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Resealable Can Closure Rocks Beverage Market
XO Slider from XOLUTION raises performance without disrupting established process
Product and packaging differentiation are fundamental to success in the consumer food and beverage market, but the traditional beverage can market had seen few innovations in the past several years. A recent technology breakthrough enabled XOLUTION GmbH (Munich, Germany) to change the landscape entirely.
XOLUTION, a design and development company, created the XO resealable can closure. It’s simple to use: consumers lift a pull tab similar to traditional can closures, breaking a tamper-evident band. Users then push the XO Slider to the open position. To reseal, they just reverse the process and push the tab to “seal” the can. This deceptively simple innovation met established consumer demands for convenience and portability, but could also be processed on existing filling lines.
Market studies show that consumers will accept a higher price point for a resealable can, and that the XO closure can be expected to generate significant market demand in the 16–28 year old age group. Beyond these benefits, the new design is compatible with existing production facilities. Bottling companies can even process traditional and resealable cans simultaneously on the same filling line without any issues.
XOLUTION needed a supplier that could help them identify the best material for the application – one that would meet performance and food-contact regulation requirements. In addition, XOLUTION wanted a supplier that could provide the same material locally in the EU, US, and other potential markets, such as Asia or South America.
XOLUTION turned to PolyOne for help. After analyzing the application requirements, the PolyOne team developed a customized GLS™ themoplastic elastomer (TPE) material for cold-fill applications that maintains an internal pressure of up to 6 bar and adds no taste or odor. The material also provides excellent adhesion and good flow properties for use in two-component (2K) molding.
The design includes complicated geometries that are challenging to fill, so the material also flows easily to fully fill the part. In addition, the custom formulation is dimensionally stable and provides the high levels of compression set and mechanical performance needed to maintain the seal during transportation or storage at extreme temperatures and over long time periods. As required, the material complies with EU 10/2011 and US food-contact regulations.
Using the custom-formulated GLS material, XOLUTION produced an innovative beverage can closure. The new formulation provided the following benefits:
- In addition to its exceptional performance, including flow, adhesion, compression set, and mechanical properties, the new specialty TPE also maintains compatibility with existing filling lines for streamlined production.
- Because the material complies with EU and US food-contact regulations and is supplied with supporting documentation, it helped accelerate time to market.
- Consistent TPE formulations and color masterbatches - supplied locally in the US, Europe, and other potential markets worldwide - help to maintain brand integrity on a global basis.
Power Tool Manufacturer Reduces Production Overhead
Two-shot molding increases efficiency, reduces scrap, saves $55,000 annually
A leading North American manufacturer of home power tools sought a new solution for producing the “boot,” or soft protective cover, for several of its power saw product lines. The design team had two objectives: improve vibration damping performance of the boot to deliver a better user experience, and streamline manufacturing of the part to reduce system costs.
At the time, the boot was injection molded from acrylonitrile-ethylene-styrene (AES) as a standalone part and assembled to the housing separately. The company foresaw that integrating this step into the molding process for the saw housing would cut assembly time and overall costs.
At the same time, adding a softer material could increase damping performance, which can help power tool users avoid health issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis related to constant vibration.
However, before making a change involving investment in new tooling and processing expertise, the company wanted to be confident that the solution would make sense from an economic perspective.
The manufacturer began working with PolyOne to find a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) solution to meet its dual requirements. PolyOne’s team recommended the use of overmolding (two-shot injection molding) to integrate the boot with the saw housing, and trialed several products before customizing a grade from its portfolio. This TPE provided a lower durometer than AES for enhanced vibration damping combined with durability for demanding use conditions.
While pleased with the material’s performance, the company still needed to verify that a substantial investment in overmolding – including tooling and testing – would pay off in lower system costs. PolyOne gathered detailed data from this customer’s production facility in Mexico and helped them calculate and compare the costs of the two solutions.
These calculations showed that the new TPE would deliver significant cycle time efficiencies and reduced scrap rates, more than offsetting its slightly higher material cost and higher specific gravity. As a result, the manufacturer made the decision to move forward. Currently, the company is producing 800,000 housings annually using the specialty TPE material.
