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A Guide to Thermoforming Heavy-Gauge, Complex Parts…

A Guide to Thermoforming Heavy-Gauge, Complex Parts…

May 20, 2016

“A Guide to Thermoforming Heavy-Gauge, Complex Parts – from Material Selection to Custom Tooling” By Ed Sullivan, Design-2-Part Magazine Enlisting the expertise of a thermoforming supplier can help validate product and tooling specifications and confirm which forming process is best for the project. In many instances, thermoforming of heavy-gauge plastics (thicknesses of 1.5 mm/0.060 in. or greater) is the technology-of-choice for manufacturers and new product designers. Using this process of vacuum forming heated plastic sheets is ideal for many products and components required by aerospace, automotive, medical, manufacturing, and countless other industries. A wide variety of heavy-gauge plastic materials are available for this process, many of which can be used for complex parts that demand tight tolerances, intricate geometries, and special properties, such as fire resistance. Heavy-gauge thermoformed plastics are also a practical solution for many larger parts, such as automotive dashboard sections, refrigerator door shelving, and snowmobile body panels. At the same time, thermoforming tooling and prototypes are often developed more quickly than many conventional molding methods and can be performed through a number of economical processes. These same attributes may also be the source of confusion, wheel spinning, and the expenditure of unnecessary costs if customers are too self-reliant when they design parts for the heavy-gauge thermoforming process. What is often needed is a collaborative process that includes thermoforming specialists early in the design of the products that will be formed. Get Design Support Early “In my experience, it is highly beneficial for the customer’s design engineers to collaborate with their thermoforming vendor early in the process,” says Jesse Hahne, design engineer at the Center for Advanced Design (CAD), Elk River, Minnesota. “The vendor, Alpha Plastics, can help validate the geometry and features of the product design, confirm or assist with material selection, determine how tooling should be developed, provide prototypes quickly and economically, and, of course, confirm the best process for meeting production volume requirements.” CAD is a design firm that focuses on the plastics industry, including design for vacuum forming, rotational molding, injection molding, and blow molding. Hahne, a highly experienced design engineer, consults with many in-house engineers of clients, as well as with thermoforming specialists and the molders of...

Technological Innovation Seen as Essential to Spur Growth in…

Technological Innovation Seen as Essential to Spur Growth in…

May 19, 2016

“Technological Innovation Seen as Essential to Spur Growth in U.S. Manufacturing” By Peter Buxbaum, Global Trade Investments in technology are “essential” for the growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector. According to the 2016 Industrial Manufacturing Trends Report, published by PwC, making strategic investments is one key to growth, particularly in fast-evolving industries. Innovation is building a “data-driven factory of the future with robotics, augmented reality, 3D printing, the internet of things, and other technologies, creating an environment of higher productivity and reduced costs,” the report said. Many of the technological innovations used in manufacturing today will be commonplace within the next five to 10 years, the report added, meaning that manufacturing executives “must lead with an eye toward that reality, and not merely the current bottom line.” The digital age has disrupted many different aspects of manufacturing, noted Nitin Rakesh, CEO of the digital modernization firm Syntel. “From research and development to marketing and sales, businesses cannot afford to put production on hold in order to modernize, but must transform their manufacturing processes in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment,” he said. “Financial pressures in the manufacturing sector are prompting organizations to reassess how they use technology in their manufacturing operations, to determine how they can best modernize their systems in order to maintain a competitive edge.” Modernizing and automating back-end support systems enable manufacturers to cut costs and improve efficiency, Rakesh asserted. “Cost-conscious businesses need to realize that their long-term run-the-business costs will be higher without a proper technology infrastructure in place,” he said. “The digital revolution has reached the factory floor. Investments in IoT-enabled machinery and connected devices now enable manufacturers to harness data from these assets to optimize factory operations. The insights available allow organizations to monitor the input, boost their output and maintain a high level of quality control. Through integrated sensors and automation technology, organizations are positioned to make more effective decisions in other areas such as finance, product design, and...

