Engineering firm Thompson Plastics Group of Hull, England, has expanded its large vacuum forming capacity by purchasing a new Geiss thermoforming machine to make interior panels for 60-foot articulated buses.
The machine, Thompson's fourth for large-area components, can produce panels as large as 111/2 feet by 81/4 feet. It was installed at Thompson's vehicle division plant in Hull as part of a 3 million ($4.4 million) investment program launched last year.
Thompson needs the machine to make parts for the new Eclipse Fusion bus for Robert Wright & Son (Coachworks) Ltd. of Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Thompson thermoforms the front cabin roof panel and saddles, rear bulkhead and corners, front access doors, driver's door assembly and instrument console.
The interior features key components in plastics in place of traditional glass fiber and laminates for the first time. Thompson said it has helped Wright reduce the number of components required for the interior. For example, the number of roof components has been cut from about 50 to just three, eliminating unsightly interfaces.
The roof saddle is a single, 20-foot thermoformed sheet.
"Our investment in large thermoforming equipment meant that this was achievable," said Roy Toal, commercial manager of Thompson's vehicle division.
Thompson also is equipping Wright's 40-foot-long Solar bus, doing much of the assembly as well as molding components. Thompson operates six plants, employs about 450 and has annual sales of 27 million ($40 million).