Mercury Plastics Inc. is putting its electron beam to good use, using the exotic cross-linking equipment to make some consumer products at its factory in Middlefield, Ohio.
``We're trying to cross-link as much as possible,'' Jeff Lippus, sales engineer, said at the company's booth during the National Manufacturing Week show. ``We try to differentiate ourselves from the me-toos.''
The company showed a coiled garden hose and a strap for hanging heavy objects, both made from cross-linked polyethylene, during the March 3-6 show.
Mercury does custom work, but company officials also like to develop proprietary products. The company teamed up with the Regional Business Alliance at Kent State University in Ohio to add the electron beam equipment several years ago.
Mercury and KSU set up Neo Beam Alliance Ltd. Mercury's initial focus was to use the beam to make PEX pipe for the plumbing market.
Several pipe makers have switched to PEX to replace polybutylene pipe, which when combined with acetal fittings caused leaks in millions of homes.
Lippus said the company would like to sell the Merflex-brand coiled hose and the hanging strap, called Handi Hanger, to a consumer products company or distribute them itself.
Mercury extrudes both PEX products.
The Handi Hanger is a simple strip of plastic, with notches on each end and a notched hole in the middle. But it can hold a lot of weight without stretching. By slipping each end through the middle and forming a figure eight, a bicycle can be suspended from a rafter.
Resembling a Slinky, the Merflex PEX one-piece coiled hose is designed for people who hate winding up the garden hose after use. Cross-linking means the hose recoils slowly, always returning to its original shape.
``It has a memory. It's beamed in a coiled state,'' Lippus said.
Mercury also molds one-piece plastic fittings that the company said are an improvement over the crimped metal ends that are standard on most hoses.