Detroit’s Automakers, Sensing A Threat, Embrace Mobility

Detroit’s Automakers, Sensing A Threat, Embrace Mobility

May 17, 2016

By Dee-Ann Durbin, Manufacturing.net DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — For Detroit, the days of simply making cars are over. Automakers are facing multiple threats to their business from nimble tech firms like Apple and Uber. In response, carmakers are reinventing themselves as “mobility” companies that can accommodate all the different ways people get around. Already this year, General Motors Co. has announced a long-term alliance with ride-hailing company Lyft and started a car-sharing service called Maven. Ford created a technology-focused division based in Silicon Valley that will invest in promising transportation startups. It also launched FordPass, a smartphone app that helps users find parking or share their cars. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is partnering with Google to test self-driving software in 100 of its minivans. In congested and expensive cities, people are increasingly content to share cars or summon rides using their smartphones. In five years, 35 million people globally will be using car-sharing services, up from 5.8 million now, according to Boston Consulting Group. That means 550,000 fewer cars sold each year. Within another few decades, fleets of self-driving taxis could replace the need for personal car ownership altogether. Automakers that don’t adapt risk being supplanted by high-tech competitors. “We’re investing in future-proofing,” says Elena Ford, who led the development of FordPass and is the great-great-granddaughter of Ford’s founder. There are dangers. Making vehicles is complicated and expensive, and car companies have stumbled when they’ve taken on new businesses. GM bought software maker Electronic Data Systems Inc. in 1984 but sold it 12 years later. Ford owned Hertz rental cars but sold it a decade ago. Chrysler owned airplane-maker Gulfstream in the mid-1980s. In each case, the companies sold those businesses to refocus on car-making. There’s also the open question of whether drivers want automakers to do more than make cars. Ford CEO Mark Fields is confident they do. “It goes back to Henry Ford and one of his favorite quotes: ‘If I asked people what they wanted, they’d say they wanted a faster horse,'” Fields told The Associated Press. “We want to transform, fundamentally, the relationship between an automaker and a customer.” Fields adds that the financial case is too compelling to ignore. Global...

Careful Consideration Is Key For Manufacturers In The Digital…

Careful Consideration Is Key For Manufacturers In The Digital…

May 13, 2016

“Careful Consideration Is Key For Manufacturers In The Digital Transformation” By Sreenivasa Chakravarti, Manufacturing Business Technology The manufacturing industry is in the era of technology enabled business transformation. As an industry that has been around for centuries, the rapid pace of transformation is creating a revolution unlike anything encountered before. While some manufacturers struggle to keep up with the changing technologies, others are taking full advantage of the streamlined processes, new business models and better customer service that the digital transformation is enabling. New technologies seem to pop up daily and almost all manufacturers have moved into the connected — or Internet of Things (IoT) era. Today, machines communicate with other machines and with humans, and they provide in depth data and analysis that allows for close control of the supply chain, product monitoring, and even customer monitoring after products are in the market. In fact, Tata Consultancy Services predicts manufacturers will spend more than $120 million on IoT initiatives in 2018. Three Stages of Digital Transformation In many cases, the large number of innovations and the rapid pace that new technologies are being introduced can be overwhelming. How does a manufacturer that is unsure of joining the digital transformation get started? For most, there are three stages as they begin to move from the world of old-fashioned manufacturing into the connected world. Digitalization: All manufacturers want to streamline business processes. Digitalization is like dipping a toe in the water of the digital technology pool. For example, moving a manufacturing plant’s tracking system from static charts to a technology enabled, live and dynamic system is often the easiest first step. Digital Transformation: After the first taste of digitalization, there is often a hunger for more, and digital transformation tends to be the next step. Digital transformation allows manufacturers to revamp business process and create entirely new user experiences using technologies like mobile apps, social collaboration or predictive analytics. As an example, predictive maintenance gives manufacturers insight into when a machine needs work and prevents equipment failures before they happen. Digital Reimagination: The final and most sophisticated step is full reimagination. Digital reimagination allows for completely new business models enabled by technology. For example, virtual simulation allows plant...