The TPE grade surpassed the performance of the previous material and allowed the manufacturer to introduce a more efficient production process. Overmolding instead of standalone molding streamlined production and eliminated secondary assembly steps. This cut cycle time by 27 percent. Adding to the overall value of the solution, the TPE yields significantly less scrap than the previously used AES material.
The manufacturer expects to save more than $55,000 per year, achieving ROI for the new solution within 12 months. Equally important, the manufacturer added value to its products by reducing vibration for a more pleasant user experience.
Medical Hose Manufacturer Boosts Productivity With Specialized Material
Material switch lowers costs, achieves higher flow versus previous TPV
A leading North American manufacturer of polypropylene (PP) hose for medical applications, including laser surgery, respiratory care and sleep apnea equipment, faced a challenge with its existing thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV). The elastomeric material, used to overmold a cuff on the end of the hose, demonstrated inconsistent quality and subpar flow properties. In addition, the TPV supplier was not providing sufficient quantities of the material consistently, threatening the manufacturer’s ability to meet its own customer’s needs on time.
The hose manufacturer decided to explore other material options that would meet requirements such as excellent colorability, good surface appearance, high flow for optimal productivity, and of course, compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The company also sought a vendor who could provide rapid delivery and reliable material supply to avoid production delays.
In the course of their research into material options, the manufacturer’s team invited PolyOne to suggest options for an alternative TPV based on its global reputation for superior products and service. The PolyOne team assessed the application’s technical and operational requirements, and recommended a GLS™ Versalloy™ alloy in 45 Shore A durometer, an FDA-compliant medical TPV grade designed for overmolding onto PP.
In addition to its excellent colorability and high flow, the Versalloy solution possessed a lower specific gravity and resulted in lower scrap rates compared to the competitive TPV, providing the opportunity to reduce system costs.
As a result of the system-based cost savings and improved supply reliability, the manufacturer made the decision to proceed with the Versalloy TPV, which is now used in the production of end cuffs for a variety of repeated-use surgical and respiratory hoses.
Ultimately, the transition to the GLS TPV proved to be a smooth one for the manufacturer. With PolyOne’s assistance and experience in medical device applications, the manufacturer immediately realized the following lifts:
Cost savings: The hose manufacturer saves $33,000 per year by using Versalloy TPV instead of its previous material. These savings resulted from Versalloy’s lower specific gravity (0.88 compared to 0.95) and a 50% reduction in scrap rate.
Higher productivity: The improved flow properties of the Versalloy solution enabled the hose manufacturer to increase throughput by two seconds, which in turn reduced total system costs.
Reliable JIT supply chain: The Versalloy material needed by the customer was reliably supplied by PolyOne in just three weeks instead of the typical six week lead time.
Computer Mouse Goes Premium with Soft Touch
Enhanced user experience drives increased market share, over $400,000 in new sales revenue
A global business equipment manufacturer decided to develop a premium line of computer mouse products that offered improved ergonomics and soft-touch qualities. The OEM aimed to boost penetration in this market category by creating a new higher-performing mouse that offered added comfort and features aimed at an enhanced user experience.
Key to the product development effort was a soft-touch grip that would give users a smooth feel, easy handling, and more physical comfort. In addition, the design included more traditional features, such as four small support feet on the underside of the mouse for low-friction, easy-glide operation.
The manufacturer sought high-performance material solutions to create these features and significantly improve the computer user’s experience. Its design team determined the need for a soft-touch material with strong chemical resistance and color stability for the mouse grip.
Furthermore, the mouse’s feet required a low-wear, low friction material.
Based on earlier successful projects, the OEM design team turned to PolyOne for a selection of suitable thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs). The PolyOne team worked with the manufacturer to meet specific property needs and developed a customized solution that added soft-touch, ergonomic, and friction-free features.
To meet the manufacturer’s goals for the mouse grip, a clear TPE overmolding material, GLS Versaflex™, was formulated for improved ergonomics and comfort, strong chemical resistance, and excellent bonding to the ABS substrate. A technical support team at PolyOne GLS Thermoplastic Elastomers conducted extensive compatibility testing to confirm proper bonding and overmolding onto the rigid substrate.
This custom Versaflex grade provides 60 Shore A hardness and superior tear strength. It also boasts excellent chemical resistance to common substances like cosmetics and cleaners, as well as foods such as olive oil and mustard. The material facilitates two-shot molding, a highly efficient manufacturing process that eliminates time-consuming, high-cost assembly.
