Advanced Thermoforming Solutions

11 Reasons You Should Switch From Sheet Metal to Thermoformed Plastic

Plastics Manufacturing | Thermoforming

Thermoforming

As humans, we like the familiar. The comfortable. And often, the answer to “why do you do it that way” is “because we’ve always done it that way.” That’s a fine answer when it comes to which section of the newspaper we read first (sports, followed by business and a cursory glance at the international news section, obviously) but more of an issue when it comes to choosing a manufacturing process.

If you’re currently manufacturing using sheet metal, it’s worth taking a look at switching to thermoformed plastic. It’s very possible that by making the switch you could end up with a better, more durable and more attractive product that costs less to manufacture.

Here are 11 reasons to consider the switch.
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Brand-New from 1972: Reverse Engineering the Past

Inside The Factory | Thermoforming

Reverse Engineering

Forty-two years ago, flying the friendly skies was a very different experience from what it is today. So you might be surprised to learn that there’s still demand for an aircraft part that was last manufactured in 1972.

This creates a challenge. How do you recreate a part that hasn’t come off a production line in over 40 years? The short answer is, you call Ray Products.

That’s more or less what happened when an aircraft parts manufacturer came to us with a sample part and a full-size drawing from the part’s last production run in 1972. They needed to create more parts, and they needed the replacements to match the original exactly.

We put our engineering team to work, and used a combination of cutting-edge 3D technology and 60+ years of industry experience to create a cost-effective replacement that matches the original part millimeter for millimeter.

Get the full story in our Project Gallery.

Reshoring Aston Martin: How James Bond’s Favorite Carmaker Learned What Our Customers Already Know About Thermoforming

Plastics Manufacturing

An abridged version of this article appeared in the April 14, 2014 print edition of Plastics News, and on PlasticsNews.com.  

Reshoring Thermoforming

The story of the United States’ trade deficit with China (over $318 billion in 2013) is one that most of us are familiar with. Cheaper labor costs and more limited regulations often mean that “Made in China” is cheaper than “Made in America.”

But as the executives at Aston Martin will tell you, the true costs of outsourcing your manufacturing might not look so good over the longer term. James Bond’s favorite automaker issued a recall for 17,950 of its vehicles in early February, due to counterfeit material used by one of its offshore manufacturing partners.

According to the letter they sent to the NHTSA, Aston Martin’s engineers specified that DuPont PA6 plastic be used in the injection-molding of throttle pedals featured in many of their vehicles manufactured since 2007. However, when they investigated claims of the throttle pedals breaking, Aston’s engineers found the pedals had been manufactured from counterfeit material.

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50 Years to the Day for Richard Benn

Inside The Factory

Thermoforming

On February 17, 1964, Richard Benn walked into the Ray Products factory in Alhambra, California for his first day on the job. Just a few weeks ago on February 17, 2014, he pulled his last shift at our factory here in Ontario, California.

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 50 years on the job.

When Richard started his first day at Ray Products, The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was at the top of the charts, Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House and IBM was about to introduce its System/360 mainframe with a revolutionary 8 MB of internal storage starting at $2.5 million.

In the 50 years that followed, many things changed. But Richard’s loyalty to his employer didn’t.

On his first day in 1964, Richard was hired on to make small thermoforming tools and fixtures for trimming and bonding thermoformed parts. During the next 50 years, he adapted to advances in the thermoforming process and changes that saw Ray Products grow from an early 750-square-foot fabrication shop to today’s 48,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art thermoforming facility.

Richard has worked at Ray Products through three generations of family ownership. Allen Ray was still running the company he had started on Richard’s first day. Richard stayed on through Bruce Ray’s entire 28-year tenure as company president, and through the first 11 years of Brian Ray’s leadership.

“It’s been quite a journey,” said Richard. “I’ve watched this company grow leaps and bounds, and I am proud to be a part of that success. I have known the Ray family for 50 years, and Ray Products and its employees are like a second home.”

We sent Richard off with a retirement party 50 years in the making. Now, he plans to spend his time traveling, visiting family and running up the odometer on his motor home.

Richard’s 50 years on the job were enough to earn a mention in Plastics Technology, which said:

“Successful processors … have nurtured and held onto a loyal, experienced crew of long-term employees.”

We couldn’t agree more.

“Richard is the kind of employee every company owner dreams of,” said Brian Ray. “We have benefited tremendously from his work, and are honored by his 50 years of service.”

Thanks, Richard, for an amazing 50 years of good work.

We’re #1! (In the Category of “Heavy-Gauge, Pressure-Formed,” at the 2013 SPE Parts Competition)

Thermoforming

Pressure-formedA thermoformed medical device enclosure we made took first place at the 2013 Society of Plastics Engineers annual parts competition, winning the “Heavy Gauge, Pressure-Formed” category.  If the enclosure looks familiar, it may be because you’ve come across it in our project gallery.

