Year’s best in thermoforming

  • Year's best in thermoforming cover image

    The Thermoforming Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE; Bethel, CT) announced the winners of the annual parts competition at its recent conference in Milwaukee, WI. As always, the winning entries displayed ingenuity in reducing cost, improving performance and enhancing aesthetics in packaging and finished products for OEMs in a swathe of industries, including the medical device, automotive, food and beverage, and industrial 3D-printing sectors. This slideshow features the recipients of gold awards in the various categories as well as the winner of the People’s Choice award. For the complete list including silver award winners, go to the SPE website.

  • Orthofix tray package

    Roll-Fed Thin-Gauge Industrial: Placon (Madison, WI), Orthofix tray package

    The Orthofix tray package is designed to securely hold in place two medical screws coated with hydroxyapatite (HA) until their use in a surgical procedure. The retainer tray, tray cover and all packaging components, including two prevalidated double sterile barrier trays that go inside each other, are made from PETG. Placon reportedly was able to save Orthofix more than $50,000, which is the average cost to validate a new medical package.

  • Simply Secure tamper-evident packaging

    Roll-Fed Thin-Gauge Food: Lindar Corp. (Baxter, MN), Simply Secure tamper-obvious hinged package

    Lindar’s customer needed a package design that could hold single-serve baked goods, such as mini-bombs and dessert squares. It also wanted a design that could accommodate automation, including label application, and a package that would hold the product in place even if tipped upside down. The package is made from a black/clear APET material with a 0.015-in. starting thickness in a 10-cavity aluminum production tool. Trim registration and consistent perforations to remove the tamper-obvious closure presented significant tooling and production challenges, said the company. A wrap-around label covering the package top, hinge area and bottom provides plenty of room for USDA labeling requirements while still allowing retailers to build stable displays when the product is stacked.

  • Hoppe's Gun Cleaning System

    Roll-Fed Thin-Gauge Recycled/Sustainable: CMI Plastics (Ayden, NC), Hoppe’s Black Gun Cleaning Kit

    This unique tray and lid can hold 15 firearm maintenance tools in multiple configurations without requiring additional covers. The rigid thermoformed tray has the appearance of a heavy-duty injection molded part and is made with 70% recycled ABS from Impact Plastics (Putnam, CT) with a starting gauge of 0.075 in. The lid has a starting gauge of 0.035 in. and is made with a minimum of 50% recycled PETE. The tray design was challenging because of the small cavity diameter and thickness of the ABS, said the company. A high-end plug assist allowed CMI to get proper distribution into the molds to maintain the injection molded look the customer requested.

  • Neonatal intensive care unit

    Cut Sheet Heavy Gauge Vacuum Forming: Profile Plastics (Lake Bluff, IL), neonatal intensive care unit

    Used in a neonatal intensive care unit, the part is made from a 0.236-in. cast acrylic sheet. The part required total clarity on all flat surfaces to provide the nursing staff with complete, unimpeded visibility of premature newborns. Ridge forming was chosen for the molding process. To achieve the customer’s target price point, it was determined that the part had to be molded in a rotary forming machine equipped with a quartz oven. Distortion printing was used on each sheet prior to forming to create a “shaded” section to hide the electronics and wiring. Five-axis close-tolerance trimming of the part was used to achieve a precise fit with numerous other mating parts.

  • Stratasys 3D printer

    Cut Sheet Heavy Gauge Pressure Forming: Ray Products (Ontario, CA), Stratasys 3D printer

    The multi-part/multi-process assembly for Stratasys’ industrial-grade 3D printer was originally designed for injection molding. Once the customer understood the value and benefits of the pressure-forming process, the design shifted to a 100% molded-in color, pressure-formed unit. This allowed larger parts to be molded, decreasing the total number of parts and tools required, and eliminated painting. Materials include Kydex T color-matched PVC acrylic in varying thicknesses from 0.187  to 0.312 in. All tooling is female machined aluminum pressure form, temperature controlled and manufactured by American Tool and Engineering (Greene, IA). Parts are molded on a Modern Machinery rotary pressure former.

  • Thermoformed beverage dispensing equipment lid

    Heavy Gauge Twin Sheet: Profile Plastics (Lake Bluff, IL), beverage dispensing equipment lid

    This beverage dispensing lid is uniquely designed to distribute the beverage product in specific flow patterns to ensure consistent and continuous mixing, while also creating a visually novel experience for the end user. The part was originally made by hot-plate welding two injection molded parts (top and bottom), but the parts ultimately failed due to crazing, which diminished the part’s overall appearance. The twin sheet process was selected to meet the part specs of a 100% leakproof seal, high-temperature dishwasher safe, impact resistance and optical clarity. The lid is made using 0.118-in. PETG clear sheet.

  • Cab front cap

    Cut Sheet Heavy Gauge TPO: Kal Plastics (Vernon, CA), Cab-Over Front Cap

    The vacuum-formed TPO truck camper Cab-Over Front Cap was developed to replace fiberglass to reduce costly field repairs and warranty claims and to lighten the overall weight of the camper to achieve better fuel efficiency. A. Schulman’s HGSR TPO was selected because of its properties, specifically its high-gloss, scratch-resistant features. The front curved surface was the most critical area for the customer, and ultimately 0.230 in. was the preferred starting thickness. The cast aluminum tool was made in left and right sections to allow for flexibility in working out imperfections in the finished mold. The move to plastics has reduced warranty claims to zero and elevated the customer’s brand, said Kal Plastics.

  • thermoformed MRI equipment

    Cut Sheet Heavy Gauge Parts Produced with Automation and New Technology: Wilbert Plastics (White Bear Lake, MN), MRI assembly

    The medical equipment enclosure is thermoformed, robotically trimmed and then assembled using vision systems and augmented work instructions to ensure a complete and correct assembly. The assembly has 88 components and 28 steps, making it critical that all components and assembly steps are correct prior to shipment. Assembly operators are guided by augmented work instructions projected onto the main component part surface showing the assembly steps, component part numbers and locations. Multiple vision systems are used to ensure the correct components are used at each step of the assembly process.

  • Thermoformed tractor cab roof

    People’s Choice Award: Plastics Unlimited (Preston, IA), two-sheet glued versatile cab roof

    The versatile tractor cab roof houses several different steel inserts as well as other thermoformed parts that are glued internally. The roof top consists of two thermoformed parts that are glued together. Inside the roof, there are many different steel and thermoformed parts. The customer wanted a cab roof top that would incorporate mounting brackets and air ducts, and a color-matched Class A top side with a black textured bottom side. Low tooling cost was also requested. The outer material is a color-matched, high-gloss Class A acrylic capped ABS with a starting thickness of 0.156 in. The bottom is a black acrylic capped hair-cell ABS with a starting thickness of 0.187 in.  The two-sheet glued design achieved a huge saving in tooling costs, according to Plastics Unlimited.

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