BOSTON — Diversity of materials and processes was the development du jour at the 27th annual design competition held by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Structural Plastics Division.
Fifteen different processes and 21 different materials were used, up from 11 processes and 13 materials last year. But like last year, 1999's winners showcased parts that put different processes and materials together in ways that pushed the limits of design.
The top award winner was a polycarbonate stop sign designed for enhanced light reflectivity. Other winners at the April 18-20 Boston event included a giant agricultural container that left judges wondering how it was made and a futuristic work station that stretched structural web molding to create transparent desk space with a beehivelike look.
Attendance of about 370 was up sharply from the 270 at 1998's event in St. Louis. That put attendance back to the 1997 level.
The most popular process was injection molding, showing up in 20 entries, followed by structural foam, in 17 entries, and gas-assisted molding by 16 competitors. Though not used in quite as many products and parts, reaction injection molding also played a prominent role in the competition.
Here's a summary of this year's winners, chosen from 88 entries:
CONFERENCE AWARD: A literal show stopper, the plastic stop sign from All Sign Products Inc. and molder Hallmark Technologies Inc. of Windsor, Ontario, uses cubed corners to reflect light back to the eyes of the driver. The sign also has a polycarbonate/fluoropolymer in-mold-applied film for easy graffiti removal. The product uses insert molding as well as gas-assisted and sequential, two-color injection molding.
PRODUCT CONCEPT: A prototype paper-path nip-roll shaft for a Xerox Corp. copier replaces a six-part steel and ABS shaft with a glass-filled syndiotactic polystyrene molded in one part. Papago Plastics of Rochester, N.Y., used gas-assisted injection molding to create the shaft, which is coated with urethane injected into the mold through the gas nozzle. Papago also designed the mold. This new category was created by the Plastics Molders & Manufacturers Association of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers to honor products in development. All other contest entries must be commercial products.
JUDGES' AWARD AND PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD: Both of these categories went to a distinctive office workstation that generated a lot of buzz at the competition. Horizon Plastics Co. Ltd. of Cobourg, Ontario, and mold maker MSI Mold Builders in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, applied structural web molding to give the desk a beehive honeycomb appearance. The clear material is a mix of ABS, impact modifiers and clarifiers. The honeycomb provides both support and aesthetics. The station, made for furniture maker Herman Miller Co., also earned an honorable mention from a separate three-person panel of judges for the IDSA/Plastics News Design Award. That jury said that the desk ``attempted to define a new aesthetic ... and the risk that it took should be applauded.''
ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD: A coinjected top and lower hood for a John Deere tractor is one of the largest coinjection parts made from engineering-grade material. Bemis Manufacturing Co. of Sheyboygan Falls, Wis., made the part from a mold designed by CDM Tool & Manufacturing Co. in Hartford, Wis. The hood uses PET/PC for the skin and off-spec PET/PC, polybutylene terephthalate/PC or ABS for the core, making it 20-30 percent cheaper than if it were solid prime PET/PC. The lower hood uses sequential valve gating for minimal wall thickness.
COMPUTER & BUSINESS EQUIPMENT AND BEST SINGLE PART: Another double award winner, this time from a side panel for a Hewlett Packard Co. computer rack. The gas-assist and sequential injection molded part replaces a heavy sheet-metal door, and was made by Applied Power Inc.'s APW Enclosure Systems plant in Anaheim, Calif., from a mold supplied by L.B. Molds in Gardena, Calif. The modular design of the PC/ABS part allows easy installation and reduces damage typically suffered by the metal door. The part is molded one gate at a time for proper resin flow and elimination of weld lines.
AGRICULTURE AND LAWN AND GARDEN: The event's only counter pressure molded entry took top honors in this category. The plastic parts included the instrument panels, consoles and pods on a fender on the Class II Boomer tractor of New Holland North America Inc. The parts represent a gain for plastics because most larger tractors have been made in sheet metal. The PC/ABS part has a smooth skin to complement the Class A paint application. Consolidated Metco Inc. in Bryson City, N.C., did the molding, while Delta Tooling Co. of Auburn Hills, Mich., made the tooling.
