Chroma Corp. and Alan Yorke Engineering Ltd. have created a product-development center for rotational molding, at Chroma headquarters in McHenry, Ill.
The facility will enable companies to try out molds, work on rapid prototyping and research color, foaming and new technologies. Resin suppliers can use it to address specific customer problems, or qualify new resins for rotomolding. Product designers can learn more about rotomolding.
``In the rotomolding industry, there's a lack of facilities for designers to use,'' said Chroma Chairman Robert D. Swain. Plastics designer Glenn Beall, a rotomolding advocate, will act as a consultant.
The center brings together Chroma, which makes custom colors, additives and pre-color compounds, and Yorke Engineering, a rotomolding machinery manufacturer from Northamptonshire, England. Kann Manufacturing Corp. of Guttenberg, Iowa, sells the Yorke machines in the United States. Kann provided the machine for the facility, while Chroma provided the space.
On the Yorke machines, the oven moves into the arm that holds the mold, then moves away again, using a single door on the front of the oven, on the side facing the center of the machine. The cylinder-shaped oven and a special air-recirculation system gives uniform heating and uses much less natural gas, the company said.
In McHenry, the development center is equipped with a large Yorke carousel machine, an HB-260 with a 102-inch swing diameter, plus a small clamshell FSP-040 machine. It also has a testing laboratory, a laboratory-size extrusion and compounding line, and small and large pulverizers to make powder. A 12-inch cube mold is available to mold samples.
Beall said in an interview at the NPE show in Chicago that such full-size production rotomolding machines have not been available at independent testing sites until now. Most such testing has taken place on small, laboratory-scale machines at various universities or has required a manufacturer to take one of its shop-floor machines out of commission temporarily. He added that a lack of financial incentive may have stunted some previous development efforts.
``Big resin guys don't want to grind 100-500 pounds into a powder to test for rotomolding,'' Beall noted. ``Chroma can do that'' at this new center, which he said can serve as ``an impartial, third-party site for testing theories.''
Swain said the center grew out of informal conversations with Alan Yorke, who told him about seminars he held for customers at his plant in England. Swain said they discussed how they could do something similar in the United States. Swain and Yorke bounced ideas off of U.S. rotomolding leaders.
``One thing just sort of led to another,'' Swain said.
Paul T. Kinsella Jr., who joined Chroma this past spring as general manager, is enthusiastic about what the new, hands-on development center can mean on a broader scale.
``I see leaders of the industry pooling their thoughts to try to advance [rotomolding],'' he said at NPE.
Plastics News editor Robert Grace contributed to this story.