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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Best Practices for Machining HYTAC® Plug-Assist Materials

Machining syntactic foam is not like machining other materials such as wood, aluminum or plastic. That’s why we have created guides to help toolmakers and thermoformers select the right tools and the right geometry for machining and cutting HYTAC® syntactic foams from CMT.

Properly machined, HYTAC® materials generally require minimal extra polish or surface preparation.  Following our guidelines will improve surface quality of the finished plug and aid consistency of plug performance.

Tools must be sharp to obtain a satisfactory surface finish when machining HYTAC® products. High helix geometry with a special point for upward chip flow, smooth sidewall and improved bottom finish is recommended. Dull cutters or incorrect geometries will result in poor surface conditions. High speed steel cutters are quickly dulled and are not suitable for use with syntactic foams. Solid carbide cutters are preferred due to the sharp edge and long life that may be obtained. Diamond coated tools may last longer, but are not required and have not been found to provide additional benefit in machining.

Once the tool is selected, dialing in an optimal feed rate on any CNC milling machine is done using the formula “Feed Rate = Chip Load x Spindle RPM x # of flutes.”  Chip load is the measure of thickness removed by each cutting edge (flute) in a single rotation.  The intended chip load for milling tools should be available from your tool supplier.  Optimal speeds, feeds and depth of cut when turning are listed on our turning guide.

If you have a new  job or just some questions about plug machining or polishing, contact us today

CMT Materials, Inc. To Expand in Europe with New Facility in Netherlands

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CMT Materials, Inc. To Expand in Europe with New Facility in Netherlands

May 14, 2013 – Attleboro, MA

CMT Materials, Inc. will open a new location in The Netherlands this year. The new facility will include full inventory, sales and customer service personnel, and cut-to-size services.  “By setting up a physical presence that is centrally located in Europe, we will be better able to serve our European customer base,” says Terrence Woldorf, General Manager. “We recognize that our customers need quick turnaround times for many new thermoforming projects. This new location will allow users to get our HYTAC® products within 2-3 days.”

The new facility will provide same-day shipping within Europe, reducing lead times and shipping costs. The full inventory of HYTAC® syntactic foam products will be available in all sizes of rods and sheets. The company expects to begin shipping orders directly from the new facility on September 1. Details will be sent directly to customers over the summer.

About CMT Materials

CMT Materials is the acknowledged leader in the design and development of syntactic foams for use as plug-assist materials. The innovative HYTAC® family of products has been designed specifically for the thermoforming industry.  Plug assist technology allows plastics processors to reduce starting gauge, reduce cycle times and improve 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. For more information, visit www.cmtmaterials.com.

CMT International Report: Chinaplas 2013

According to official tallies from show organizers, Chinaplas 2013 drew 114,000 visitors from around the world. From the perspective of your humble correspondent, rumors of a decline in the plastics industry have been greatly exaggerated, at least on evidence of our booth traffic. We saw visitors from China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, just to start with the Asian countries. Mexico, Brazil, Israel, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Netherlands and India were also represented as engineers and managers from toolmakers and thermoformers all stopped at our booth to talk/learn about syntactic foam for plug assist.

New CMT booth at Chinaplas New CMT booth at Chinaplas

It would appear that the efforts of our local distributor (Melchers Trading) to educate the market about syntactic foam have paid off as many customers came to the booth with specific questions on grades of HYTAC® material and how best to machine/polish them into plug assist shapes. While some processors continue to use basic materials such as POM or nylon for low performance requirements, the level of sophistication has clearly increased over the past 2-3 years. More complex parts, multi-layer materials and demanding customers mean that thermoformers require higher performance plug assist materials. Low thermal conductivity and dimensional stability are two key reasons why the HYTAC® line of plug assist materials continues to increase in popularity in these dynamic markets. Polypropylene cups seemed to be a popular topic and several thermoformers who were running plastic at the show were extruding and forming PP.

Chinaplas 2014 will return to Shanghai and we will certainly be there again. In the meantime, our 2013 calendar is booked solid with the following events:

AMI Thin Wall Packaging Conference: June 17-19, Chicago IL

Penn College Heavy-Gauge Thermoforming Workshop: June 18-20, Williamsport, PA

Penn College Thin-Gauge Thermoforming Workshop: June 25-26, Williamsport, PA

SPE Thermoforming Conference: September 9-12, Atlanta, GA

K 2013: October 16-23, Dusseldorf, Germany

Field Notes: AMI Thin Wall Packaging Conference

CMT participated in the 2nd annual AMI Thin Wall Packaging Conference this week in Wheeling, IL. This was the first time that we attended this seminar and based on what we heard and who we met, it is likely that we will return next year.

AMI is a global market research firm and they brought together some major players from the world of plastics packaging. For companies like CMT that operate in the B2B space working with toolmakers and thermoformers, it is always valuable to expand the frame of reference beyond the engineering challenges of our daily work. Not only did we hear from upstream resin suppliers such as Milliken Chemical (who debuted an interesting new app), major brands such as General Mills, Danone and Kraft Foods provided insight into the importance of customer acceptance of new package design. We had the opportunity to talk about the critical role that our syntactic foam plug-assist materials play in overall package design and finished part quality. Thermoformers, toolmakers, sheet suppliers and major converters as well as some injection molding suppliers were all present at the table-top exhibition. Barrier film technology, in-mold labeling and retort packaging were just a few of the topics presented.

Down-gauging and light-weighting were two key topics and ones that are central to our value proposition. The ability to reduce the starting thickness of thermoforming sheet (source reduction) while maintaining the integrity of package and the contents within provide clearly documented financial and environmental benefits. In addition, lower weight parts also contribute to improved end-of-life processes (waste reduction).

We frequently talk to our partners about the interplay of plug material, plug design, material selection and sheet temperature. During the AMI show, we were glad to hear about some new projects where people were talking not only about down-gauging, but also reducing sheet temperature. The topic of sheet temperature vs. oven temperature can be addressed in its own blog, but we were very pleased to hear that some people recognize the importance of running at the sheet’s optimal temperature.

In addition to technical presentations, we also heard interesting talks on market trends, including some statistics on M+A activity in the packaging space. There were 112 deals in the past 6 years, 60% of which were thermoforming-related. Of those deals, approximately 60% were done by strategic buyers and 40% were done by financial buyers. The speaker, John Hart from PMCF, sketched out 3 categories of deal types (low, mid, high) and provided EBIDTA multiple ranges for each: 5-6x for low; 6-7x for mid; 7-8.5x for high.

AMI are hosting the 8th annual European Thin Wall Event in Cologne this December and we are planning to attend.