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Advancing Cancer Diagnostics and Improving Patient Lives with Thermoforming

Plastics Manufacturing | Pressure Forming | Thermoforming

The truth is, we get excited about every plastics manufacturing project that comes into our California-based facility. Still, there are plastic pressure forming projects that stand out for our whole team.

Let us tell you about one of those.

Recently, a leading biotechnology company came to us for help creating the housing of an advanced digital pathology slide scanner.

The project demanded impressive aesthetics, incredible levels of precision, and high-performance materials. In short, it was precisely the type of pressure forming project we love.

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BIOMEDevice Conference 2019

Pressure Forming | Thermoforming | Trade Shows

Over our 70-year history, Ray Products’ plastic thermoforming capabilities have helped to manufacture a vast array of important medical technology devices, including large-scale CT Scan, X-Ray, and MRI machines, DNA and Genome Sequencing and Lab Automation, as well as smaller, but no-less-important medical implements. It’s no surprise, then, that we’re thrilled to be attending this year’s San Jose BIOMEDevice conference.

Hosted by MD&M – the largest medical device trade show organization in the U.S. – this 2-day event features seminars, lectures, product debuts, and networking opportunities from the biggest names in the medical technology – or medtech – industry. This year’s event is sure to offer valuable insights into healthcare-oriented AI, digital health, and surgical robotics, as well as other new developments in the field.

Ray Products is attending not only to learn about burgeoning advancements in the field, but also to provide concrete manufacturing solutions to companies looking to bring their designs to the marketplace. Thermoforming and pressure forming are both great options for large and/or specialized medical equipment because they allow for high levels of detail and precision, are easily customizable, and are much less costly than injection-molding for items that won’t be distributed in mass quantities. We hope to connect with companies in the medical device industry whose products could benefit from the use of thermoformed plastic parts.

Our company has a long history of providing service to the medical technology industry. In fact, Ray Products origins stem from a medical project: our company was founded specifically to manufacture clear plastic baby bassinets for hospital nurseries – a cutting-edge product at the time. We’re delighted to continue to support our partners in the life-saving medtech field with our production capabilities and look forward to developing solutions for its newest advancements.

If you’ll be attending this year’s conference, come visit us at Booth #320 – we’ll be there to talk shop and answer any of your thermoforming, pressure forming, or plastic manufacturing questions. See you in San Jose on December 4 and 5!

Ray Products at D2P Pasadena

Pressure Forming | Thermoforming | Trade Shows

On October 9 and 10, 2019, Ray Products will be exhibiting at D2P, Design 2 Part, Southern California conference, located at the Pasadena Convention Center.  Home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena has built a reputation as a hotbed for technological innovation, providing a great backdrop for showcasing our advanced plastic manufacturing techniques.

As an exhibitor, we’ll be showcasing and discussing an assortment of plastic parts that we’ve manufactured via our specialized vacuum forming, pressure forming and trimming technologies. We’re looking forward to sharing the benefits of thermoformed plastic solutions with attendees from Southern California and beyond. Here are a few of the processes we’ll be discussing:

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5 Reasons Why Top Manufacturers Are Switching to Pressure Forming

Plastics Manufacturing | Pressure Forming | Thermoforming

If you pay close attention to manufacturing trends, you may have already seen it happening: manufacturers are discovering the benefits of pressure forming, and realizing that they can’t help but switch.

Why are they switching, and is it the right choice for you?

At Ray Products, we’ve been pressure forming plastic parts for over 70 years, and have a keen sense of the types of projects that can greatly benefit from this process. Below are the most commonly noted reasons to opt for pressure forming for your next project.

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Ray Products Wins Gold Award for Pressure Forming Project at 2019 SPE Thermoforming Conference

Design | Pressure Forming | Thermoforming

We’re thrilled to announce that Ray Products has been awarded the Gold prize at this year’s SPE Thermoforming Conference for our work on the Stratasys F370 Industrial-grade 3-D printer!

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE)’s annual thermoforming conference is the leading exposition where thermoformers, suppliers and clients assemble to attend workshops, discussions, and networking sessions on all things thermoforming. One of the most exciting aspects of the conference is its contest, which considers submissions from thermoformers all over the country across several manufacturing categories.