Growing, Growing, Gone

Growing, Growing, Gone

May 12, 2016

By Paul Nicolaus, Design-2-Part Magazine With an eye on expansion, Continental Industries knocks it out of the park with manufacturing solutions for the precision sheet metal fabrication industry. Continental Industries — an Anaheim, Calif.-based sheet metal fabrication company — is no stranger to expansion. Dubbed “One of Orange County’s Fastest Growing Private Companies” for revenue growth by the Orange County Business Journal in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, Continental is currently in the midst of exciting growth that can be seen in a variety of forms. The head count has doubled from 25 to 50 employees, capacity has increased from one eight-hour shift to two full eight-hour shifts, and in 2014, a move from a 10,000-square-foot leased property to a purchased, fully renovated 25,000-square-foot building provided added workspace. Even more recently, Continental acquired a complementary company in the sheet metal fabrication industry in 2015. Since that strategic move, personnel, assets, and customers have been merged to increase the volume of business and enter new market segments. The foundation for all this recent excitement can be traced back over the course of three decades to a modest fabrication facility and a small handful of workers. Originally called International West, Inc., one of the early hires in company history was Jeff Hayden, who took on welding, tackled outside sales, and handled programming when he came aboard. Eventually, he also purchased the company and incorporated as Continental Industries. “He’s got a very good mind for business and a really good heart,” said Mike Moss, director of sales. “He’s a really great guy to work for.” Service Offerings A full line of sheet metal fabrication services — including turret punching, bending, welding, CNC machining, and assembly — are currently offered to industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to data communications and defense. Some parts, such as commercial lighting fixtures, are fairly straight-forward. After cutting the parts to length, they are punched and formed. Then the edges are cleaned up. “They’re a very simple, quick run through the shop,” Moss said. “More complex jobs require a whole variety of those processes, and in some cases all of them,” he added. One example is the casings and housings made for...

These 3 Industries Are Getting Transformed By Advanced…

These 3 Industries Are Getting Transformed By Advanced…

May 10, 2016

“These 3 Industries Are Getting Transformed By Advanced Manufacturing” By Grayson Brulte, Manufacturing.net Imagine a world of full of machines manufacturing anything we desire on-demand, where robots attend to workers’ every need. Welcome to the future of advanced manufacturing — a hybrid of technologies and processes that manufactures goods through the use of innovative technologies. Today, advanced manufacturing accounts for 13 percent of jobs in the U.S. and contributes $3.1 trillion to the economy. As machines become smarter through adaptive sensor networks connected to the Industrial Internet, efficiencies will be created and the economic impact will only grow. Advanced manufacturing techniques combined with big data analytics will allow companies to make intelligent decisions based on real-time data. This actionable data will lead to faster turnaround times for manufacturing and lower costs. Here are three industries that are among the biggest beneficiaries of advanced manufacturing:   1. Electric Vehicles As society changes, consumer habits change. Last year, we saw an unprecedented demand for electric cars, as electric vehicle sales grew by 60 percent worldwide according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. As the race for the sub-$30,000 electric car heats up, Tesla is using advanced manufacturing robots at its Fremont plant to keep up with demand. Tesla’s robots are relieving workers of the most labor-intensive operations in the factory and cutting installation times in half. By freeing up workers to focus on the most crucial aspects of assembling a vehicle, Tesla is creating a smarter, leaner workforce. By 2040, 35 percent of all new cars sold worldwide are expected have a plug and long-range electric cars will start at less than $22,000. To keep up with the projected demand, electric vehicle manufacturers will have to openly embrace the marriage of software and hardware that is advanced manufacturing. 2. Robotics Robots might not yet be part of everyone’s daily lives, but soon they will be part of the everyday workforce. Sales of industrial robots sold grew by 8 percent worldwide last year, according to the International Federation of Robotics, surpassing 240,000 units sold for the first time. As industrial robot sales grow, The Boston Consulting Group predicts that a “robotic revolution” is poised to transform many industries...