Canadian Plastics

SPE announces thermoforming parts competition winners

Canadian Plastics   

Research & Development Plastics: Design Plastics: Technology Advances

One of the latest developments in bowling equipment technology – heavy duty equipment used to arrange and re-set bowling pins – has also picked up three awards in the parts competition at the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE)...

One of the latest developments in bowling equipment technology – heavy duty equipment used to arrange and re-set bowling pins – has also picked up three awards in the parts competition at the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Thermoforming Conference, held in September in Schaumburg, Ill.

The system is manufactured by Berthoud, Colo.-based Associated Thermoforming Inc. (ATI), and includes a bowling pin resetter consisting of a pin elevator which collects pins and orients them before depositing them on a second thermoformed part, called the Durabin (pictured), with cavities to hold the pins.

The bowling pin resetter was co-designed and co-developed over several years by ATI and bowling products supplier QubicaAMF, with the goals of replacing metal with plastic, reducing down time, maintenance costs, pin jams and pin life.

The Durabin application, meanwhile, was particularly challenging due to the extreme draw ratios of the part, SPE said, which were overcome with ten individual custom designed plug assists. “Each plug assist has its own unique geometry CNC machined to optimize part wall thickness and material distribution, and varying plug assist heights and materials are used as well,” SPE said. “Also two infrared thermal imaging line scanners are used in oven profile development and monitoring material behavior.”


The bowling pin resetter won the twin-sheet award and – as voted on by conference attendees – the People’s Choice award, while the Durabin won the vacuum forming award.

Here’s a look at the other winners:

Roll-fed food, gold

Lindar Corp. of Baxter, Minn., won for its “tamper-obvious” two-piece package.

The application “is easy to use and requires no special instructions or equipment to close the package,” SPE said. “Packages are re-closeable after the tamper-obvious closure is removed to allow consumers to keep products packaged and fresh during use.” Each package is designed to allow retail displays to be stacked high to build stable mass displays when desired, SPE also said.

Roll-fed industrial, gold

The only Canadian among the winners, Think4D Inc. of Altona, Man., won the gold award for a blister package for the Gillette Venus Snap Razor.

“This package uses 73% less plastic than previous Venus packaging, with a 27% overall weight reduction and a 53% reduction in packaging materials resulting in more densely packed pallets for distribution,” SPE said. “Key design objectives focus on reducing overall complexity, using less material and simplifying manufacturing. To keep the packaging compact the razor was placed inside a reusable travel pod. Since the semi-transparent pod reduces visibility to the razor, the innovative use of a pre-printed and thermoformed image provides a true to life 3D representation of the razor.”

Roll-fed industrial, silver

The silver award went to Innovative Plastech Inc. of Batavia, Ill., for a set of interlocking trays to hold and display products in retail refrigerators.

“These trays are designed to sit on flat retail refrigerator shelves and keep the products stable, even while customers have access to surrounding product,” SPE said. “Undercut snaps are designed into the pockets of the bowl tray to hold the bowls in the tray tight enough to keep from being knocked over, but loose enough for customers to easily pick one up.” All three trays in this set are made from 0.025-inch Black RPET, a color that helps to minimize the tray itself and bring more attention to the product in the tray.

Pressure-formed, gold

Another application from ATI, this is a housing used in a smoke evacuator in medical elecro-surgical procedures.

“The part demands a very severe draw ratio to get plastic all the way down to the bottom, which is done in a female mold with many undercuts, the one in the rear of the part being very deep,” SPE said. “The key to making this part successfully is a highly sophisticated mold which employs ‘automated lifter corepulls’ around the perimeter. Additionally the entire back section of the mold has a core-pull to create the undercut at the rear. Conjointly, to achieve the required uniform wall thickness into the rear section we have employed a CNC machined, pneumatic articulating plug assist.”

Pressure-formed, silver

Puyallup, Wash.-based Saint-Gobain PPL won for a nine-part package that creates an enclosure for a robot being developed by Adept Technology in California for laboratories and SC wafer fabrication, in cleanrooms.

“Parts must fit together as a complete system with very tight and even parting lines,” SPE said. “This required all but two parts having deep draws and undercut geometry. Tooling is CNC machine out of aluminum billet that is gun drilled with water cooling lines for temperature control. These parts also have a moderate bead blasted texture done by a local aggregate blasting company.”


Twin-sheet, silver

Profile Plastics Inc. of Lake Bluff, Ill., won the silver award for a twin-sheet, pressure formed spine board used to transport victims for medical treatment.

Molded from ABS sheet, the part improves on existing spineboard products by incorporating thermoforming-based advantages such as molded-in strap pins, SPE said.

Combined category: Roll-fed or heavy-gauge

This award went to Universal Protective Packaging Inc. of Mechanicsburg, Pa., for a Geospring thermoformed recycled HDPE end-cap packaging for the hard disk drive industry.

“It provides maximum protection during transportation with its spring system which uses harmonic bellows that form a flexible ridge for shock and vibration absorption,” SPE said. “When dropped from a height, the rapid deceleration caused by the impact engages the spring system and efficiently dissipates the shock and vibration. Also, the end caps are compact, lightweight and nest-able reducing box size and warehouse space requirements. Finally, this end cap is manufactured from a highly recycled and recyclable material, HDPE, making it a sustainable package.”

category: Value-added and assembly

Specialty Manufacturing Inc. (SMI) of San Diego won for an assembly for a large medical device, made from pressure-forming, including some twin-sheet parts.

“The innovative design utilizes formed in inserts to allow quick and easy assembly, and has no bonded bosses used for attachment,” SPE said. “[SMI] wanted to maintain the design line around the side panels and this was achieved with a formed in design feature on a single part to reduce cost to the OEM as opposed to breaking the part into two distinct parts. Assembly of the glass to the upper housing is performed onsite by the thermoformer to reduce assembly time at OEM. The tooling is temperature controlled production tooling that is machined from block aluminum.”

Combined category: Innovative part

Philadelphia-based CW Thomas LLC won for an airline seat pocket assembly using three thermoformed components and value-added fabrication.

“Two of the assembly parts contain pressure formed plastics, and one component is vacuum formed. There is an aluminum brace in this unit as well,” SPE said. “These parts were thermoformed using custom colored aircraft-grade Acrylic-PVC. The innovative design and value added assembly allows for the OEM to take this right from the box to installation in the final seat configuration.”


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories