The selection of case studies shown below represents only a few examples of Mack’s services and how they have helped customers resolve challenges and move product to market. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive listing of Mack’s involvement in any industry.
Optimize a multi-functional, plastic grill table design to:
- Withstand up to 55-pound loads
- Resist high temperatures
- Meet extremely high UV requirements
- Satisfy manufacturability goals
- Assemble easily by the consumer.
Char-Broil came to Mack for both design and manufacturing assistance when it began work on its new outdoor electric grill, the Patio Bistro. The company wanted a sculpted plastic grill table that could serve several functions:
- Support the electric grill kettle
- Hold a foam insulated cooler for drink/food storage
- Incorporate holders for cooking tools
- Fasten the leg assembly to the grill.
To meet these multiple functions, the overall assembly had to withstand a 10-pound load hanging in the cooler area, a 45-pound load for the grill kettle and its contents, as well as a 55-pound distributed load across the tabletop surface.
Mack made recommendations regarding the tool-holder design and handle placement, and helped integrate the cooler concept into the work surface. A 30 percent glass-filled polypropylene resin was chosen, along with injection molding, to provide the most cost-effective material and process solution. To provide additional support, as well as locate and isolate the grill, Mack designed a sheet metal substructure, which fits under the tabletop. Mack also determined the manufacturing detail for the tabletop, including wall thickness, ribbing and mechanical attachments, and designed the cutting board, which covers the cooler.
ORBIT Stacking Chair
Bernhardt Design, a leading furniture design company headquartered in North Carolina, teamed with internationally renowned designer Ross Lovegrove, to develop a stacking chair that would push the boundaries of originality, technology and craftsmanship. Called ORBIT, it was originally made only of Scandinavian ash or zebrawood veneer with a variety of painted or natural wood finishes.
While elegant and sleek, the innovative wooden chair is also very complex and expensive to manufacture. Bernhardt wanted to remain 100 percent true to the original design, but at the same time, produce it in a more economical material that would be less expensive to manufacture, expanding its marketability.
Bernhardt found its solution in plastics. “The moral of this story is to always talk with a good molder before ruling out injection molding for even the most complex designs,” says Ken Kincaid, technical engineering manager at Mack Molding’s Statesville, N.C., facility. “Even if injection molding looks like an unlikely partner for your design, show your molder what you’re trying to do and ask how you can get there…sometimes solutions are possible, but not obvious at first glance.”
The ORBIT stacking chair is a perfect example. “The first question we had to answer was whether or not we could mold the chair using a gas-assisted process,” says Kincaid. “There were cross-sections of the chair that were close to 1.5 inches thick. And Bernhardt wanted to maintain the integrity of the original design, which meant producing smooth, very stylish contours on both sides of the chair. Even the gas pins had to be hidden underneath the chair where it mounts to the frame. That meant using multiple gas pins with sequencing to direct the material the way we wanted it to go. Gas-assist was really the only option.”
It was a unique project for gas-assist, however, given the size and length of the gas section. “We’re basically filling 75 percent of the cavity with material, and coring out a full 25 percent of the volume of the mold with gas,” explains Steve Langen, Mack Molding program manager. “That’s a tremendous amount of material displacement.”
Mack worked closely with Delta Mold, Charlotte, N.C., to build the tool. After some 15 molding trials, the gas-assist process proved successful in reducing stress, maintaining flat and smooth surfaces, reducing both press and part size, and eliminating thick sections of material.
Developing a new material
While proving out the process, Mack simultaneously worked with GE and Bernhardt to sample possible materials. “We tried everything from polypropylene to nylon to PC/ABS with long glass-fibers, but paintability kept bringing us back to the amorphous PC/ABS type of material,” says Langen.
Injection molded ORBIT chair
The result is a new long glass-fiber PC/ABS composite from GE that offers superior tensile strength and stiffness at low glass loadings, which results in a resin-rich surface that can be painted without priming. Called LNP VERTON PCA-F-7004 EM compound, the material provides exceptional strength as evidenced by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) back test, where it passed twice the normal load requirement with no sign of fatigue or failure.
The compound also provides a degree of flex for seating comfort. “This was an unexpected, but very welcome outcome,” says Bernhardt’s Zack Lyon. “The material gives the plastic chair flexibility that the wooden chair doesn’t have…it’s not only comfortable, but it has a built-in rocking aspect, a fidget factor. It was an unplanned, unpredictable, positive outcome that has turned into a selling feature for the chair.”
The plastic version sells for roughly half the price of the wooden chair and takes only a fraction of the time to produce. It is Bernhardt’s first foray into plastics, but won’t be the last, according to Lyon. “Based on the way things went with this project, Mack Molding will be our go-to molder on the next launch project. The collaborative effort was very important to the overall success of the product.”
