Monday, December 26, 2011

Thermoforming Conversion Story:

Trike Conversion Kit Light Bars

California Sidecar, a 30-year industry leader in motorcycle trike conversion kits, was looking to find ways of cutting costs with a specific focus on the type of materials used to make their conversion kits. Obviously, due to lower volumes and high impact and structural requirements, fiberglass is a choice material for most of the applications on their kits. However, because fiberglass dominated, several components were sourced as fiberglass where plastics were more suitable and economical. One such component was the light bar assembly, a cosmetic rear panel that adds additional LED lights to the conversion kit for style and safety. It was determined that an ABS vacuum form would not only prove to be more economical but also resulted in an easier assembly process and weight elimination.

The process of converting the light bars from fiberglass to an ABS thermoformed plastic component required addressing a few design characteristic requirements necessary for the light bar’s function and aesthetics. Firstly, in order to achieve a class-A painted surface on the exterior of the light bar, a female mold would be necessary with a polished surface free of even slight imperfections. Secondly, the opposite ends of the light bars required undercut (or die-lock) features so that the final assembly would show no trimmed edges in order to achieve a high-end appearance. Since the undercut edge geometry was on a curve, hydraulically–controlled indexing details were selected to mold the undercut geometry. These undercut  details would then subsequently open up and allow the vacuum form to index from the mold cavity. Due to the mold size and deep-draw geometry a cast aluminum mold proved to be far more economical than an aluminum mold cut from billet. However, given that a CNC-cut surface was necessary to achieve the required finish it was determined to use a Renboard-cut foundry pattern with hand-constructed run out data. A very high quality cast aluminum mold with minimal porosity was developed and the mold surface was benched to perfection. Lastly, during the thermoforming process, a matched surface plug assist is utilized to achieve adequate material distribution and consistency. In the end a very high-end and aesthetically pleasing light bar was introduced to two of their Trike models providing the cost savings they needed while maintaining critical appearance and performance requirements.

Light Bar Close-Up Shot

Overall Trike Conversion Shot

Learn more at our website or call us today at 1-800-691-2816 to discuss your next project or get a copy of our capabilities brochure!
© 2011 Techniform Industries Michael Robinette

Monday, December 19, 2011

Conversion Case Stories - Sink and Drink Table

Conversion Case Stories:  Sink and Drink Table

The founders of Liquid Games, LLC decided to take a popular game called beer pong and develop a better product than was available. Their concept was to take a traditionally boring concept – a standard folding banquet table with little or no graphics on it – and take it to the next level by introducing tracking neon lights, illuminated pockets to light up the cups, and other physical features that also included another popular game known as Flip Cup. The idea was not only to create a more enjoyable gaming table but also to make a table more suitable for bars and nightclubs. Their new table was a wood composite construction with internal LED lights that required hands-on skill in carpentry that they built in their garage woodshop. The new table was an immediate hit, and became a popular traveling fixture at local bars and parties, so they decided to commercially market their new table. Upon publishing their new website they were immediately faced with a problem every retailer loves to have – too many sales, and they immediately knew that they would not be able to keep up with sales by constructing each table out of wood. They needed to find a fabrication process and a company capable of converting the wood-constructed table to a medium-volume manufacturing product that could be produced a cost . . . . Plastic was the obvious choice and vacuum forming was the most advantages process due to low tooling and production costs.

Our first meeting involved literally setting up the table in our conference room and saying “How can we build this in plastic?” A comprehensive prototype program was laid out, and we immediately began designing the new generation “Sink and Drink” table. Within a week several designs were evaluated, and a final concept design was agreed upon. Our engineering team generated a solid model CAD assembly that consists of three vacuum formed ABS and clear PETG components and a CNC-cut PVC foam board panel. Upon approval of the concept photorealistic renderings generated from the solid model CAD data, “soft” tooling (wood molds) was produced in Techniform’s in-house tooling shop and first article vacuum formed samples were made. Upon approval of the prototype “Sink and Drink” tables, production temperature controlled aluminum tooling was developed and Liquid Game was able re-launched their website showcasing their new “Sink and Drink” vacuum formed tables within a few months of initializing the development program. The product won “Best Invention of the Americas” at the INPEX New Production and Invention Expo in Pittsburgh, PA, and was also featured on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Gallery Photo      |

Learn more at our website or call us today at 1-800-691-2816 to discuss your next project or get a copy of our capabilities brochure!
© 2011 Techniform Industries Michael Robinette

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thermoforming Conversion Case Stories - Technically Speaking!

Of the many advantages that plastic thermoforming offers perhaps the most advantageous is the ability to covert products previously produced using other materials into a thermoplastic component more suitable for the application. The reasons for converting products into plastics can range from production economics to performance and aesthetics characteristics.

Typical conversion development processes are as follows:
   - Sheet Metal to Plastic
   - Fiberglass to Plastic
   - Wood Fabrication to Plastic
   - Plastic Sheet Fabrication to Plastic

Because thermoform tooling is very inexpensive relative to other plastic fabrication process like injection molding or blow molding and molds can often be developed without CAD data or technical drawings the process of converting to plastics is both economical and fast. In many cases, prototypes can be molded from “soft” tooling (wood or epoxy) that can be produced at a very low cost during a very fast turnaround time – many times within a few days.  This keeps the risk factor low and keeps the critical time to market short.

Learn more at our website or call us today at
1-800-691-2816 to discuss your next project or get a copy of our capabilities brochure!

© 2011 Techniform Industries Michael Robinette