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Upcoming Thermoforming and Manufacturing Tradeshows

Trade Shows

Abstract photo of a trade show convention floor

We love what we do at Ray Products. Being at the forefront of both the plastics and manufacturing industries is of primary importance to our business, and sharing the work we do with our customers is a key component of our success. That’s why we’re very excited to announce our participation in four upcoming trade shows and conferences through the end of 2019 into early 2020. First up is AmCon in Salt Lake City on October 2nd and 3rd. Right after that, we head to the D2P conference in Pasadena on October 9th and 10th. Finally, December and February bring us two back-to-back MD&M shows – first is the more specialized BIOMEDevice conference in San Jose on December 4-5th, then the larger MD&M trade show in Anaheim from February 11th-13th. Read on to learn a little more about each show, and what you can expect Ray Products to provide as a featured business.

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Top 5 Things to do in Pasadena

Trade Shows

City Hall in Pasadena, California

We love attending the Design 2 Part Trade Show wherever it’s held, but we get especially excited for their Southern California events. Not only are they conveniently located to our Ontario, CA-based headquarters, but they also give us the opportunity to engage and connect with businesses, engineers, designers and manufacturers from our local community. Another bonus? Getting to explore different parts of our great region.

This year, D2P is taking its Southern California trade show to Pasadena on October 9th and 10th. Here’s a list of our favorite things to do in the beautiful City of Roses.

1. Huntington Library and Gardens

Bequeathed by railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington, this sprawling estate contains an impressive collection of rare books, art exhibition spaces, and a world-class botanical garden. Whether admiring an original Gutenberg Bible inside the library or enjoying the SoCal weather while wandering through rose, desert, Japanese, Chinese, and Australian gardens, it’s easy to spend an entire day getting lost among the property’s many treasures.

 

2. Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Homebase for NASA’s Deep Space Network, Mars Pathfinder and the Spirit Rover’s mission to Mars, this government lab offers free public tours by reservation. If you’re interested, make sure you book well in advance — it’s a hot ticket and spaces fill up fast. You can view details on their website.

 

3. Arroyo Seco Park and Rose Bowl

A beautiful park full of running trails, gardens and museums surrounds the famous Rose Bowl stadium. Catch a game if there’s one in town, or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy strolling the 8-mile stretch of green space.

 

4. Pie n’ Burger

This old school eatery delivers exactly what it promises, with roughly 20 different varieties of pie offered on the daily alongside their luscious, no-fuss burger. They also serve other standard diner fair: eggs, sandwiches, and an array of hearty “classic plates.”

 

5. Visit Ray Products at D2P

Stop by and say hi – we’ll be at the show from 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM, Wednesday and Thursday. Bring us your ideas, questions and concepts, and we’ll show you how our custom-manufactured plastics can provide the perfect solution for your project.

 

Register here if you can make it. It’s going to be a great show.

 

 

Manufacturing Efficiency: Lessons from a PhD-Grade Industrial Energy Audit

Inside The Factory | Plastics Manufacturing

Man with clip board in manufacturing facility taking notes

In the United States, about one-third of our energy is used for industrial purposes. The good news is that today, industrial energy usage is more efficient than ever before. Over the past 30 years, the amount of energy used to produce $1 worth of goods has been cut in half.

Still, there’s room for improvement. And whether you’re a manufacturer who’s looking to save the planet or cut your monthly energy bill, efficiency is worth looking into.

Last fall, a group of PhDs, grad students and professionals from San Diego State University’s Industrial Assessment Center descended on our plastic manufacturing plant in Ontario, California. They spent a day poking around our facility, making observations, and taking measurements and notes. They then left with a stack of data to process.

In February, they delivered a 52-page master report to my inbox, complete with their findings and recommendations for improvements. The bottom line was that even in a relatively efficient facility, they found opportunities to reduce our energy consumption in ways that could save an estimated $17K in annual energy and maintenance costs.

Not every manufacturing facility has access to a team of PhDs from SDSU. So, I thought I’d share our report’s key findings that could be broadly applicable to other manufacturing facilities.

 

A Head Start: Some Ways in Which We Were Already Efficient

Our facility had several efficiency advantages to build on. We’re a heavy-gauge thermoformer that just celebrated our 70th anniversary. When we moved into our current plant in 1995, it was purpose-built for our needs, and we had 46 years of experience to build on.

As a result, we were able to build a plant that was very efficient from the get-go. Our layout is optimized to minimize material transport and distance traveled, as well as maximize venting; it also allows for as much process efficiency as possible. Our more recent investments in automation, robotics and other new technologies have enabled us to further improve that efficiency while adding new services to our plant.