About Ross Lovegrove
Ross Lovegrove was born in Cardiff, Wales. He studied design at Manchester Polytechnic, and later, at the Royal College of Art, London. He then worked for the well-known design consultancy, Frog Design, where he worked on such projects as the Sony Walkman and Apple computers. As an in-house designer for Knoll International in Paris, Lovegrove designed the successful Alessandri Office System. He has served as design consultant for many large firms, including Louis Vuitton, Dupont and Hermes.
GE Appliances Oven Handle
Customers perceived quality problems with GE’s previous oven handle, a three-piece design with plastic endcaps and a metal bar. “Appearance is very important,” notes Jonathan Nelson, GE design engineer, “and with the three-piece handle, you could see the joints between the end caps and the metal bar. And because there were joints, the handle could sometimes feel loose, causing concern on the showroom floor.”
GE knew gas-assisted injection molding was the answer because it would produce a strong, yet hollow, handle, allowing them to reduce material costs. The two major challenges involved in processing the handle were:
- Aesthetics – difficult to control part after part, especially with a high flex modulus material that is glass-reinforced
- Part weight – critical as a cost component.
“We chose Mack because it has the technical infrastructure and capability to support our gas assist handle program,” comments Keith Spaulding, GE purchasing agent. “We also saw the engineering and manufacturing resources necessary to deliver the project on schedule.”
The schedule was a tight one. Mack’s Southern Operations built molds and produced parts within six weeks. A glass-reinforced VALOX® resin from GE Plastics (now SABIC Innovative Plastics) was chosen for its high strength properties, as well as heat- and chemical-resistance. The handle is gas-assisted injection molded on a 300-ton Toshiba press. With gas-assist technology, Mack achieved a 45 percent weight reduction over a solid part.
Parts submitted to GE for approval were subjected to tests for strength, strip torque, reliability, ship testing, cleanability, soil resistance, and UL approval. The handle not only passed all the tests, but “we were getting at least double the strength requirement we needed, and more than four times the reliability specification,” says Nelson.
There were many advantages to using gas-assist on this application. Beyond part consolidation, material reduction and cost savings, “the handle has the perfect shape for extracting the most benefit from the gas-assisted injection molding process,” claims Dr. Michael Hansen, Mack senior staff engineer. “Because of the one-dimensional flow path for tube- or rod-shaped parts, a good distribution of the gas-channel can be ensured.”
® VALOX resin is a registered trademark of GE Plastics (now SABIC Innovative Plastics)
Retail Self-Serve Blender
F’real Blender: Self-serves, Self-cleans
Simplified Supply Chain Critical to Launch
F’real® Foods, LLC, is a frozen blended beverage company that sells milkshakes, smoothies and frozen cappuccinos to convenience stores, along with a self-serve blender for its patrons to use. F’real began marketing its frozen blended beverages in 2004, along with its first generation self-serve blender, which Mack builds. The company wanted to launch a new blender, however, that would meet the following four objectives:
1. Develop a fully automated self-cleaning blender that would not require hands-on cleaning or sanitizing by store personnel.
F’real wanted to completely remove the human element from the blender sanitizing process by adding a software-driven, automatic, steam-cleaning process with the pre-wash, steam sanitize and cool-down cycles all managed through the software. To the company’s knowledge, there is no other piece of food equipment used in a retail environment that has an automated cleaning and sanitizing process.
2. Use the new blender to more effectively merchandise its product (the frozen beverage).
Because F’real’s business model is built on recurring revenue from blending shakes and selling frozen beverages, the blender is all about selling more beverage cups. Therefore, to achieve a more commanding presence on the retail counter (where real estate is at a premium), F’real designed its new blender to be about 12″ taller than the original version, and added a 22″ touch screen LCD on the front to attract attention. Because of its moving, digital content, the screen grabs attention and brings consumers in. It gives first-time users quick instructions, coupled with detailed animation on how to use the blender. And because the blending process takes just under a minute, F’real serves up fun, brand-building content during that time, educating the consumer about the company, its products, nutritional information, and how to contact them.
3. Build in a service alert system that would allow F’real to communicate with the blender remotely.
By adding a 3G modem driven, F’real can now be alerted in real time if there is ever a blender malfunction in the field. F’real can tunnel into the blender to see details about how the blender has been operating, troubleshoot issues, or forecast potential future issues. With the modem, F’real can also push new digital content out to the screens – even customize it by region, store, chain, etc.
4. Improve and simplify aspects of the original blender for the new version.
Because the new blender is a totally new design rather than an update of the older version, F’real wanted to improve and simplify aspects of the blender as appropriate. For example, the mix motor on the new version is now directly in line with the mix motor shaft, eliminating the previous need for a belt-driven system with more parts, costs, etc.