APPLIANCE AND FURNITURE: Bemis Manufacturing Co. captured its second award of the show with a deli container lid that uses two-shot molding of PC and glass-filled nylon to make the lid in one machine with one cycle. The lid, made for Whirlpool Corp., uses a coinjection machine for the two-shot molding. Tooling Technologies in Franklin, Wis., made the mold.
BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION: An extrusion blow molded, high density polyethylene tool chest made by Custom-Pak Inc. in Clinton, Iowa, took top honors in this category. Blow molding allowed the firm to create parts that are both strong and lightweight. The chest has living hinges, molded-in locking detents, and is made with four to six molds. The design eliminates assembly hardware. Custom-Pak also designed the mold, for Danaher/Sears.
INDUSTRIAL: A reaction injection molded Pepsi drink-dispenser housing with a retro look could become the choice of a new generation of soda jerks. The polyurethane housing, molded by the R-I-M Division of EPW Inc. in Elkhart, Ind., for IMI Cornelius Inc., uses RIM molding to create contoured, structural foam PU body panels that leave behind the right angles and flat surfaces common to today's dispensers. Using urethane made it lightweight and RIM lowered the cost to manufacture.
MATERIALS HANDLING: Appearances don't tell the whole story for the winner of this category, a large agricultural container made by Innova Packaging Systems of Ieper, Belgium. The PE container may not look stylish, but the sheer size of the structural foam product stumped the judges, who wondered how it was manufactured. The mold was made by FGL Precision Works Ltd. in Concord, Ontario. The judges could not figure out how the mold designer put gates up the side of the 5-foot-high wall because the part requires slides that have to retract.
MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC: RIM makes another appearance in the winner's circle, this time for a blood analyzer that uses 29 RIM components. GI Plastek of Newburyport, Mass., used PU structural foam RIM, as well as pressure forming, injection molding, blow molding and rotocasting to manufacture the largest single plastics molding project undertaken by Chiron Diagnostics Corp. The core of the system, a reagent box, has five separate insert designs and 58 inserts.
RECREATION AND LEISURE: The first blow molded plastic ski for snowmobiles won this category. Camoplast Inc. in Kingsbury, Quebec, used extrusion blow molding and a modified high-molecular-weight HDPE to produce a ski with the rigidity of metal but much lighter and more durable. The ski has a completely integrated handle and uses in-mold decoration.
RETAIL/CONSUMER PRODUCTS: The winner here is a wheelchair wheel that uses both solid-wall and gas-assisted injection molding. The wheel, made from 14 percent glass-filled nylon for Everest & Jennings, replaces a part that was a combination of metal and plastic. Using a solid wheel preserves the strength, while the gas-assisted handrail significantly reduces cycle times and counteracts sink marks in thick areas. The wheel was molded by Pulsar Plastics Inc. in Carlyle, Ill., and the mold was designed by Contour Mold & Tool Corp. in Bensenville, Ill.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Mack Molding Co.'s Southern Operations in Inman, S.C., made a fiber-optic cable splice enclosure and drawer, a 29-pound assembly that replaces a 65-pound aluminum housing. The drawer consolidates eight parts into one, and makes installation and field service much easier because all the cables are located in the drawer. The PBT product was molded using high-pressure structural foam for aluminum giant Alcoa-Fujikura Ltd.
TRANSPORTATION: Decoma International Inc. in Troy, Mich., used RIM to create a polyurea fender that consolidates three parts into one and cut vehicle weight by 24 pounds. The sport-side fender is the first polyurea panel over 20 pounds, according to Decoma, and the first that can be processed through the entire assembly-plant paint system. The tool was developed by Tycos of Concord, Ontario, for General Motors Corp.