AUSTIN, TEXAS — A conference for industrial designers is starting to attract more plastics processors looking for a better connection with the design community.
A handful of molders joined design outlets and technology providers on the exhibit floor at the Industrial Designers Society of America's annual conference in Austin.
One of the first-timers was Ryan Provenzano, president of Caprock Manufacturing Inc. in Lubbock, Texas. The vertically integrated business offers prototyping, mold making and finishing services as well as custom injection molding.
“We have some good relationships with industrial design firms, as far as them referring their design customers to us for subsequent production, and so we want to expand upon those types of relationships,” Provenzano said.
Stephen Zamprelli, vice president of product development at Formed Plastics Inc., was at the conference for the first time promoting rotational molding at a Roto Made Local booth.
“We're getting positive reactions from everybody at the show. We've had people come back from OEMs that have serious projects that they're asking questions about,” he said.
Designers are often not aware of flexibility of rotomolding, associating it with only simple products, he added.
“We want to promote it specifically to industrial designers to use it in different products such as furniture, cars, equipment, and just let them know we're not just tanks,” he said. “… The industry has come a long way. The processors are doing great things, we're using different materials. It's a cost-effective approach to get into tooling, it's cost-effective for small runs, and it's a great way to feel out a market and do terrific things that you couldn't normally do with injection molding or blow molding.”
Formed Plastics is located on Long Island in New York.
Zamprelli was joined by Tom Innis, vice president of sales and marketing at Brainerd, Minnesota's Avantech, formerly known as Lakeland Mold Co.
“[We're at the conference] really to connect with the design community so that there's a familiarity with rotational molding, and with the benefits and the possibilities that the process provides, but also the realities of a design-for-process type of mentality,” he said.
Several designers at the conference mentioned experiences when the product they received from a molder didn't quite match their expectations, which can stem from an unfamiliarity with the manufacturing process. Better communication between the design side and manufacturing side can help prevent those setbacks, molders said.
“There clearly are specific idiosyncrasies and requirements for rotational molding to be successful, but at the same time we don't want to squash creativity by saying ‘You can't do this, you can't do that,'” Innis said. “It's really finding that balance, and the more the design community is aware of [rotomolding], but also the manufacturing side of it, I think the more it can be effectively leveraged and utilized to produce product.”
Provenzano shared a similer perspective: “I think that's a traditional disconnect that's always existed and probably always will. The key is how well you partner and communicate as the manufacturer with the [industrial design] firm as well as their client.”