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Often a unique company with an innovative business model needs a creative solution to its marketing challenges, and that can involve innovative manufacturing technology. Redbox revolutionized the entertainment industry 10 years ago by providing access to movies with a simple, yet effective, business model: Give consumers convenient access to the hottest new releases at an incredible value.

Clare Goldsberry

April 27, 2012

7 Min Read
Molder and IML technology help Redbox rebranding efforts

Often a unique company with an innovative business model needs a creative solution to its marketing challenges, and that can involve innovative manufacturing technology. Redbox revolutionized the entertainment industry 10 years ago by providing access to movies with a simple, yet effective, business model: Give consumers convenient access to the hottest new releases at an incredible value. Today, Redbox is one of America's primary destinations for entertainment, offering DVDs, Blu-ray and video games at more 34,500 kiosks across more than 29,000 retail locations nationwide. A Redbox kiosk is located within a five-minute drive of 68% of the U.S. population and the company recently rented its 2 billionth disc, said the company.redbox_case.jpg

Redbox IML case

Because of multiple uses, the injection molded cases that hold the DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, and video games need to hold up well while promoting the Redbox brand. "As a customer-facing component - and because the cases represent our brand - our focus was around quality, consistent product, scalability and demand," says Brad Weinshenker, Director of Engineering for Redbox. "In terms of movies and video games we do experience spikes in demand, and we also need the ability to respond quickly to a potentially changing environment. As we evolve our brand and expand into new market places such as Canada, we need the flexibility to produce cases to meet consumer expectations."

The challenge          

As Redbox is in the retail business—not the manufacturing business—they were not aware of some of the advancements in mold, molding, automation, and decorating technology that would allow increased productivity, efficiency, and quality, while reducing costs—including the costs of decorating.

As Redbox planned for future needs, the company began a sourcing process to find a premier plastics supplier to serve both current and future product needs. "We did an extensive search for plastics companies, looking for a long-term partner to develop a mold and to manufacture the disc case, which is the primary product our customer carries with them," Weinshenker explains.  Evco Plastics, a leading global contract injection molder/manufacturer headquartered in DeForest, WI, was chosen for the project.

As its success grew, Redbox wanted to improve its image through the cases that the customers saw at the point of purchase. "We have a very dynamic environment in which to work—changing landscapes to meet regional requirements as well as marketing requirements—and needed a case to reflect our cutting edge business model," says Weinshenker, who has a background in automation. "As we started project discussions with Evco Plastics, we were led to a solution involving a high-tech mold and molding technology—automated in-mold labeling—that would involve leading-edge automation technology that would be instrumental to giving us the flexibility we need."

Supplier involvement means working together

Evco shared opportunities for Redbox to improve efficiencies and reduce costs from the current mold and molding process. "We explained to Redbox that they could be doing much better in a stack mold and using automated in-mold labeling (IML) technology for their decorating," said Gary Racine, Market Development Leader for Evco Plastics. "We talked to them about our ability to produce a part at lower cost, with better quality, better efficiency and better throughput."

Evco Plastics designed and built a 2+2 stack mold for the Redbox case application that would increase the productivity by reducing cycle time. Bernie Degenhardt, Automation Manager at Evco, recommended CBW Automation as the automation supplier for this project. With CBW's expertise in state-of-the-art automation technology for the injection molding industry, specializing in the packaging market, the company would design and build the IML automation to produce parts with the cycle time and efficiencies that was quoted to Redbox.

That meant integrating the IML automation with the mold and molding as one continuous process. "The automation has to work within the cycle time of the mold, including picking and placing labels, removing the parts, flexing the living hinge, closing the case and putting them on a conveyor to inspect and pack into a box," explains Degenhardt. "Because we went in with a very aggressive quote, we needed automation that was top-notch. A big part of this project was the automation component. If the automation can't do what we promise it's a failure. We knew CBW could provide what we needed to make this project a success for Redbox."

Weinshenker was impressed with CBW's resume. "Evco introduced us to CBW as the automation supplier," he says, noting that given his automation background, he knew "CBW understood our requirements for accuracy and repeatability, as well as the flexibility we need to meet our changing demands. They could also meet the project's aggressive timeline. We were increasingly confident as the project moved forward, that we were heading down the right path." 

"Amazingly fast...very smooth"



The results of the collaborative efforts of Redbox, Evco Plastics and CBW Automation were truly amazing. "Using the stack mold configuration and customized, high-speed automation for the in-mold labeling operations, we were able to achieve a significantly lower cycle time," explains Racine. "In addition, the automation developed by CBW solved a number of quality issues Redbox was having by closing the polypropylene cases automatically, handing them off to the transfer unit while flexing the living hinge, then putting the cases it on the transfer unit and closing the cases."

"For as much as is going on in this amazingly fast IML cell, it's very smooth," comments Racine.  "CBW gave us a complex system that is seamless, smooth and simple, that starts up easily, without any glitches in the cycle."

Weinshenker notes the tremendous success of the project: "As we did our first runs, the system proved itself to meet our needs and went beyond our expectations."

Evco's Racine was also extremely pleased with the way the project progressed. "We're not in full production yet, but will be soon, and Redbox expects that it will meet their production requirements for quite some time," Racine says. "One of the keys to this is because we've been able to achieve excellent productivity and efficiency, and increase throughput that allows them to achieve their current volumes with one system."

Redbox is achieving better quality cases, with greater consistency and repeatability in the IML production process.  And with a lower scrap rate. "We've been able to improve the quality of the case by strengthening the living hinge through adding some unique features to eliminate hinge cracking, and reduce voids that had been an issue," Racine adds. "While we'd originally considered cut-in-place labels in the CBW system, ultimately we decided on pre-cut labels stacked in magazines. The automation works very well and provides the static charge required. We pick up and load a total of eight labels in each mold-open cycle."

Originally, during the startup days of Redbox, the cases were pad printed. However, the company experienced a lot of degradation of the inks due to repeated handling of the cases. "While we had some history with the IML concept, we're now seeing just how this technology has provided us with a solution that gives us everything we need—the coloring, the labeling, and the quality we need all in one step, and with decreased costs, improved production time and flexibility," says a satisfied Weinshenker.

Working together as team, which is key to developing a high-speed, high-tech IML system, the results met the group's expectations. "This was a team effort and everyone worked really well together on this project," comments Racine.

Weinshenker agreed. "We're very pleased with the automation and working with Evco on the project, giving us feedback, making subtle design suggestions to enhance the case and improve quality was a great experience. We're very happy with the product and excited to engage with both Evco Plastics and CBW Automation on future projects where we need high press utilization and fast cycle times."

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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