For the mouse feet, PolyOne formulated a special grade of LubriOne™ filled acetal as an improvement over the neat acetal found in traditional designs. It offers excellent surface engineering properties such as low wear, reduced friction, high lubricity, and no squeak. Together, the manufacturer and PolyOne settled on a final formulation that could utilize existing tooling, thereby avoiding additional costs.
The LubriOne grade offers a kinetic coefficient of friction value (0.108), which is roughly 50% better than that of the traditional material. As a result, the mouse’s gliding capability is greatly improved versus existing models, contributing to an enhanced user experience.
PolyOne and the manufacturer conducted a series of molding trials to establish proper part performance, and the teams also coordinated sales, engineering and technical support in tandem.
The new premium mouse hit store shelves amid positive reviews, generating brisk sales and enabling the manufacturer to improve its share of market. In addition, the profit margin on this product was about 30% higher than that of other models. The OEM’s new product, featuring PolyOne’s contribution, increased market share and generated more than $400,000 in sales during the first year of production.
Pain Therapy Device Stands Out From Peers
Using Versalloy™ TPV, Biowave adds safety, durability and signature blue color
Biowave Corporation of Norwalk, Conn., is a medical device manufacturer whose pain therapy products help patients manage pain and reduce the use of medications such as opiates. Biowave devices deliver a therapeutic electrical signal into deep tissue in the body, blocking the transmission of pain. In addition to a version for clinicians, the company offers the BiowavePRO® non-invasive neuromodulation system designed for individual use by athletes to reduce pain and enhance rehabilitation.
In designing the housing for the BiowavePRO, Biowave had several objectives. The portable device, targeted at college and professional sports teams, had to be durable enough to handle a sports environment – travel on buses and planes, use in locker rooms, and the risk of being bumped or dropped. The design called for two protective bumpers on the sides of the housing to provide a non-slip grip for the user. In addition to durability, these bumpers needed resilience for a comfortable feel and the ability to incorporate membrane switches.
An important goal was brand distinction, including a sleek, simple design and signature color. To achieve this, Biowave wanted the bumpers to give the appearance of being integrated with the front and rear housing and to be custom colored.
For guidance on materials for the housing, Biowave consulted PTA Corp., its molder, who in turn contacted its long-time partners on the GLS Thermoplastic Elastomers team at PolyOne. GLS recommended a Versalloy™ thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV) alloy for excellent surface quality, easy processing with excellent flow, and high tear strength. It can also be easily colored for excellent aesthetics.
Although custom coloring was a sticking point, no refinement could be at the expense of the tight timeline or rigid budget. The bumpers were molded separately and then slipped into channels between the upper and lower housing components (instead of overmolding them onto the housing). This approach maintained the streamlined design while controlling costs.
PTA was pleased with the moldability and processing ease of the Versalloy TPV, which delivers a high-quality surface finish and resists striations that can occur with other elastomers.
Versalloy material is helping Biowave win and retain customers among sports teams, many of which purchase multiple devices for their players. Its high performance under rugged conditions helps generate recommendations and repeat orders. Currently, nearly 40 professional teams and 17 college programs use BiowavePRO.
Competitive differentiation: The Biowave device is often referred to by its blue color, helping the product stand out from competitors. When the technology was profiled on television, the attractive color caught audiences’ attention and generated many inquiries.
Usability: Versalloy material makes a major contribution to the ruggedness and versatility of the device. Its toughness prevents the bumpers from shredding or marring, even with extensive handling.
Portability: The ability to use the BiowavePRO practically anywhere is of great value to mobile sports teams. Versalloy TPV contributes light weight and a sure grip that is important for safety and precision.
Cost savings: Molding the bumpers separately and inserting them into the housing keeps costs down yet provides the seamless appearance of overmolding. Creating a two cavity tool for the bumpers saved PTA 70% over the cost of an overmolding tool, and reduced scrap rates typical with overmolded housings by 80%.
New Approach Restores Efficiency in Pulmonary Device Manufacturing
Contract manufacturer reduces rejects, adds $100,000 to annual bottom line
A leading medical contract manufacturer faced an unacceptably high number of rejected parts for a pulmonary device housing.
