A large tent-camper combination on wheels netted two awards - People's Choice and twin-sheet - for Spencer Industries Inc. of Dale, Ind., at the SPE Thermoforming Division's 2007 parts competition, held during the group's conference in Cincinnati.
The rugged, fully enclosed tent fits a party of five adults for an extended wilderness outing, according to Spencer Industries' customer, C.A.M.P. Technologies LLC of Orangeburg, N.Y. Designed to be towed behind a vehicle, the camp trailer features a tent measuring 300 square feet.
Two other companies each won three awards. Prent Corp. of Janesville, Wis., picked up silver and bronze awards for medical packaging in the roll-fed category. It also won gold in roll-fed for industrial products.
San Diego-based Specialty Manufacturing Inc. grabbed the gold for roll-fed medical, as well as gold and silver in heavy-gauge pressure forming.
Leaders of the Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Division honored the award winners at a Sept. 18 dinner.
This was a big year for the parts competition. A total of 45 parts were entered - the most ever, said Hadyn Forward, parts competition chairman.
He said one-fourth of the parts came from original equipment makers not SPE Thermoforming Division members. Resin supplier Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., also sponsored a part, a front-end cap for a recreational vehicle. Forward said Dow's entry shows a growing, broader awareness of the product awards.
``People are beginning to see the value of this competition,'' he said.
Organizers made some changes this year, he said. For the first time, the contest solicited student entries, and four were on display on the show floor. The division gave scholarships to the top three winners.
Division officials also reduced the number of categories but made them broader, covering two categories each in roll-fed and heavy-gauge parts. They issued first, second and third place in each category, instead of a single winner, as in past years.
``Since the award has become so competitive, there were parts that weren't recognized in the past that were a very, very close second place,'' said Forward, who is national sales manager for Specialty Manufacturing.
Also, organizers retained the most popular awards: twin-sheet, multipart, and People's Choice. They each have just one winning product. New this year is the Judge's Option Award.
Products are judged for creativity, originality, design complexity, surface finish, secondary operations, technical difficulty and innovation.
Here are the award winners:
Specialty Manufacturing took the gold for an ``All Probe'' tray that can package 10 different medical instruments in a single, compact tray. Specialty Manufacturing forms the tray from high-impact polystyrene on roll-fed equipment and die cuts the parts in-line.
The highlight is the tray's flexibility to hold different combinations of probes, thanks to 24 undercuts, which are at different heights and angles. On male tooling, these complex undercut sections must automatically retract into the tool so the part can be released. In another feature, a special cap is cut in-line with the rest of the cuts, but is held in place until the final assembly. The operator then can remove the cap and snap-fit it near the nose of the tray. Another triangular piece can be removed to make extra space for longer probes.
Prent won silver for its packaging tray to hold surgical instruments used in incisionless surgery to treat patients who suffer obesity. The instrument, called the StomaphyX, is made by EndoGastric Solutions Inc. of Redmond, Wash.
The one-piece tray is 40 inches long. Cavities in the package hold various tools and pouched fasteners. Three strategically placed, die-cut flaps fold over the product and snap to the tray to secure the product. Snap inserts were used to help the molder quickly adjust to the desired snap force.
The HIPS tray had to protect the product from damage in a 38-inch drop test.
Another Prent medical tray netted the bronze award, this one a tray flexible enough to hold 10 different product lines of instruments used in heart procedures. The customer is St. Jude Medical Inc., a medical device maker based in St. Paul, Minn.
A small clamshell lid protects delicate catheter distal tips during shipping, while a larger lid holds a guide wire and catheter handle in place.
Prent, which specializes in forming medical packaging, has gained business from the growth in noninvasive surgery and single-use instruments, said Walt Walker, executive vice president of operations and chief operating officer.
The gold went to Prent for its applicator for Contec Inc.'s disposable, disinfecting sponge for clean rooms, called the VertiKlean. A rigid amorphous PET thermformed part is glued onto a foam applicator, to provide rigidity without adding bulk. The part has stiffer ends and corners, to improve cleaning.
A retractable snap feature allows the part to be ejected from the tooling.
PWP Industries Inc. of Vernon, Calif., took both the silver and bronze awards for its innovative packaging. The silver went to PWP's clamshell, tamper-resistant PET package for Hillshire Farms Entree Salads. The lid has a strong, pull-open tab, with bumps that show the gap between the lid and container, so the consumer can tell if tampering has occurred.
