Plastic pallet and container maker Jeco Plastic Products LLC recently completed production of a thermoformed door liner for a cryogenic container that will be used by NASA on the International Space Station.
NASA approached the Plainfield, Ind., company around June 2012 to develop a door liner that could withstand extremely low temperatures.
Jeco completed the project around June 2013 and is now waiting for the finished product to be sent to the space station. While a completed door liner looks similar to a typical plastic tray, the manufacturing process was very tedious and difficult to perfect, said Jeco CEO Craig Carson.
"This is not a simple product; appearances are very deceptive in this regard," he said. "This was an extremely difficult product to make, and no one else had been able to successfully do it."
The door liners were made using polypropylene sheets with continuous internal polypropylene fibers oriented 90 degrees from one another to produce structures that remain strong and durable at temperatures approaching -392° F.
"We're dealing with materials and products that are not used in your normal sort of everyday ambient conditions," said Carson. "Very high temperatures; very low temperatures; extreme loading conditions; you know things like that."
Along with their rotomolded products, Jeco specializes in the manufacturing with unusual resins, primarily those with internal reinforcements for high-tolerance applications.
"That's our little niche of this market," he said. "It's not particularly big, and it's primarily stuff that is used in aerospace or things like that; you know, oddball things."
Because the door liners are only one component of NASA's cryogenic containers, it is unclear when exactly the finished products will be used on the space station.
"Everything is completed on the whole thing but the [container] assembly work," Carson said. "The completed assembly is due to be taken up to the International Space Station sometime in the near future."