The new blender project supports F’real’s overall business strategy of selling as many milkshakes, smoothies and frozen cappuccinos as possible by improving its presence with a larger size and LCD screen to better connect with consumers; and by adding remote communication to diagnose issues and, in some cases, proactively prevent issues from happening, making the blender even more reliable in the field. Attracting more buyers for their retailers and reducing downtime so the blender is up and running at all times, goes directly to the bottom line of both F’real and its customers.
Contract manufacturing, F’real blenderF’real chose Mack as its manufacturing arm in order to get to market quickly with as simplified a supply chain as possible. Already building its original blender, Mack worked through multiple pilot builds with F’real and managed numerous engineering changes to speed the product to market.
Mack’s vertical integration satisfied the simplified supply chain requirement, offering:
- Upfront design-for-manufacturability studies for both plastics and metal
- External gas-assist molding for the plastic skins
- Sheet metal fabrication
- Full product assembly
- Supply management that supports both quality and procurement practices for over 400 unique parts from 63 suppliers
- Robust ISO-certified quality management systems
F’real products are now available in over 4,000 retail locations in 47 states across the U.S. To satisfy your cravings, go to www.frealfoods.com for the F’real product nearest you. Enjoy!
Contact: Vladan Jankovic, Mack Program Manager
F’real® is a registered trademark of F’real Foods, LLC.
Solar Powered Trash Compaction
Consider the facts:
- BigBelly holds up to five times the volume of ordinary trash receptacles.
- Big Belly can displace four out of five trash pick-ups, dramatically reducing transportation and labor costs.
- BigBelly reduces greenhouse gas by 80%.
- BigBelly can hold 160 gallons of trash.
- BigBelly gets 100% of its energy from the sun and uses less than 5 watt hours/day.
So what is BigBelly? The world’s first solar-powered trash compactor. And today, thousands have been sold across the U.S. and in 17 countries around the world.
About the product
Instead of requiring a grid connection, BigBelly’s solar photovoltaic panel turns daylight into electricity, which is stored in a small battery inside the unit. This allows the machine to run at night and during prolonged periods of inclement weather.
Similar in size to an ordinary trash receptacle, its capacity is five times greater (160 gallons) because of compaction. Increased capacity reduces collection trips and can cut fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. BigBelly can displace four out of five trash pickups, dramatically reducing transportation and labor costs.
When the unit is ready for collection, a wireless monitoring system uses text message technology to signal a web-based database that the unit is full. This allows managers to optimize collection efficiency on a real-time basis.
Optional recycling units can be attached to the compactors to separate trash from recycling. Both units have the same overall design and appearance, but the recycling units are non-compacting with 50-gallon inner bins.
Mack molds the solar bubble of high-impact, UV-resistant polycarbonate resin, which must be perfectly clear to expose the solar panel below to the sun. Mack also fabricates the back panel and door out of metal, procures over 150 unique parts, and totally assembles both the compactor and recycler for direct shipment to BigBelly Solar’s customers.
Built to order, the product is highly customizable and can include custom paint; silk-screened logos or artwork; vinyl wraps with custom artwork, stickers, and advertising panels; cigarette snuff plate; bear latch and hot weather handles; two different fronts (paper or can) for the recycling units, and wireless technology.
Philadelphia Case Study
Recently, the city of Philadelphia replaced 700 regular trash receptacles with 500 solar-powered trash compactors and 210 single-stream recycling units. Now, rather than making 17 trips each week to empty 700 receptacles (annual cost: ~$2.3 million), the city now collects only five times per week at an annual operating cost of approximately $720,000 – a 70% savings. Performing 17 collections each week required 33 workers on three shifts; five collections per week under the new program require only nine workers on a single shift. The other workers have been reassigned to other, more productive tasks.
Highlights of the program include:
- BigBelly Solar CompactorImmediate savings: By entering into a three-year financing arrangement, the city has no up-front capital cost and will realize collection cost savings in the first year of approximately $850,000.
- Ongoing savings: Philadelphia will save nearly $13 million in cumulative collection cost savings over the next 10 years, net of the equipment cost.
- Annual operating cost reduction of 70%: Compaction reduces collection demand, which directly reduces operating costs and associated vehicle fuel use and emissions.
“As the global cry for alternative energy sources heightens, we are especially proud of the work we did with BigBelly Solar to transform this award-winning, solar-powered product from concept to reality,” says Jeff Somple, president of Mack Molding’s Northern Operations. “It derives its energy from the sun, significantly reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It is gaining widespread interest, as waste management is an everyday issue that spans the globe. And it has done all this while creating ‘green’ manufacturing jobs right here in Vermont.”
Contact: Leslie Bradley, Mack Program Manager