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Market Focus: Appliances 19422

December 31, 1999

9 Min Read
Market Focus: Appliances

Theappliance market is one that traditionally rises and falls withthe gyrations of the housing market. Every new home built needsa washer and dryer, range, microwave, refrigerator, and more.In the utopia that has been the U.S. economy during the last eightyears, business has been good for new house construction, andequally impressive for appliance manufacturers.

Appliance shipments have been robust for several years now,jumping 10 percent from 1997 to 1998, and another 8 percent from1998 through November 1999 (see Table 1). Although shipments areexpected to plateau in 2000, it's a healthy rate at which to leveloff.

Still, no industry likes to be so dependent on another, andthe economy has to sour sometime, right? Imports are also puttingthe squeeze on the domestic appliance market. These factors, amongothers, have driven the appliance industry to adopt a new strategy.IMM spoke with Joseph McGuire, president of the Assn. of HomeAppliance Manufacturers, based in Washington, DC. McGuire saysappliance OEMs are stressing design, innovation, and efficiencyin their products in an attempt to generate sales via replacement.

"We're working with this notion of accelerated replacementor early retirement," says McGuire. "The appliancesavailable today are not what they were 10 to 12 years ago. They'remore energy efficient, their functionality is better, and theylook better."

The strategy is to redesign and add functionality to appliancesto position them as competitors for discretionary income. Suchreplacements would use less energy and improve the consumer'slife. "This could be a win-win for the consumer and the environment,"explains McGuire, "if people don't wait until their refrigeratoror washing machine dies before buying a new one."

So what does this mean to the molding industry? Every new andredesigned appliance is an opportunity for molders to incorporatemore plastic parts into a product, mainly via metal replacement.In fact, The Freedonia Group (Cleveland) expects demand for injectionmolded plastics to grow 2.8 percent annually to more than 915million lb in 2003.

Doris Hobbs, business market manager for appliances at EastmanChemical says she's "seeing more innovation in appliancesthan ever before." She says molders that do two-shot andovermolding might be best situated to help appliance OEMs spruceup designs and add features like soft touch and a variety of colorsand color combinations.

But, she points out, some products may not be ready to convertto thermoplastics. "I've had people ask me what I'd thinkof a plastic refrigerator door," she says. "But I haveto ask where everyone would put their magnets."

TABLE 1. Trends and forecasts, industry shipments of major appliances, thousands of units

 Product category




 1999 (est.)

 2000 (est.)

 Home laundryWashers, dryers






 CookingRanges, ovens






 Kitchen cleanupDishwashers, disposers






 Food preservationRefrigerators, freezers






 Home comfortA/C units, humidifiers












PP replaces ABS in fryer

The UNI 1000 fryer, made by European appliance manufacturerSEB, uses injection molded polypropylene, replacing engineeringresin ABS in this high-heat, high-corrosion environment.

The fryer is the result of a joint development project betweenSEB and material supplier Borealis. The goals were to cut costs,ease processing requirements, and reduce the number of differentplastic materials used in the product. The companies used CAEthroughout the project to design the molds, configure coolingchannels, and calculate strength requirements.

The fryer itself uses Borealis' PC 65 XMOD polypropylene thatreportedly offers good impact and heat resistance, easy flow,a lustrous surface appearance, and heat stabilization and antistaticproperties. The use of the polypropylene in favor of the ABS alsohelped reduce material costs and reduced the weight of the fryer.

SEB is planning to incorporate the material into other productsin its line, as well as the products of its subsidiaries Rowenta,Tefal, and Calor.

For more information:
Borealis AS, Lyngby, Denmark
Phone: +45 45 96 61 85
Fax: +45 45 96 61 89

Ironing is a pleasure with TPV grip

Manufacturer Morphy Richards Ltd. (Mexborough, U.K.), a self-describedpioneer in the use of bright colors and new materials in smallelectric appliances, has made gripping a clothes iron more comfortablewith the inclusion of a thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV) on itsnew Comfi-grip Professional iron.

The teal green, soft-touch handle grip is molded of Uniprene,a TPV provided by Teknor Apex that reportedly holds color well.Russell Gordon, senior design engineer for Morphy Richards, sayshis company tried a competing TPV but found it too unstable. "Themain reason we switched from the competitive product was becauseit was very UV unstable," he says. "The green colorquickly turned blue in sunlight."

The grip is overmolded onto a high-impact polypropylene handleby Pentalpha Ltd., a Hong Kong-based contract manufacturer. Themolder compliments the material for its moldability and reduceddrying requirements compared to other TPVs.

Teknor Apex notes that the Uniprene TPV is made with a chemicalcombination that is naturally beige and therefore easier to color-unlikecompeting TPVs, which are yellow in natural form. The companyalso reports that the material is nonhygroscopic.