PWP picked up a bronze for the PET Dip-n-Go, designed for snacking in the car or while taking a stroll. The lid, which holds the dip, snaps solidly into place onto a container that holds the slices of apple or other snacking item. The Dip-n-Go was designed to fit into a car cup holder.
PWP said Dip-n-Go will appear in Wal-Marts, 7-Elevens and supermarkets nationwide.
Heavy-gauge vacuum forming
Penda Corp. of Portage, Wis., won a gold medal for a tonneau cover for pickup trucks. The cover, which General Motors Corp. selected for its trucks, features a molded-in color that precisely matches the truck color, while eliminating cracking and chipping issues associated with conventional finishes and glass-fiber-reinforced products. Also, custom styling lines fit the appearance of the truck.
The truck owner can buff out scratches and other damage, without the need to repaint.
The cover weighs 25-35 percent less than an FRP tonneau cover, Penda said.
Ameriform Inc. of Muskegon, Mich., got the silver for a one-piece, high density polyethylene hull for the Sea-Doo paddle boat, from Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. based in Valcourt, Quebec.
The bronze award went to Golden Plastics Corp. of Oakland, Calif., for a radome assembly, a thermoformed base and dome, to enclose a satellite for offshore ship communications, including Internet access, television and telephone service. The goal was to form a part with the customer name molded into the base, and to minimize the number of secondary parts needed to complete the assembly. An undercut on the base eliminated the need for an internal dome-mounting ring, and allowed the base to be pressure formed as a single part. The dome is snap-back formed on a male mold, with a vacuum formed internal ring bonded in for rigidity.
Golden Plastics used Spartech Corp.'s WeatherPro sheet, coextruded from an ABS substrate and an acrylic cap.
Heavy-gauge pressure forming
Specialty Manufacturing won the gold for a podiatry chair and base that covers components under the chair. The enclosure is pressure formed into female tools, using undercuts for aesthetics and mounting. A double-step undercut forms a vertical design line step, which links to the chair back in a sweeping. The undercuts also help during assembly.
Specialty Manufacturing also got a silver for a front cover for the ScanScope CS, a machine that digitizes medical slides. There are seven parts in the winning entry. Front openings are formed over male protrusions, then milled open from the inside. That gives the appearance of a tooled outside surface, with sharp corners that cannot be achieved by routing with a radius cutter. Undercuts create formed in tabs for mounting the cover with the mating part.
Ray Products Inc. of Ontario, Calif., picked up the Bronze award for a cover assembly unit for a benchtop instrument for fast separation of biomolecules. The main housing is pressure formed using fire-rated ABS. Undercuts along the bottom perimeter allow for easy attachment to a sheet-metal base. The parts are shielded with a spray-on coating and painted with a two-component polyurethane.
Wilbert Plastic Services Inc. won the multipart category for a large front and read cover for a CT scan and PET scan imaging system. Wilbert pressure formed the outer part, and vacuum formed the inner, from PVC/acrylic sheet. Undercuts run around the entire perimeter of the part, and in a center bore area. WPS is part of Chicago-based Wilbert Inc.
Judge's Option Award
The judges picked one of the most unusual parts, called the Talegator, made by Tale-Gator Distributors LLC in Troy, Mich. Thermoformed from ABS sheet, the product is attached to the tailgate of a pickup truck. The sheet has molded-in seat areas and drink holders - for a place to relax when the truck is stopped, and the tailgate gets lowered. The part on display in Cincinnati had a highly detailed, alligator-style finish. It is made from recycled ABS and polyethylene.
First place, and a $2,500 scholarship, went to Brian Pillay, a doctorate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He designed a structural air-conditioning cover for the roof of a city bus, to replace a much heavier, aluminum cover. The part was made using a three-step process. First, a glass-mat polypropylene sheet was heated and vacuum compression molded, to create the stiff, ribbed inner layer. Second, a thermoplastic polyolefin sheet was thermoformed to shape, then bonded to the structural inner layer.
The plastic door is lighter than aluminum, making it easier to open for service of the air conditioner units, and also saving gas for the bus.
Robbin Forsyth of San Jose State University in California picked up second place and a $1,500 scholarship for a cargo box, designed to sit on one side of a car roof, so it's easier to load and unload than the conventional arrangement in the middle of the roof. She also created a model cargo box that gives a pleasing look and matches the aesthetics of the car body.
Third place and a $750 scholarship went to a fellow San Jose State student, Hoan Pham, who also designed a cargo box, customized for a specific car model.