BOSTON — Rotational molders must break out of the traditional toys-and-tanks mode to continue growing in the next decade, said the head of the Association of Rotational Molding.
Patrick Long, president of Oakbrook, Ill.-based ARM, said new applications outside typical rotomolding areas are needed to spur growth.
``There's the perception that all we're able to do is large storage tanks or toys. We have to take a larger role in tight-tolerance or cosmetic parts,'' Long said in an April 18 interview at the spring meeting of the Industrial Designers Society of America's Materials and Processes Division.
The Boston event was held in conjunction with the SPI Structural Plastics Division conference.
But for rotomolders to explore new opportunities in those areas — including medical applications and business-equipment housings — a major capital investment and a campaign to build awareness will be necessary, Long said. The goal could be to build more-complex parts with inserts, curved lines and other sophisticated features, he said.
Instead of the industry's traditional three-axis rotomolding presses, many molders are upgrading to four-arm machines, and many use five-axis, computer numerically controlled trimming equipment, he said. The equipment is faster and allows multiple parts or part sections to be produced simultaneously. In the past, the rotomolding industry has been criticized for slow cycle times.
``It takes a major commitment to equipment, but it will allow us to better meet our customers' needs,'' Long said.
Long is president of rotomolder Formed Plastics Inc. of Carle Place, N.Y., which recently purchased a new, four-arm Ferry rotomolding machine.
Awareness also is an issue. Long, addressing a group of two dozen IDSA members, said he would like the design community to have a better understanding of the products that could be rotomolded effectively.
The association also has created a mold-making committee to work with toolmakers on new applications.
``If we pool our resources, we can do a lot together,'' he said.
Rotomolding still is one of the fastest-growing processing areas in the plastics industry, Long said.
The association expects sales growth of 10-15 percent for its rotomolding member companies this year, he said.