The problems arose where two clear resins were being blended at the press. The materials exhibited warpage, causing an uneven surface in a substantial number of parts produced.
Without a consistently flat surface, the manufacturer encountered a variety of issues involving both the form and function of the part, leading to the high number of rejected parts. It needed a fix and it needed it fast so it could fulfill its contract.
The manufacturer was working with PolyOne on other projects, so it brought together experts from both companies to work on identifying a material that would reduce warpage and improve productivity.
The teams evaluated the existing materials and found that the required blending and drying processes had created inefficiencies. Working together, they identified an alternative material that met the performance requirements of the product but did not require blending.
The formulation provided toughness, clarity, strength and impact resistance. It also could be sterilized by ethylene oxide and gamma radiation, and it offered USP Class VI and RoHS compliance to accelerate approvals and time to market.
The manufacturer tested the proposed solution and validated its superior molding and processing performance before putting it into production.
Switching from two blended resins to a single material delivered several key benefits to the manufacturer, including:
- Increased productivity: The new material allowed the manufacturer to more than double output via tooling and cycle time improvements.
- Improved yield rates: Changing from a blended solution to a single material reduced the manufacturer’s scrap rate by 50 percent.
- Reduced drying time: The new material reduced drying time by 70 percent.
All told, these improvements contributed to more than $100,000 annually in savings to the manufacturer’s bottom line.
Auto Supplier Drives Exceptional Quality, Productivity
How one supplier optimized properties, processing with UV-stable materials
Jäger Automobil-Technik GmbH is a well-known and top-ranking automotive supplier with multiple locations in Germany and sites in China and the U.S. It supplies molded parts and subassemblies to Audi AG, one of the world’s largest auto manufacturers.
Automakers and suppliers currently face challenges brought on by a record plunge in demand and an equally unprecedented rise in costs. At the same time, the level of quality that consumers expect has increased significantly. For these reasons, a material that can combine high productivity and lower production cost with elevated quality meets both OEM and supplier needs on multiple levels.
Several months ago, application development engineers at Jäger needed a special material for the “Case Mat Q5,” an elastomeric insert for the map case pocket of each door on the Audi Q5, a compact SUV.
While Jäger had developed interior TPE parts in the past, its development engineers and designers had since created a modified manufacturing technology that was more demanding on the elastomeric material. Based on a history of successful collaboration between the two companies, Jäger felt confident that PolyOne could provide a material solution that would meet both performance and cost targets.
The professionals at Jäger and PolyOne identified OnFlex-S TPE with UV stabilization as the material that would best fulfill cost and performance goals for this application. Based on styrenic block copolymers, this thermoplastic elastomer offers low temperature flexibility, good abrasion resistance, excellent colorability and UV resistance.
Each of these properties satisfies key requirements for the application, which includes both aesthetic and performance criteria. First, the products need to match each of the three interior colors that Audi offers for its Q5 (black, gray, and beige). Further, the mats must remain flexible during the winter and withstand normal use without showing signs of wear or scratches.
The team chose a grade that includes UV stabilization for improved weathering performance. While vehicle doors are typically exposed directly to sunlight only when open, the mats need protection from indirect UV rays that reach the car’s interior when the doors are closed.
Because it exhibits a higher flow rate than other SBC-based TPEs, OnFlex-S TPE reduces cycle times during injection molding, a feature that satisfies productivity objectives set by Jäger. A high melt flow rate for the solution reduces packing and cooling time requirements to improve overall molding cycle times. In addition, the high flow properties allow Jager to run the material in a TandemMold (a patented product of T/Mould GmbH), which effectively doubles production volume, as well as lowers energy and related production costs by up to 40%.
The material solution, PolyOne’s OnFlex-S EH UV TPE, offers an outstanding balance of processability, tactile qualities, UV resistance, abrasion resistance and colorability that capably satisfies the application’s requirements. This specific grade is based on styrene-ethylene butylene-styrene (SEBS), and its 80 Shore A hardness provides desirable toughness.
High-performance material = consumer satisfaction: Because OnFlex-S contains superior properties in the areas of tactile quality, abrasion resistance, toughness and UV stabilization, the map case mats exhibit greater durability, more gripping action, and less fading and cracking from sun exposure. The higher performance improves perceived quality among consumers and reduces replacement costs.
