Canadian Plastics

Moldmaker digs deep on turf pallet project

Sometimes, it's the jobs performed behind the scenes that can be the hardest.

February 10, 2011   Canadian Plastics

Sometimes, it’s the jobs performed behind the scenes that can be the hardest.

Take being a groundskeeper at a sporting arena, for example. On Saturday night, there’s a pro basketball game happening; on Sunday afternoon, it’s pro football, complete with AstroTurf – and in the sliver of time between those two events, you have to lay the new playing surface down.

The good news? Your life just got easier, thanks to a new removable tray system for both artificial and natural turf.

Designed as an improvement on traditional turf trays – which tend to be fabricated from different steels, and then welded and bolted together in a costly and time-consuming process – the new system combined the efforts of a number of Canadian companies, among them Royal Mould Technologies Ltd., a Toronto-based moldmaker owned and operated by Angel Neira. Royal Mould was at the forefront of the project from the start: The company tackled the product engineering, the tooling engineering, and even consulted on the resin from which the pallet is made.

BIG TOOL, BIG CHALLENGES

Bringing the product to fruition was a formidable job, to put it mildly. The dimension of each finished tray – which consists of natural or synthetic on top, shock-absorbing infill in the centre, and the one-piece molded plastic tray on the bottom – is 90 inches by 90 inches by 8.5 inches deep, with the plastic pallet alone weighing 180 lbs. (The trays, shelved in storage when not in use, are pieced together quickly on the field like tiles on a floor.) The tooling requirements that Royal Mould had to satisfy were just as formidable. The overall dimension of the mold is 110 inches by 110 inches by 30 inches shut height, and tips the scales at a whopping 43,000 lbs.      

“When we first reviewed the project, the technical uncertainties and challenges of making a tool this large and this complex were daunting,” said Mike Draga, Royal Mould’s general manager. “Some of the design criteria included deflection, drainage, load bearing weight, infill retention, conformity to uneven surfaces and acoustical profile. We also knew the flatness and parallelism of these plates would be critical in ensuring that the insert and slide component tolerances and build-up were met for the proper mechanical fit and function of all the various subcomponents.”

And there were a lot of subcomponents. The cavity half of the tool is constructed in two aluminum sections that assemble together on the cavity steel support plate; within these cavity sections – which are 110 inches by 55 inches – there are numerous cooling channels and heel blocks. Within the molding surfaces, there are 40 injection nozzles and 220 solid machined core pins.

The core half, meanwhile, consists of the main steel support plate on which two aluminum core plates are mounted. “Within these core sections, there are 52 aluminum core inserts that contain a majority of the molding surfaces – the total weight of the inserts alone is 6,240 lbs.,” Draga said. “Within each insert there are multiple rib features – 468 of them, with various degrees of difficulty. Intricate cooling consists of 380 baffles fed by two large, externally mounted cooling manifolds to maximize the water flow rates.”

Finally, the ejector system is constructed of steel plates and parallels, including 72 support pillars. “Also, there are 230 ejector pins,” Draga said. 

Aside from playing a crucial role in bringing an innovative product to market, Neira, Draga, production manager Nicholas Roddy and the rest of the staff at Royal Mould take pride in the creation of a very noteworthy project. “This is the largest tool ever manufactured in our company’s history, and tackling the various design and technical challenges has made us realize that we can surpass our own expectations,” Draga said.


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