The SPE’s Thermoforming Division is basically the organization for the technical side of our industry.  And if you get excited about things like “heat deflection temperatures” and the “coefficient of linear thermal expansion,” then the SPE’s annual Thermoforming Conference is the place to be.

We’re there every year, partially to network with our colleagues, and partially because we want to stay at the forefront of our industry and its technology.  This year we entered a medical device enclosure into the SPE’s annual parts competition. We were honored to take 1st place in our category.

The judging at the annual parts competition is done by other SPE members.  The judges are our peers, and in many cases even our competition.   To have them tell us they admire our work is a true compliment.

The winning medical device enclosure showcases the versatility of pressure forming as a process.  In fact, many people would look at this device and think, “that has to be injection molded.”  But it’s not.

In fact, pressure forming was a perfect choice for this project.  The client only planned to produce between 75 and 100 units per year, and at those quantities injection molding would be very very expensive.  We were able to deliver an attractive, durable and RoHS-compliant plastic enclosure at a fraction of the cost of injection molding.

Every piece of the enclosure was painted and had EFI/RFI shielding applied at our in-house painting facility.  We worked with the client’s engineering staff to design an enclosure with built-in attachment mechanisms that reduced the need for additional attachment hardware.  This in-turn reduced both assembly costs and time.

The enclosure is made from multiple parts.  Some of the parts are straightforward, others are very complex.  To create an aesthetically pleasing final product from this many parts, with this level of complexity, requires a high level of quality control and exact tolerances.

We’re proud of every single thermoformed part that comes out of our factory.  It’s nice that in this case, someone else recognized the quality of the materials we produce.

We’d like to congratulate our fellow winners in the part competition’s other categories, and thank the SPE and our peers for the award.

The Benefits of ISO 9001:2008 Certification: Why We Have It & Why It Matters

Plastics Manufacturing

Earlier this year when we surveyed our customers and contacts in the industry, we asked for the #1 thing they look for in a custom plastics manufacturer. The top answer was “quality”.

This wasn’t a surprise to us. It’s the reason we’ve invested in equipment like our fully robotic trimmers and highly-accurate 3D-coordinate measurement tools. It’s also the reason we’re an ISO 9001:2008 plastics manufacturer.

Ray Products has been ISO 9001:2008 certified since 2009. We’re certified through 2015, and you can be sure that two years from now, we’ll be renewing our certification.

The ISO 9000 standards were originally developed for manufacturing companies, and later expanded to apply to service-oriented businesses as well. They’re designed to “provide guidance and tools for companies and organizations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements, and that quality is consistently improved.”

Essentially, it’s a set of standards for companies who care about delivering high quality products and making their customers happy. Ray Products definitely falls into that category, so ISO certification was an easy choice for us.

We chose to work with one of the industry’s most respected evaluators for our certification, ABS Quality Evaluations. Ray Products is ISO 9001:2008 certified through ABS for “the manufacture of heavy gauge thermoformed plastic enclosures and other components for medical, electronic, communication, industrial and other industries.” You can even verify our certification on their website.

This article does a good job of listing the key benefits of ISO 9001:2008 certification.  As someone choosing a custom plastics manufacturer, the key benefits to you are:

  • Consistent Quality Measurement
  • Decreased Defect Rates
  • Earlier Defect Detection & Correction
  • Improved Consistency of Output

If you’re looking for a manufacturer that cares about quality, checking for ISO 9001 certification is a good place to start. It means they’ve made an investment in ensuring quality. But ISO certification alone doesn’t guarantee quality. For Ray Products, it’s just a piece of the puzzle. It’s part of our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction that’s at the core of who we are, and what we do for our customers.

Picking The Right Plastics Manufacturing Process: Reaction Injection Molding (RIM)

Plastics Manufacturing

Reaction Injection Molding

We’ve been getting a few questions recently about the process of Reaction Injection Molding, commonly referred to by its acronym, RIM.

RIM is a thermoset manufacturing process where two liquid polymers are blended and then injected into a single heated mold.  When the blended polymers hit the sides of the heated mold, they begin a chemical reaction that causes them to expand to fill the mold, then set into a solid part.

RIM is definitely an option worth considering as an alternative to prototyping, but when you move past prototyping into larger production runs there are several reasons to choose thermoforming over RIM.

We’ve listed four of the most common reasons here, and you can get more info from our RIM vs. Thermoforming comparison table.

Reason #1: Thermoforming Offers Improved Finish Quality & Lower Finishing Costs

Because of the chemical reaction that takes place, RIM manufactured parts have a swirled, variable finish.  If a RIM part is going to be visible in the final product, it needs to be painted.

In contrast, thermoformed parts can be molded in texture and color, allowing them to be aesthetically appealing without being painted.