Beyond these base-level efficiencies, our SDSU assessment also called out the efficient use of lighting and reflectors, organization and layout, and focus on safety — which result in process and energy efficiency.

But, even with these efficiencies already in place, we still found plenty of room for efficiency advancements.

 

Lighting: Rapid Advancements in Efficiency

We’re not new to energy-efficient lighting. About a decade ago, we replaced our old HID lighting with (then) state-of-the-art high-efficiency T8 fluorescent lighting. But, LED lighting technology has matured significantly since then. Our SDSU engineers estimated that, by retrofitting our existing fluorescent fixtures with LED lighting, we could move from 175 watts per fixture to 90 watts per fixture.

In their estimation, that retrofit could save our facility nearly $8K per year in combined energy and maintenance savings, and be implemented with a cost of just under $10K.

That’s a deal that I think any facility would take. With our assessment’s math, the upgrade would pay for itself in a little over a year. So, we decided to move ahead with their recommendations.

That’s when we ran into a bit of a challenge. While our SDSU team had believed that we could keep our existing fluorescent fixtures and use a retrofit kit to convert them into LEDs, the lighting contractors whom we talked to found that our specific fixtures weren’t compatible with retrofit kits.

As a result, our upgrade would need to completely replace our existing fixtures, which increased the combined labor and lighting cost by a factor of 3–4x.

This made us change strategy just a bit. We’re still planning to upgrade our fluorescent lighting to more efficient LEDs, but instead of performing the upgrade immediately, we’re going to hold off for a bit. As our fluorescent lighting nears its expected end of life and maintenance costs climb over the coming years, we’ll see a higher ROI from a wholesale replacement. It’s also likely that in that time, LED efficiency will continue to increase while costs come down.

Instead of relamping our fluorescent fixtures when that time comes, we’ll roll those costs into their wholesale LED replacement.

In the meantime, we’ve followed the study’s other lighting-related recommendation: installing occupancy sensors throughout much of our facility. There’s no more efficient light than one that’s turned off, and these sensors will help to ensure that we’re not burning energy to illuminate unoccupied parts of our facility.

Key Lighting Takeaways

Even if you’ve invested in energy-efficient lighting in the past, it’s likely that newer, more efficient lighting technologies and intelligent lighting controls are available today. Work with your utility or a qualified lighting contractor to assess the cost and benefits of a lighting upgrade.

 

Machinery: The Benefits of Premium-Efficiency Motors

Electric motors account for about 40% of all energy consumption in the U.S. In 2016, the Department of Energy launched new “NEMA Premium” efficiency standards for electric motors.

While the savings of a premium-efficiency motor vary with load and operating hours, replacing a single 100-horsepower standard motor with a premium-efficiency motor could generate nearly $3,000 in annual energy savings.

We use a range of electric motors in our manufacturing operations, with ratings of between 3 hp and 100 hp. Our SDSU assessment estimated annual energy savings of about $3,800 if we replace them all with premium efficiency motors.

The SDSU assessment recommended that we wait until the existing motors are due for replacement to perform this upgrade. If we consider the total cost of just going in today, ripping out our functioning standard-efficiency motors and putting in premium-efficiency replacements, it would take a decade or more to pay for that upgrade.

By timing our upgrades to coincide with the timing of motor replacements, the cost of this efficiency upgrade is simply the cost of a premium-efficiency motor, minus the cost of a standard-efficiency motor.

With that plan of action, our assessment estimated that our premium-efficiency motor upgrades would pay for themselves with energy savings in about 2.5 years.

Key Machinery Takeaways

Assess the efficiency of your existing motors. If they’re standard-efficiency or the older “NEMA Energy Efficient” designation, plan to replace them with premium-efficiency models at your normal replacement interval, or when you experience issues with your current equipment.

 

Compressed Air: More Efficient Production, Use and Storage

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that compressed air systems account for 10% of the energy used in this country’s manufacturing. Our facility uses a 100 hp compressor (with another for backup) to power pneumatic drills, sanders, grinders and blow guns used throughout our manufacturing processes.

Our SDSU assessment made four recommendations related to improving the efficiency of our compressed air system. We’ll be following two of those recommendations and bypassing the other two.

