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issue: July 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Plastics & Plastic Parts
Plastic Triplets

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by David Simpson, Contributing Editor

A triplet of applications demonstrates how plastics can benefit appliance producers across all product segments.

The general advantages of plastics are well documented. Among these are design flexibility, including part integration; chemical and corrosion resistance; cost effectiveness; and low weight. With these advantages, plastics continue to make inroads in various internal and external applications.
Plastics can also create an advantage in appliance design, notes Paola Babka, global marketing director, consumer markets, GE Advanced Materials, Plastics (Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands). “The development, styling, and manufacture of next-generation appliances can be done in such a way that new products immediately stand out from the competition, also creating possible brand identity,” she says. “Products such as these call for the greatest possible freedoms from the materials they use. Engineering thermoplastics can offer among the broadest possible range of performance properties and capabilities compared to conventional metal-based materials.”

An example of what one leading appliance company - in this case, Spain’s Fagor - can do with engineering thermoplastics is seen in “Metallic Look Enhances Refrigerator Design.” This is one of three applications - plus a few pictures thrown in for good measure - illustrating some of the ways plastics are used in appliance design.

Internal plastic parts can also be vital to product success. Certainly in one food equipment application they saved the day. When Hobart Corporation found a problem created by contamination in a dough mixer design, it changed over to a plastic-based bearing. The component is lubrication- and maintenance-free, as well as contamination- and chemical-resistant. Find out more by read “Adding More to the Mix.”

A Ruggedly Molded Lifesaver

Available in both automatic and semi-automatic configurations, the Lifepak CR Plus is a small, portable automated external defibrillator (AED) from Medtronic Physio-Control (Redmond, WA, U.S.). The defibrillator is designed to be used by a non-professional—in the event trained professionals are not available—who comes to the aid of a person experiencing cardiac arrest.

To achieve the necessary ruggedness and a small, convenient size, the manufacturer and its molder, Accurate Molded Plastics, Inc. (Coeur d’Alene, ID, U.S.), used Bayblend FR110 resin, a combination of polycarbonate and ABS, to mold the case. The material comes from Bayer Corporation (Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.).


As populations continue to reach retirement age in developed countries, the market for medical devices is likely to continue to grow, and with it, the use of plastics. In one medical application, Draeger Medical was looking for a material to use in a blower that could quickly reach high speeds. The 2-in (55-mm) wheel needed thin walls and high tensile strength. The material has the purity required for clinical use. Read more in “High Power Plastic.”

Of course, compared to the whole range of what is happening with plastics applications in the appliance industry, a triplet of cases is just a small sampling. Still, perhaps these examples will trigger new thinking of innovative ways appliance producers can use plastics in their product designs.

Improving Look - Feel - Function

Hoping to improve the look, feel, and function of its compact power mid-handle cordless DeWalt drill, Black & Decker (Townson, MD, U.S.) enlisted the help of Phillips Plastics (Hudson, WI, U.S.) in a model redesign. The goal was to offer added features. These included a fresh, updated look, a new handle, and an adjustable end cap, which would allow the motor to be serviced.

Because the previous drill was produced using a multi-shot molding process, the power tool company had no reservations about applying the technology to the updated version.

The requirement for the redesigned tool was to produce various sizes to accommodate different variations of a mid-handle and pistol grip in 12-, 14-, and 18-V drills, and a hammer drill used for drilling into concrete and masonry. These tools were built to produce the mid-handle and pistol grip housings for the drill. Identical tools were to produce parts in the U.S. and to be used in a European press. Phillips’ team also built multiple sets of tools in-house to produce the components for the drills.

Award-Winning Parts

Parts for the Xerox Corporation (Stamford, CT, U.S.) WorkCentre Pro 40 Color Advanced Multifunction Office System were awarded by the Structural Plastics Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry at the New Product Design Recognition event, held in conjunction with Structural Plastics 2004.
A left shelf, right shelf, rear wall, paper tray, and paper tray extension were formed with gas counter pressure induction molding. The process is said to minimize pressures during the injection phase, thereby providing excellent and consistent visual surfaces, eliminating the need for paint. Single cavity tools were used. The tool is sealed for nitrogen gas to fill the cavity prior to plastic injection. The part is filled through a single valve gate. Parts were provided by GI Plastek (Marysville, OH, U.S.) and the mold maker was Solo Tool & Mold Ltd. (Windsor, Ontario, Canada).

A Strong Brew

The brewing units found in espresso machines from Saeco (Gaggio Montano, Italy) need to withstand the acids and material components of coffee, as well as high mechanical stress.

To withstand the challenging environment, the units are constructed of Ultraform polyacetel, a high-strength material from BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany).


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