How to Choose the Right Plug-Assist Material

A question that we get asked a lot is, “What type of syntactic plug material should I use for my application?” Like most things in thermoforming, the answer is, “It depends.” However, we recognize that thermoformers and toolmakers want some degree of certainty when choosing plug materials. That’s why we have created a selector guide to help processors make an informed choice.

Each material is optimized for performance with different types of plastic sheet, temperature use, machining conditions, surface finish, durability and even pricing.  While every HYTAC® product is suitable for a wide variety of applications, making the “best” choice reduces machining costs, improves material distribution, enhances clarity, reduces plastic residue sticking to the plug and maximizes plug life.

Though some materials may initially cost more as a percentage of the overall tool price, it is important to understand the total cost of ownership. In other words, the savings generated over the life of a particular project should all be taken into consideration, from time in the machining center to set-up time, from production of initial parts to perfection of consistent parts, not to mention the cost of replacing any damaged plugs due to a production mishap.

Please refer to our CMT Material Selector Guide for more information. Of course, you can always contact us at any time and we’ll be happy to discuss your application with you.

The World’s Toughest Syntactic Foam – HYTAC® XTL

HYTAC®-XTL is the first material to combine the machined surface quality of an epoxy syntactic with the durability and dust free machining of a thermoplastic syntactic foam. Thermoformers and toolmakers report excellent performance when using XTL for plug assist.

HYTAC®-XTL was developed to offer an improved surface quality after machining when compared to our popular HYTAC-B1X.  This is particularly important when working with sticky or transparent plastics due to the challenge of polishing any thermoplastic syntactic material.

In addition to enhanced surface quality, HYTAC®-XTL has these outstanding attributes:

  • The highest toughness ratings for any syntactic foam
  • Superb machinability with no dust
  • Excellent where edge definition and detail are required
  • Low thermal conductivity
  • Low coefficient of thermal expansion
  • Excellent material distribution

CMT Materials will be promoting its new line of XTL thermoplastic syntactic foam at several major tradeshows this year including Chinaplas in May, SPE Thermoforming Conference in September and K in October.

CMT Materials, Inc. Awarded Grant for Continuous Improvement Program

Attleboro, MA – April 16, 2013

CMT Materials, Inc. Awarded Grant for Continuous Improvement Program

CMT Materials, Inc. has been awarded a grant to implement a Continuous Improvement through Lean Manufacturing program.  The funds support training over a two-year period in an ongoing effort to improve products, services and processes.

The firm, which designs and develops specialized syntactic foam materials for use in plastics and oceanographic industries, will focus on creating a work environment where all employees strive for perfection by removing successive layers of waste, reducing of lead times and costs, and improving efficiency, productivity and quality.  “Along with immediate benefits to today’s production, this program will allow us to continue our steady growth through the effective use of existing resources. It will also enable us to welcome new employees into a culture of personal and professional excellence,” says Terrence Woldorf, General Manager.

The project is funded by a Workforce Training Fund grant through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  The grant program is administered by the Commonwealth Corporation.  For more information on the program, visit www.mass.gov.

CMT Receives Grant for Continuous Improvement Program

CMT Hires International Sales Manager in Response to Market Demand

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 8, 2013 – Attleboro, MA

CMT Materials announced today that Conor Carlin has joined the firm as International Sales Manager. “I am looking forward to working with the team at CMT, a company that is deservedly recognized as a leader in its field.” Carlin, who worked for a decade in thermoforming machinery sales in the US and Europe, returns to plastics after completing an MBA program at Babson College in Wellesley, MA where he focused on entrepreneurship and sustainability. “With increasing demand for plastic packaging around the world, the production benefits provided by HYTAC® Syntactic Plug Assist Foams have resulted in increased time and resource requests from CMT. Conor will help us grow in those areas where we are seeing increased demand for our materials,” said Terrence Woldorf, General Manager at CMT. Carlin is the Editor of Thermoforming Quarterly, a Technical Journal of the Society of Plastics Engineers.

CMT Hires Int’l Sales Manager

Syntactic foam as a mold material?

Though syntactic foam is most widely recognized for top performance as a plug assist or pusher inside a mold, a recent study found high performance when used as a mold.  Andrew Sneeringer, a recent graduate of Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA, compared the performance of MDF board to HYTAC-C, a unique syntactic foam resin system that may be cast to shape at a customer facility.  Performance was compared for mold cost, mold integrity/usable life and part quality produced.  The results, as published in Thermoforming Quarterly Magazine (second quarter 2012), provide beneficial details for all.  Full articles become available over time for download at http://thermoformingdivision.com/quarterly-magazine-2 or contact CMT to discuss your immediate application needs.

Plug Assist Materials for Improved Forming of Transparent Polypropylene

The performance of a new class of copolymer syntactic foam (HYTAC-FLX and HYTAC-FLXT) was evaluated and compared to an engineered solid polymer (PEEK) and the industry’s leading thermoplastic syntactic foam (HYTAC-B1X) for use as a plug assist when forming transparent polypropylene (PP).  These new copolymer syntactic foams have been designed to minimize scratching and improve clarity when forming transparent materials and offer additional benefits in machining/polishing of plug materials.    The results, including the effect of plug geometry and surface finish quality, for gloss, scratch, haze, clarity, plug mark and material distribution are detailed in the study.

Syntactic Foam Offers Cost Savings for Heavy Gauge Thermoforming

Common problems encountered in the cut sheet thermoforming process include thin spots, webbing, crowning and plug/pusher mark off. Syntactic foam can be used in various ways with both positive and negative tooling to alleviate these issues. Syntactic plugs result in improved material distribution leading to opportunities for down-gauging. Compared to other common plug/pusher materials such as wood and felt-covered wood, syntactic foam results in minimal plug mark-off and improved plug durability. Attached article as published in The Thermoforming Quarterly provides details.

Tooling Choice Saves Money, Improves Quality

Along with many other variables affecting thermoforming output, the selection of plug assist material is critical. While syntactic foam is widely recognized as an ideal plug material, the choice of which specific grade to use is often left to “whatever we used last time.” Base level epoxy syntactic foams provide a great starting point into the technology and are widely used for a variety of applications. Looking beyond the basics, though, frequently offers significant performance improvements and cost savings. The attached case study provides detail about how one manufacturer gained a 10% increase in average thickness at a critical location (also highlighted as a whopping 41% increase in minimum thickness at the same point) when working with HYTAC-B1X, a thermoplastic syntactic foam, that offered greater friction due to its performance enhancing makeup. The attached article offers details.

See the HYTAC Selector Guide for a full range of offerings and recommendations.