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issue: April 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine

Designing with Plastics
A Transparent Change

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By Lisa Bonnema, Editor

When Royal Appliance (Glenwillow, OH, U.S.) learned of a clear, cost-effective alternative to polyester, it seamlessly implemented the new material into three of its Dirt Devil floor care designs.

Royal Appliance is now using Zylar 530 from Nova Chemicals for the transparent parts on three of its Dirt Devil models—an extractor, a hard floor cleaner, and a hand-held extractor.

According to Chuck Thur, engineering manager at Royal Appliance, it is better to be safe than sorry. From testing materials to extreme standards to using more expensive materials to keep production on time, this floor care company takes every precaution to keep its customers—and its quality—as top priorities.

One example was a recent partnership with Nova Chemicals, a plastics company based in Moon Township, PA, U.S. After Royal was already in production for its 2004 line of floor care appliances, it learned of Zylar® 530, a clear, cost-effective resin that could be used for the transparent components on its Dirt Devil Spot Scrubber, Floor Keeper, and Easy Steamer products.

At the time, Royal was using polyester for the clear parts on the floor care appliances. While Mr. Thur confirms that the polyester material was durable, it was also expensive and harder to work with in the production environment. Zylar, on the other hand, not only saved costs, but also offered a wider range of processing parameters. “You can run Zylar at a larger range of temperatures, whereas the previous material had to be closely watched,” Mr. Thur explains. “Because the injection molding machine doesn’t have to run in such a close tolerance temperature window or pressure window, your parts are of better quality.”

In addition to quality improvements, Dale Richardson, marketing programs coordinator at Nova Chemicals, says Zylar offers other production benefits. “Its density advantage delivers up to 20 percent more parts per pound, and its faster molding cycles mean higher machine utilization,” he tells APPLIANCE. “Zylar is not corrosive or abrasive, which means less tool wear, and lower required clamp force creates the potential for lower processing cost rates.”

This made Zylar an easy choice from a manufacturing standpoint, even though production had already started with the polyester material. “We used up our stock of the originally specified material and then moved into Zylar,” Mr. Thur explains. “All of our tools were originally built for polyester, which requires more cooling and is more expensive, but we knew we could always run polyester if we needed to. This made the transition to Zylar smoother, even if the tools were overbuilt for it.”

In fact, Mr. Thur says these types of “running changes” are common practice at Royal Appliance. The first goal, he says, is to make sure that production timelines are met, then any changes can be implemented slowly and seamlessly.

“From an engineering standpoint, it is standard that if we have something that works, we are going to continue to use it until something better comes along that we know will work,” Mr. Thur says. “Even if a new material comes up when we are launching a new product, more than likely it won’t be put in because our ship date and our production date are very important—we have to meet the goals for our customers. So if we were to spec in [a new material] and it didn’t work, we would have to go backwards, which would be worse than if we had just used the material we knew worked.”

Design Considerations

Before implementing the new material, Royal Appliance performed several tests to confirm Zylar’s properties. “The Zylar material had to pass the same type of testing that our originally specified material did,” Mr. Thur says.

Because the material was going to be used to construct the “clean” water tanks and “dirty” water tanks on the extractor, for example, the company wanted to ensure Zylar could stand up to soap solutions and even chemicals such as vinegar, since many consumers often use their own home-made solutions in the floor cleaners. “Many elements go into designing these types of products, and we have to pay close attention to how the chemicals used in them affect the plastic we specify,” explains Mr. Thur.

The material also had to pass Royal’s impact requirements. Tests included simulating a customer dropping one of the empty clear tanks on the way to the sink and dropping tanks that were filled with water. And although UL doesn’t require it, Royal Appliance also put the Zylar parts through a UL impact ball test, where a hard ball is dropped on product areas that might expose live parts.

Mr. Thur says that Zylar passed the chemical tests and that only a few design changes had to be made to strengthen some of the parts. This included making larger radii in some of the parts’ corners and adding some strengthening walls or “ribs” to certain high-stress areas. This didn’t, however, add to design costs, Mr. Thur notes. “You’re adding not even 1 percent of the material,” he says.

Zylar’s clarity properties also passed the marketing department’s aesthetic requirements, and its low cost made it even more attractive to management. According to Nova Chemicals, because Zylar is a lower density material, it results in more parts per pound of purchased resin and thus, cost savings.

Even the time taken to test out the new material was valuable, according to Mr. Thur. “The cost of a returned product because of inferior material is a lot worse than sticking with a more expensive material,” he says. “We need to make sure the customer is protected when we implement cost savings. We have to make sure that a change like this is transparent to them.”

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
NOVA Chemicals Inc.

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