If you do decide to paint, you’ll have an easier time with thermoformed parts than with RIM, since a thermoformed part’s surface will accept paint more readily than a RIM part’s and less surface prep and less paint will be required to get a high quality finish.

Reason #2: Thermoforming Has Lower Tooling Costs

To move from prototyping into larger quantity production, RIM manufacturing requires a 2-sided mold, similar to the molds used in injection molding.  In contrast, thermoforming uses a single-sided mold. While RIM tooling is still cheaper than injection molding tooling, thermoforming tooling is significantly more affordable than either process, and allows you to get your product to market faster.

Less expensive tooling not only saves on the initial production costs, but also lowers the cost of design changes and modifications.

Reason #3:  Thermoforming Is A More Environmentally Friendly Process

Thermoformed parts are completely recyclable.  In fact, we can recycle the trimmings from all our thermoforming projects right here in the factory to be sent back to our suppliers, who reprocess them back in to thermoplastic sheet.

Products created with RIM can’t be recycled, it’s simply a limitation of the process.

Reason #4:  Large Part Thermoforming Allows Part Consolidation

Our large part thermoforming capabilities allow us to make a single part of up to 10’x 18’.  This means that we can consolidate what would be multiple RIM parts into a single large thermoformed part.  There are a number of advantages to this type of part consolidation, including reduced part numbers, reduced inventory levels and less assembly time on the manufacturing floor.  All these individual advantages combine for one big benefit:  saving you money.

Every project has an ideal process.  If you’ve been considering RIM for anything beyond initial prototyping for you next custom plastic manufacturing project, we’d recommend that you look at the advantages of thermoforming before you make up your mind.

Plastics That Stop Germs

Thermoforming

Medical Device Thermoforming

Raise your hand if you love germs. Ok – how about mold? Mildew? I have a pretty good hunch that unless you’re a mycologist you’re hand’s not up in the air.

Bacterial and mold contamination cause enormous amounts of harm. In the U.S., about 4.6 million cases of asthma are attributed to mold exposure. And worldwide, millions are hospitalized every year for bacterial infections.

So – I think we can all agree that reducing bacterial and mold contamination is a good thing. Which is where antimicrobial plastics come in.

What Are Antimicrobial Plastics?

Antimicrobial plastics are, in short, plastics that inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold or mildew. They do this by disrupting the growth cycle of the microbes in a number of different ways.

There is a wide of range of antimicrobial plastics available that use several different technologies for their antimicrobial properties. Some use proprietary formulations like Microban®, others use more traditional antimicrobial compounds like silver-ions. Each has their own unique characteristics, but the good news is that they’re available in a wide range of materials, colors and thickness.

With thermoformed antimicrobial plastics, the antimicrobial protection isn’t just coated on the outside of the plastic, but integrated into the actual structure of the plastic itself. This means that the antimicrobial resistance lasts throughout the life of the product and works to reduce microbial contamination between cleanings.

What Can They Be Used For?

Antimicrobial plastics are worth considering for anything where bacterial, mold or mildew resistance could be a benefit to the product. If you’re making something that will come in contact with people or prolonged moisture, it’s worth considering using antimicrobial plastics.

Sample Applications:

  • Aircraft Interiors
  • Mass Transit Vehicle Interior Components
  • Equipment Housings
  • Foodservice Equipment
  • Medical Products
  • Healthcare Equipment
  • Durable Medical Goods
  • Sporting Equipment
  • Kiosk Housings
  • And More!

At Ray Products, we have access to a wide variety of antimicrobial plastics that can be incorporated into any of our pressure forming, vacuum forming and large part thermoforming processes.

If you’re interested in custom manufacturing plastics with antimicrobial properties, we’d love to help.

Survey Results: What Customers Are Looking For In A Custom Plastics Manufacturer

Thermoforming

A few weeks ago we asked our customers and contacts in the industry a few questions about what they’re looking for in a custom plastics manufacturer. Quite a few of them were kind enough to answer our questions, and today we’re ready to share those results with you.


Quality Is The Most Important Thing

When we asked our survey takers what they look for in choosing a plastics manufacturer, their clear #1 choice was quality.

“In choosing a plastics manufacturing vendor, how important are each of the following qualities?”

thermoforming
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We Like Big Thermoformers. We cannot lie. Here’s why.

Large Part Thermoforming

large part thermoforming

At Ray Products, we decided to invest in machinery that lets us create the largest thermoformed plastic pieces on the West Coast.  We didn’t make this investment for bragging rights, we did it because there are real benefits for our customers in being able to create single large thermoformed parts.

What are those benefits?

We’re so glad you asked.

Reason 1: Lower Assembly Costs

If you need a single big piece of plastic, the traditional option is to create several smaller pieces and join them together.  One downside of this approach is that joining the pieces requires both additional labor and equipment.  Two things that don’t generally come free.  With large part thermoforming, you can avoid this expense all together.

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