 

Leak Reduction

Anyone who’s worked with compressed air systems knows that leaks happen. Even high-quality fittings and bearings degrade over time and need to be sealed, maintained and replaced at regular intervals.

Our SDSU assessment estimated our energy costs for leaked air at a bit over $600 per year. Not a huge amount, but certainly an issue worth addressing.

It’s challenging to detect air leaks in a noisy production environment. So, on a recent Saturday morning, a team of us went into the now-quiet factory, filled up the compressed air lines, and spent a few hours finding and fixing leaks. We’ve also added this as a process on our regular maintenance schedule so that we can keep ahead of compressed air leaks going forward.

 

Reducing Maximum Air Settings

Our air compressor is set to maintain 110 psi, while none of the equipment that it runs requires more than 100 psi. This gives us a little bit of headroom so that if there’s a temporary spike in demand, our system pressure never dips below that 100 psi mark.

In our application, a temporary dip in pressure could result in a failed part. That’s something we work hard to avoid.

However, our SDSU assessment estimated that just dropping the max pressure of our system to 100 psi could save a bit over $1,000 per year in energy costs.

So, we’ve started to look at other solutions to maintain that headroom, with a slightly lower pressure. We haven’t completed the implementation process, but we’re moving toward adding a reserve pressure tank to our system. That will allow us to maintain pressure over spikes in demand, while earning the energy-savings benefits of an overall slightly lower system pressure.

 

Recommendations We Didn’t Take: Switching to Electric Tools and Brooms

Our report gave two recommendations that made sense on paper, but not for our production process.

First, the report recommended that we switch from air-powered to electric tools. Our experience is that electric tools simply can’t keep up with the power and durability of pneumatic tools in our environment. The estimated $2,400 in annual electric savings won’t make up for the loss of performance and durability.

The report also recommended that instead of having our workers clean off products, equipment and work areas with air guns, we provide them with brooms to perform the same task. In our opinion, the $1,300 in estimated savings isn’t worth the decreases in productivity and worker satisfaction.

 

Our Results

In all, our audit from SDSU found just over $17K in potential energy savings, with about $22K in improvement costs. The reality of our lighting options changed that math a bit, but by rolling in some maintenance costs and implementing the auditors’ recommendations over time, we expect that we’ll eventually see about $10K in energy savings, with an improvement cost that’s not too far off their initial estimates.

For a large-scale manufacturing operation like ours, that may not seem like huge savings, but over time — say, a period of three, five or 10 years — I can certainly think of things that I’d rather do with $30,000, $50,000 or $100,000 than just feed it back to the electric company.

 

Tools for Building Efficiency in Your Plant

While not every manufacturing plant has access to the same PhD-level audit that we did, you still have plenty of tools for increasing efficiency.

Here’s a list of resources that I’d recommend for finding and improving efficiency:

 

Lighting Contractor Association Searches

Our biggest energy-savings opportunity was in improving the efficiency of our lighting. There are two national organizations that focus on certification and training in this area: the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the National Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO). NALMCO is smaller but more focused on lighting, while NECA is larger but allows you to search for contractors who specialize in lighting or efficiency.

http://nalmco.org

http://www.necaconnection.org/#/search/

 

Energy Star’s Industrial Energy Management Tools

Energy Star, the government’s energy-efficiency program, offers a range of specific tools targeted at manufacturers. These can range from certifications and recognition to tools, rebates and incentives.

https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-owners-and-managers/industrial-plants

 

Energy.gov Industrial Assessment Centers

Our SDSU audit came out of a government program that funds Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs) at schools across the country. You can check to see if there’s an IAC near you that could perform the same type of audit that we had, and find relevant data from audits like ours performed at a variety of industrial facilities around the country.

https://www.energy.gov/eere/amo/industrial-assessment-centers-iacs

 

Your Utility

Electrical utilities are typically required, by law, to operate energy-efficiency programs. Many times, these rebates can pay for part or even all of the upgrade costs of new efficiency measures. It’s definitely worth reaching out to your utility to see what programs and incentives they offer that might be applicable to your facility.

 

Committed to Smarter Practices

We may have been in business for over 70 years, but that doesn’t make us old-school. Every item Ray Products produces is created in an efficient, state-of-the-art thermoforming facility, and we plan to keep it that way. As technologies progress to make manufacturing plants and equipment more efficient, you can rest assured that we will too. It’s simply good sense.

