A little bit of Santoprene just might make a round of golf a little less frustrating.
Advanced Elastomer Systems LP gave out dozens of reusable golf tees at a recent customer event at the firm's headquarters in Akron, Ohio. The tee used AES' Santoprene-brand thermoplastic vulcanizate compound overmolded onto a polypropylene stem. The tees - which were packaged along with a business card holder - were designed for AES by Twin Image Inc. of Cudahy, Wis.
``A lot of companies go with a coffee mug or a pen or a keychain as a promotional item,'' Twin Image President Michael Potempa said by telephone. ``But AES wanted something that would show processors a lot of the properties of the material.''
Using Santoprene allows the tee to flex under extreme pressure. The soft Santoprene cup at the top lets golfers push the tee into the ground without it snapping. The cup grips the ball, helping to keep it stable in windy or wet conditions.
Ribs made of Santoprene are on the tee's stem, diffusing pressure from the impact of the golf club, again keeping the tee from snapping, Potempa said.
``I'm a really bad golfer - I break tees all the time,'' he said. ``But I lasted a whole round with a single one of these tees. I'm very proud of that.''
Some of Santoprene's unique design elements also played a role in the design, said Ryan Seyler, a marketing technical services representative with AES' parent firm, ExxonMobil Chemical Co.
``The tee design requires an undercut for its functionality,'' Seyler said. ``The flexibility of the Santoprene TPV allows the processor to include this undercut and still automatically eject the part from the mold.
``The part required the overmolded piece return to its original shape after bending. It also required a design that would effectively maintain the shape of a thin PP substrate while overmolding the TPV under high injection pressures,'' he said.
AES worked with Twin Image on a tight schedule to meet the design challenge.
``We were able to assist in the quick `art-to-part' development helping move the product from concept to production in about four months,'' Seyler added.
Twin Image - which worked with Canton, Ohio-based Witco Mold & Die Inc. on tool and die production for the product - retains ownership of the design. The company has no current plans to make its reusable tee on a commercial scale but Potempa said the firm will be open to offers from interested parties.
The project is the latest in a series of early successes for Twin Image, founded by Potempa and his twin brother, Brian, in 2003. The brothers were recruited by the Shur-Line painting products division of Newell Rubbermaid Inc. in 2001, while they were students at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.
After two years with Shur-Line, based in St. Francis, Wis., Michael Potempa sold his house to finance the launch of Twin Image and moved in with his brother. At first, the company was located in Michael's basement.
Since that point, Twin Image has designed more than 300 products for Newell Rubbermaid, Westinghouse and other prominent original equipment manufacturers. Twin Image employs 16 and operates at an 8,000-square-foot site in Cudahy that includes in-house plastics and metal fabricating equipment. Business growth is prompting the company to find a larger site in nearby Brookfield, Wis.
In an even bigger move, the Potempa brothers, who turn 27 this year, soon will merge their firm with Poly-Options, a Freeport, Ill.-based resin distributor launched by their father, Steve Potempa, almost 20 years ago.
``We really grew up around the plastic industry,'' Michael Potempa said. ``We were used to looking at data from engineers and things about product development from a really young age. Even at Christmas, we would take apart the tools we bought for my dad just to see how they worked. And that just naturally led us to what we wanted to do.''