Elastic Image Inc. of Terre Haute says it has a solution to image distortion on thermoformed parts that use pre-decorated sheet.
In the past, thermoformers tried to predict the impact of forming on the graphics, and that resulted in a lot of trial and error, according to Elastic Image. The firm's proprietary technology - including machine vision-based data collection and graphic distortion software - captures the specific surface dynamics of an actual plastic part during forming.
The system provides a graphics file engineered for pre-decoration, regardless of the tooling design, substrate or print process for that particular part.
Elastic Image claims the plug-and-play system is easily integrated into graphics and thermoforming operations through a simple qualification process, to ensure repeatability. The data is used to engineer distorted graphics on pre-decorated sheet that is thermoformed. The sheet also can be used as an insert for in-mold labeling in injection molding, said company founder John Davidson, who is executive vice president and chief technology officer.
``The distorted graphic has been precisely engineered to be the way it needs to be, to achieve the end result,'' Davidson said.
Outdoor advertising, signs and promotional products and point-of-purchase displays are big markets. Davidson said the firm also is targeting areas such as packaging and consumer products.
Elastic Image helped Active Ad of Birmingham, Ala., produce a large football-shaped Dr. Pepper cooler for Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages. The production involved large-scale, deep-draw forming and a major distortion of the graphics. The company said the graphics, printed from the file, registered to the mold perfectly on the first part, and again for 8,000 more parts.
Elastic is partnered with Rose-Hulman Ventures, a technology incubator arm of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute. A group of RHV software scientists and engineers developed the 3-D scanning technology that quantifies material stretch; another group developed the graphics distortion package. The two technologies were first brought together in 2003. Elastic Image has continued to improve both platforms.
Davidson's background is in graphics and computer technology, while Vice President Steven Pighini's is in thermoforming.