintless injection molded television cabinet; a folding, rotomolded snowplow for cars; an extrusion blow molded window-well system; and a 360-gallon, reaction injection molded hazardous material container.
Following is a summary of this year's winners, in their respective categories.
TRANSPORTATION: Alliance Pre-cision Plastics of Rochester, N.Y., injection molded 33 percent glass-filled nylon to produce an automotive fuel-air mixing chamber for Rochester-based Delphi Energy & Engine Management Systems. Called the 5.0/5.7 Upper Plenum, the part also is designed to serve as a mounting point for other engine components. It also weighs less than would a similar part made of aluminum.
BEST SINGLE PART: Heartland Automotive Inc. of Greencastle, Ind., used Gain Technologies Inc.'s gas-assisted injection molding process to produce a 6 1/5-pound, 24 percent talc-filled polypropylene instrument-panel carrier for Japanese carmaker Isuzu Motors Ltd (see separate story). The part was made using a single gate and no hot runner.
JUDGE'S SPECIAL AWARD: This award, meant to call attention to a part that did not capture its category, went to Pittsburgh-based designer Solotec Corp. for its lightweight, V-shaped, polyethylene snowplow for cars. Trilogy Plastics Inc. of Louisville, Ohio, rotomolded the bright-yellow Driv'nPlow, which comes with snap-on, replaceable plastic edge blades. The plow folds in half for easy storage, with each half weighing 23 pounds. This product also won the People's Choice award, voted on by some of the meeting's 450 attendees.
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS: Ja-pan's Tohoku Munekata Co. Ltd. used gas-assisted injection molding, in-house-developed processing software, and a novel mold-cavity system to produce television cabinets that obviate the need for painting, boosting recycling efficiency. The cabinets were made of superhigh-flow polystyrene using the Ulpac cavity mold system developed by Japan's Taiyo Manufacturing Co. Munekata said that system has a thin thermal insulating layer inside the metal surface that allows the cavity surface to be kept constantly above the glass-transition temperature of the plastic used during injection, without prolonging cycle time.
COMPUTER/BUSINESS EQUIPMENT: Mack Molding Co. captured two awards, the first one for the stand-alone version of the XLS disk storage system for Hew-lett-Packard. Mack used low-pressure structural foam to make the core chassis, and solid-wall injection molding to produce the pedestal feet, front frames and top cover - all of which snap together without hardware. The unit used 10 percent glass-filled polycarbonate in all internal structural parts, and a custom-colored PC/ABS blend for all modules and cosmetic parts.
CONSUMER PRODUCTS: Mack Molding Co. earned its second honor for its work on Springwell Dispensers Inc.'s thermoelectric bottled-water dispenser. Made of PC and PC/ABS blends, the compact dispenser consists of just seven injection molded parts, down from 18 in its previous design. The thermoelectric sensor allows consumers to adjust the temperature - from ice-cold to room temperature.
CONFERENCE AWARD: Zero Gravity Medical Inc. of Sandy, Utah, won the Medical/Scientific category and the event's major honor, the Conference Award, for its Z-700 ultralight advanced composite folding wheelchair. The product - featured in Plastics News' Feb. 5 issue - incorporates injection molded components made of long-glass-fiber, thermoplastic polyurethane resins. It weighs less than 30 pounds, and costs about half what a traditional wheelchair with similar features would cost.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Cott Manufacturing of Glendale, Calif., designed and molded a fiber-optic-cable distribution box, called a split hand hole, out of PU reinforced with a 15 percent loading of glass fiber. The modular box measures 30 by 60 by 30 inches, and is capable of withstanding the product's 20,000-pound load-rating requirements. At 240 pounds, it weighs roughly half that of a comparable polymer-concrete split hand hole, and includes six steel box beams encapsulated in the lid.
The box is reaction injection molded, except for its eight injection molded cable racks made of TPU.
AGRICULTURE/LAWN & GARDEN: GI Plastek of Newburyport, Mass.,
reaction injection molded 18 percent glass-filled elastomeric PU to replace multipiece steel welds in several parts of a Case Corp. combine. The high-gloss parts include corners, lower cab chin and light bezels, and employ in-mold coating to achieve a Class A finish right out of the mold.
Some of the components use nickel-shell tooling.
RECYCLE: Co-Mack Technology Inc. of Vista, Calif., won the green ribbon for its coinjection molded, automotive exterior mirror housing that uses 20 percent glass-filled ABS regrind as its core material. The housing, for an unidentified ``large Midwest manufacturer,'' has a skin of unfilled acrylic styrene acrylonitrile and a recycled-content part weight of 46 percent.
INDUSTRIAL: Rochester Gauges Inc. of Dallas designed a fuel-probe sensor that incorporates acetal, nylon and conductive thermoplastic PET. Though the molder was not disclosed, DuPont Co. supplied the resins for the vertical fuel-level sensor. The sensor can be used in virtually any type of tank, and eliminates all mechanically moving parts.
RETAIL HARDWARE: Winfield, Kan.-based KSQ Blow-molding chose extrusion blow molding to produce the large PE panels used in its Scapewel window-well system.
The process, material and design - incorporating deep-draw ribs and tack-offs - afforded the 49-inch-wide product the necessary flexural modulus, outdoor durability and structural strength to withstand earth-loading pressures.
MATERIALS HANDLING: 21st Century Containers Ltd. of Atlanta produced an award-winner with its Atlas 360 intermediate bulk container for hazardous materials, including low-radiation nuclear waste.
The 360-gallon, returnable tank weighs 94 pounds and is reaction injection molded out of polydicyclopentadiene; the lid weighs 87 pounds with two sets of molded-in threads. The product's nesting design means that return shipping requires only 20 percent of the outbound freight space.
RECREATION/LEISURE: Plastics Manufacturing Inc. of Harrisburg, N.C., used vacuum forming and five-axis-machined ABS parts to make the covers for an interactive, computerized information center called the IBM low-profile kiosk. PMI was able to start this low-volume program quickly by using wood and epoxy preproduction tools, while developing parts on a three-dimensional, computer-aided design system.