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Definition and development of functional barriers for the use of recycled materials in multilayer food packaging

TECHNOLOGICAL WATCH

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Profile Plastics' medical cart takes top SPE thermoforming awards

Fort Worth Texas — Profile Plastics Inc. won the People's Choice Award and a gold award for heavy-gauge pressure forming in the parts competition at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Conference.

Placon Corp. also picked up two awards at the conference, held at the Fort Worth Convention Center Sept. 24-26.

Parts competition winners were recognized at an awards dinner at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Profile Plastics won both awards for a medical cart enclosure used in surgical procedures. The cart has 10 pressure formed enclosure parts: seven for the primary cart and three for a secondary cart.

"They can be used independently, or they can be attached together," said Mike Diaz, technical sales manager at Profile Plastics.

The enclosure parts are formed from polycarbonate-ABS to meet stringent requirements for rigidity, chemical resistance, heat and a highly cosmetic appearance.

The customer required the parts for with zero or minimal mechanical attachment.

"It is driven by end-customer parameters that are established," Diaz said. "From a customer standpoint, they don't want to see a lot of fasteners from a visual standpoint. And also for medical parts, you have the cleaning standpoint."

So Profile Plastics molded in many of the attachment features. The final design incorporated numerous movements in each tool to provide the fastening features, plus the cosmetic finished seams.

Ramesh Mehta, Profile's design and project engineering manager, said the parts are all interlocked, with very minimal fasteners.

According to Profile Plastics, numerous challenges came from the primary cart's interaction between the rear top cover and the side covers to achieve a hidden fastening system while maintaining cosmetic alignment between the parts. The thermoformer used complex core pulls on the upper cover to incorporate slots for a work surface table.

"This is a very complex tool" with deep draws, Mehta said.

The large front cover of the secondary cart presented a challenge with using four-way undercuts, due to the extreme depth of draw.

The final design allowed for the elimination of additional side panels and reduced overall tooling cost, Profile officials said.

Diaz said all parties have to work closely together to make a finished product that meets strict requirements by the customer, and at the same time is economical to manufacture.

"The key to the whole project is you have to establish a collaborative effort partnership between not only us and our customer, but their customer as well," he said.

Profile Plastics is in Lake Bluff, Ill.

Bill Bregar Ray Products' medical device cover. Heavy-Gauge Pressure Forming, Silver

Ray Products Co. Inc. of Ontario, Calif., won the silver award for a medical device cover. The customer was ready to move to mid-scale production, based on a prototype that used urethane casting to create the panels for the enclosures. But that process, and its soft silicone molds, meant limited manufacturing capacity, high part cost and issues with part-to-part consistency, according to Ray Products officials.

Enter pressure forming. By switching from urethane casting to pressure forming, the medical device manufacturer could significantly lower costs, improve manufacturing speed, increase durability and guarantee repeatability — while planning for future increases in demand and production capacity.

The design firm worked closely with Ray Products' manufacturing team and the device maker's engineers. The groups reduced the total number of bosses, designing in undercut features for rigidity and improved fit, and adding other attachment points to lower the total manufacturing and assembly costs, and improve aesthetics.

Ray Products used machined aluminum tooling that is temperature-controlled with actuating slides. Starting with good tooling achieves consistent parts, important for using six-axis robotic trimming to finish the part.

Bill Bregar Fiber Pad Inc. makes a shroud cover for a bass boat. Heavy-Gauge Vacuum Forming, Gold

The top award went to Fiber Pad Inc. of Tulsa, Okla., for a shroud cover for the driver and passenger consoles on a bass boat. The part also provides a surface to mount a windshield.

Fiber Pad vacuum forms the shroud body using a custom-built machine that uses a "wrapping" method, which the company said provides larger undercuts that normally would be permitted with standard vacuum forming machines, plus maintains a more consistent material thickness across the overall part.

The part is trimmed on a five-axis CNC router.

The material is an ABS sheet with a decorative laminate that gives resistance to ultraviolet light and texture.

Because of the difficult geometry, Fiber Pad officials said, these type of shrouds typically have been made using glass-fiber reinforced composites. The customer identified this part, among others as a candidate for plastic replacement to reduce the boat's weight and lower the carbon footprint.

Fiber Pad molds the part on cast-aluminum tooling, with water lines for temperature control. Closely controlling mold temperature was key to reducing and removing chill marks.

ThermaHEXX The ThermaPANEL made by ThermaHEXX. Heavy-Gauge Twin Sheet, Gold

Therma-Hexx Corp. of Portsmouth, N.H., grabbed the top twin-sheet award for its ThermaPANEL, a modular heat transfer system for heating and cooling exterior and interior surfaces. Its primary applications are efficient snow melting of pavement and collecting solar energy to heat swimming pools, while also cooling the pool patio at the same time.

ThermaPANELS are twin-sheet thermoformed using polyethylene-raised temperature on a shuttle-type former with molds that allow for the creation of a multi-channel panel with stanchions and inlets that allow for even, turbulent flow of the hydronic fluid throughout the modular panel. The result: An enhanced, conductive or radiant heat transfer between the panel and any surface it's in contact with, according to Therma-HEXX.