 

Ontario Plastics Manufacturer Celebrates 70 Years

Inside The Factory

1949 groundbreaking ceremony for Ray Products

On the last Saturday of March, family, friends, and current and past employees of Ontario-based plastics manufacturer Ray Products gathered at a microbrewery in Upland to celebrate the last 70 years.

Brian Ray, current company President and grandson of the company’s founder, was in attendance with his family, trading memories and jokes with employees and friends at the celebration.

“The average life span of a company is about 15 years,” said Ray. “So I think our 70th anniversary is definitely worth celebrating.”

The company was founded by Allen Ray on April 1, 1949, in a 1,000 sq. ft. shop. Today, Ray Products operates a 48,000 sq. ft. facility in Ontario, CA, equipped with the best available thermoforming technology. The high-quality customized plastic parts that Ray Products produces are used in a wide range of industries, including medical equipment, transportation, green energy, automotive, building and construction, and recreational equipment.

In honor of its 70th, the company commissioned a special bottling named “Loyalty Lager” from Upland microbrewery Last Name Brewing. It was a natural fit, then, to host the anniversary party at the brewery.

On Saturday, some guests swapped stories while enjoying signature sandwiches and burgers from the Big Easy Sandwich food truck. Others enjoyed funny-money gambling tables or took tours of the brewery, while the younger set quite literally bounced off the walls of a bouncy castle.

In between bites, Ray offered his theories on the family-owned manufacturer’s longevity.

“It’s a balance of two things,” said Ray. “On the one hand, we regularly invest millions in the latest advanced thermoforming technology so that we can offer our customers the absolute latest and best. On the other hand, we really value the traditional ways of doing business.”

“We want to do business ‘the right way.’ We respect our customers and partners and the skills of our employees. It’s why our employees stay with us for 10, 20, and sometimes even 50 years.”

In an op-ed he penned last summer, Ray defined three key points of doing business the right way: delivering a quality product, operating as a fair employer and being a reliable partner.

At Saturday’s celebration, the results of that philosophy were clearly visible: hundreds of guests with smiles on their faces, celebrating a company with a 70-year history and no signs of slowing down.

 

About Ray Products

Ray Products has been manufacturing high-quality 3D thermoformed plastic parts since 1949. Located in Ontario, California, Ray Products uses the most advanced machinery and materials in the business to create custom plastic pieces used in medical equipment, transportation, green energy, automotive, building and construction, recreational equipment, and more.

A Story 70 Years in the Making

Thermoforming

On April 1, 1949, Allen Ray and his wife, Peggy, opened the doors of Ray Products in Alhambra. At the time, Ray Products was a 1,000 sq. ft. custom fabrication shop that produced plastic baby bassinets. Why plastic baby bassinets? Allen had posited—correctly, as it turns out—that clear plastic bassinets would make it easier for hospital staff to monitor many newborn babies at once.

If Allen and Peggy came back today, they might be surprised by what Ray Products has become over the last seven decades. Almost 50 of their original workshops could fit in our current 48,000 sq. ft. manufacturing space in Ontario. I can’t imagine what they’d think of our 6-axis robotic trimmers, but I know they’d appreciate our state-of-the-art thermoforming equipment that enables us to produce high-quality, customized plastic parts used worldwide in industries like medical devices, transportation, green energy, automotive, building and construction, and recreational equipment.

I’m also confident they’d recognize the qualities that earned them success all those decades ago: innovation, perseverance, and a fierce commitment to doing things the right way. They’d see and deeply appreciate employees who give us their best—staying with us for 10, 20 and sometimes even 50 years. They’d be delighted to discover how many of our customers and suppliers know the value of a handshake, know quality when they see it, and make a point to invest in our country by seeking out domestic manufacturing partners like us.

I’m also pretty certain they’d be unspeakably proud. After all, 70 years for a small, family-owned business is no small feat. And while good old-fashioned luck certainly played a role, I genuinely believe our success is no accident. We owe this milestone to:

  • Allen and Peggy Ray, who founded this company with the values that still propel us today.
  • Their son Bruce, who led the company through 20 years of incredible growth with determination and gumption.
  • The dedicated employees who have given us their time, talent and hard work.
  • The customers and partners who have given us the opportunity to earn—and keep—their trust and support.
  • A commitment to innovation and a near-pathological obsession with getting it right (or so I’m told).

Here’s to the next 70.

Brian Ray
President

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