For more information:
Teknor Apex Co.
Pawtucket, RI
Phone: (401) 725-8000
Fax: (401) 729-0166
Web: www.teknorapex.com

Thermoset more than halves material cost

The traditional material used to construct Singer's sewingmachine housings was diecast aluminum, which cost the manufacturerabout $25 per unit to make. Looking for a way to reduce manufacturingcosts, Singer approached Glastic Corp. for suggestions and eventuallywas able to reduce material costs by more than half.

Glastic produced a housing made of a thermoset bulk moldingcompound that reduced the unit price 58 percent to $10.50. Withproduction between 400,000 and 500,000 sewing machines annually,the switch to the thermoset material saved Singer more than $6.5million in manufacturing costs in one year.

Glastic, a firm that specializes in manufacturing fiberglass-reinforcedcomposite materials, says that the challenge was to constructa housing with the strength and stiffness comparable to that providedby aluminum. "Our compound had to be able to maintain itsdimensions for accurate assembly and operation, which providehigh structural strength for long periods of time," saysBob Sedlatschek, Glastic's vp of engineering.

The company also molds the sewing machine housings in a two-cavitymold, substantially increasing manufacturing efficiencies thatcould not be achieved with aluminum.

For more information:
Glastic Corp.
Cleveland, OH
Phone: (216) 486-0100
Fax: (216) 486-1091

Dryer vents survive with calcium-filled PP

When molding vents for clothes dryers, there are several factorsto consider. First, the vents have to withstand fumes, heat, andmoisture generated by the dryer. And, because they're mountedoutside, they also need to endure the effects of weather, includingrain, snow, cold, and direct sunlight.

These were the requirements of the custom molder producingthese vents for residential and commercial use. The material thatwas ultimately deemed best for the job is Polifil 30, a 30 percentcalcium-filled polypropylene produced by The Plastics Group ofAmerica.

The material is compounded with a special UV package that helpsthe vents keep their color and shape in the face of direct sunexposure.

For more information:
The Plastics Group of America
Woonsocket, RI
Phone: (401) 767-2700
Fax: (401) 767-2823
Web: www.plasticsgroup.com

Copolyester gives vacuums a boost

The Puzzi 100 is a vacuum cleaner designed and manufacturedfor the industrial and contract cleaning markets. Made by AlfredKärcher GmbH & Co. in Winnenden, Germany, the unit (picturedabove) reportedly offers 40 percent cleaning improvement overits nearest competitor.

This is due in part to the unit's redesigned suction nozzle,which is molded from Eastman's Eastar copolyester. Kärcherreports that the material displays the toughness and durabilityrequired for a part that is bumped and banged as frequently asthe nozzle is. It's also transparent to allow the user a clearview of the area being cleaned. The material also withstands chemicalcorrosion introduced by cleaning fluids used in conjunction withthe nozzle.

The molder of the nozzle helped design the product and incorporateda trumpet-like interior to help guide the system's cleaning jetsmore efficiently with minimal interference.

Also taking advantage of the copolyester are the Fantom Fury and FantomThunder vacuum cleaners, produced by Fantom Technologies in Welland,ON. The upright cleaners feature injection molded, color-tintedtransparent collection bins (pictured below) made from the Eastarcopolyester.

"The collection bin is an essential component of our product,"says Al Hussey, vp of manufacturing for Fantom. "We wanteda material with a higher degree of clarity to highlight the internalworkings of our patented dual-cyclonic technology."

Unlike conventional cleaners, these vacuums have quick-releasecollection bins that eliminate traditional filter bags and permitthe user to see the cleaning action for themselves. The primaryrequirements of the material used in the bins were resiliency,toughness, and scratch resistance.

Toronto-based Plastic Moulders Ltd. recommended the productas it would allow the molder to use existing tooling. Finally,to enhance consumer appeal, Fantom makes the bins in a varietyof colors that boost the product's aesthetics.

For more information:
Eastman Chemical Co.
Kingsport, TN
Phone: (423) 229-6385
Fax: (423) 229-8595
Web: www.eastman.com

Tenderizer holds form with PC, PP

Soaring T Inc. (Reno, NV) makes these components as part ofthe company's Gourmet Tenderizing System. It features a tray witha spiked rolling pin that pierces meat, softening it and lacingit with marinade. It's designed to save time and labor tenderizingand marinating with forks and mallets.

Synergy Technology, a Reno design firm, helped Soaring T bringthe tenderizing system to market in just nine months and recommendedfor the rolling pin components a polypropylene compounded by RTPCo.

An RTP 100 Series mineral-filled polypropylene, thanks to itsdimensional stability, was specified for the marinade tray. Theresin is FDA compliant and is precolored with a granite-gray fleckto enhance consumer appeal.

The three-piece rolling pin assembly (pictured) is molded fromthe company's 300 Series polycarbonate. Internal lubrication withinthe parts allows them to glide smoothly with minimal wear. Itsheat deflection temperature of 270F at 264 psi helps keep theparts from warping in the dishwasher so that they may be cleanedseparately and reassembled.

For more information:
Winona, MN
Phone: (800) 433-4787
Fax: (507) 454-8130
Web: www.rtpcompany.com

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