Temperature-controlled tooling forms an inlet and an outlet near the center of each panel, which allows for the secondary process of the socket-fusion of half-inch, PE-RT "S" shaped tubes between the panels. These tubes create foldable rows of pre-assembled panels up to 50 feet long.

After forming, the panels are cooled to a specific temperature, allowing for a predetermined amount of shrink, then they are trimmed on a 30-ton stamping press with a 3D die. The design of the cutting die was critical for trimming around the inlets while allowing for a variance in size because iof the shrink.

Therma-Hexx officials said an automatic loading double-end thermoformer is being built to reduce cycle time by more than 60 percent.

Bill Bregar Allied Plastics Inc. tested its bear-resistant trash cart on real bears. Heavy-Gauge Twin Sheet, Silver

If you have bears getting into your trash, you need the bear-resistant lid for a roll-out cart, molded by Allied Plastics Inc. of Twin Lakes, Wis. The lid even has a molded-in bear head.

Existing cart lids were thermoformed from a single sheet and then reinforced with a metal angle or brackets and rivets — no match for a hungry bear, Allied said.

By using the twin-sheet process, the design team could make a much stronger lid, but one that also has some flex when the bear would try to get into the cart. The lid then immediately returns to back to its formed state, keeping the bear out.

Allied Plastics forms the lid from high molecular weight PE sheet. The tool is a cavity water-cooled, cast oversized, machined aluminum mold with a chemically etched surface.

And yes, the lid and cart are testing using actual bears. In fact, Allied Plastics said the cart and lid have passed the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, along other certifications.

Bill Bregar Placon's Pokemon card collection tray. Roll-Fed Consumer, Gold

Placon won for its trays in a box to hold the Pokemon Premium Trainers XY Collection. The package is intended for retail use, but it also converts to a storage box for players.

The plastic clamshell in the cover allows for high-level promotional cards to be displayed in the front of the box. The window also lets consumers get a peek at additional cards in the box.

A magnetic closure on the front panel helps keep the outer box closed and protects the product.

The trading card game package includes a rigid setup box with printed foil paper wrap and three recycled PET thermoformed trays inside made from EcoStar material.

The package design reduced material thickness, so multiple thermoformed trays could be stacked together in one box. Pokemon passed along the cost savings to the consumer, allowing a $20 reduction in the manufacturer's suggest retail price.

Bill Bregar Placon developed an improved nametag tray. Roll-Fed Innovation, Gold

Anyone who has ever been to an industry conference will appreciate the nametag tray, one that netted Placon the gold in this category.

Placon's customer requested a thermoformed tray that would hold name tags in several shapes and organize and display them for large meeting registrations. Placon designed a thermoformed tray from EcoStar recycled PET.

The dual-purpose snap-fit closures connect two trays together to hold 100 name cards, twice the number of the existing product. You can unsnap the closures to separate the two trays and get setups for two registration lines, arranged by alphabetic order.

Placon officials said the perforation allows the tray to fold into a square, and the snap-fit closure locks the square shape firmly for safe storage and easy transit.

Bill Bregar CMI Plastics reverse engineered a wood grain for a bourbon cocktail kit. Roll-Fed Innovation, Silver

CMI Plastics Inc. of Ayden, N.C., won for a tray used in a point-of-purchase display for Knob Creek Old Fashioned Cocktail Kit, which includes a fifth of Knob Creek bourbon, a bottle of bitters, a box of sugar cubes and muddler — a bar tool used to mix cocktail ingredients.

The customer's proposed tray design was to have a rigid thermoformed tray from high-impact polystyrene with a printed paperboard mask applied. The alternative eliminates the need for the paperboard, and gives a realistic wood grain appearance of barrel slats used for whisky.

CMI Plastics formed the tray from coextruded ABS, which gives better structural properties over the proposed HIPS design, the company said. Sixty percent of the package is recycled utility black and 40 percent is color-matched brown. The mix was carefully engineered with a natural gradient of black and brown colors, giving the tray a natural weathered look, and giving each tray a slightly different appearance.

The wood grain was reverse engineered from natural wood grain to pattern the surface. Master patterns were sculpted and sampled to give the proper look and manufacturability using cast aluminum molds.

For the mold, designing and forming proper undercuts posed the biggest challenge. The manufacturing posed challenges because of the draw ratio, stress whitening, material distribution and color consistency, according to CMI.

Bill Bregar Global Plastics uses recycled PET for egg packaging. Roll-Fed Food, Gold

Global Plastics Inc. of Perris, Calif., cracked open the top winner in the food category with an egg carton formed from 100 percent recycled PET.

According to Global Plastics, other current PET egg cartons fall short as a substitute for foamed polystyrene because they don't efficiently flow through the common automation equipment in the filling lines. But egg farmers helped design this carton, the company said.

The clamshell, hook-locking package is formed from recycled PET sheet rolls. The package is offered in clear PET and green PET, with amber coming soon.

A unique aspect is the container was designed to stamp the label on the inside of the package, in-house at the farm. That lets an egg producer use the same package for all of its customers, reducing costly inventory.

And shoppers no longer have to open and check the eggs to see if any are broken, since the thermoformed egg cartons are translucent.

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» Publication Date: 03/10/2018

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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