Ease of coloring = reduced scrap rate: Because it is readily colorable, the material helps Jäger meet Audi’s requirements for interior colors while generating less scrap due to off-spec or inconsistent color.
Improved flow = lower unit costs: High flow characteristics of the PolyOne solution in combination with a TandemMold result in doubled production volume for a 50% reduction in machine-related costs per part.
Faster processing = lower energy costs: Higher melt flow rates enable shorter injection molding cycles, resulting in reduced energy requirements.
According to project manager Steffen Burdorf, the chosen elastomer helped his team at Jäger deliver results on several fronts: appearance and quality improvements; productivity enhancements and manufacturing cost reductions; and added product longevity due to UV stabilization. Further, Burdorf noted that Jäger has realized system cost benefits by collaborating with PolyOne and implementing an optimum materials solution.
Lawn and Garden Maker Adds Appeal, Profitability
Overmolding with TPEs gives consumers
a better grip
Facing strong competition from all-plastic garden sprayers, a leading garden equipment manufacturer decided to create a new, high-end line of sprayers featuring enhanced quality, durability and aesthetics. To provide a secure grip for safety and usability, the company planned to overmold a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) onto the handle and other selected areas of the sprayer. In order to optimize its profit margins, the company sought to control system costs by avoiding secondary assembly and handling. The use of 2K (two-component) molding – in which the base resin is injected and allowed to set up for a short time, and then is overmolded by injecting the TPE – streamlines the manufacturing process.
However, the original TPE that the company selected caused issues during 2K molding. It required a high temperature and a strong injection pressure to bond to the acrylonitrile-butadienestyrene (ABS) substrate, which caused the resin to deform. In turn, deformation negatively impacted part tolerances, leading to poor fit and performance of the sprayer.
Product developers reported that they needed a better TPE to provide superior bonding performance with ABS without requiring high temperature and pressure during 2K molding. Without it, the company faced the prospect of having to use another production technique that would cost more and take longer. Other requirements were abrasion resistance and excellent aesthetics.
The garden equipment company paired up with PolyOne to determine a suitable TPE for this application. PolyOne recommended an OnFlex-S multicomponent TPE, which offers excellent adhesion to ABS and can be molded at lower temperatures and injection pressures than competitive products. OnFlex-S TPEs also provide an attractive appearance and resist scratching and marring.
For this manufacturer, another appealing aspect of working with this material was PolyOne’s dedicated TPE production line in Spain, which is used solely to manufacture TPEs for overmolding applications. The company valued the high quality and technical precision offered by this specialized production line. The company had the opportunity to conduct molding trials to ensure ideal temperature and pressure parameters.
With its enhanced processability, the OnFlex-S thermoplastic elastomer enabled the company to solve its 2K molding issues and reduce system costs. The material helps the company produce attractive, high-quality garden sprayers featuring precisely fitting parts.
The new products have been very well received by consumers, and have allowed the company to neutralize the competitive threat from all-plastic sprayers.
Lower system costs = higher margins: By reducing waste from part deformation, the PolyOne TPE allowed the manufacturer to leverage efficient, fast 2K molding for system cost reduction. These savings help the company to achieve high margins on its top-of-the-line sprayers.
High-end product line = competitive advantage: With PolyOne’s OnFlex-S TPE, developers successfully designed and produced a new, high-end product line that compares favorably with all-plastic sprayers in terms of appearance, performance and durability.
Gripping feel = safety and usability for customers: Hand grips created from overmolded OnFlex-S TPE provide excellent anti-slip performance even when wet. Customers can keep a firm grasp of the sprayer to prevent dropping or twisting.
Abrasion resistance = excellent appearance to uphold corporate image: The PolyOne material resists scratching and scraping that commonly occur when sprayers are dragged along the ground or left out in all types of weather. Maintaining aesthetics is vital to the customer’s perception of the company as a high-end, high-quality brand.
According to company sources, the TPE that the manufacturer selected not only delivered the high-quality appearance and excellent gripping performance needed for the upscale sprayers, it also met the challenges of 2K molding with ease. With OnFlex-S TPE, the company achieved system cost benefits that have made this product line a profitable one.