We are often asked about plug design. It’s clearly a critical issue for toolmakers and thermoformers and we’ve written about it many times in the past. Over the past year, it seems like we have been getting more pointed requests for specific design advice including designing plugs ourselves. Now, this is not typically our forte because we focus on the material science behind HYTAC syntactic foams. There are many variables involved in tool/plug design and those closest to the project are usually best suited to the task. That said, we are always looking to keep current on the latest trends and technologies in our industry to help our customers and partners.
Perhaps due to an increasing amount of design engineers using Solidworks or other modeling software, it seems that simulation is becoming more widely used among thermoformers. It has been prevalent in injection molding for some time, but are thermoformers now ready to adopt a software solution and move to a data-driven world away from the days of the black art?
At the 2015 Thermoforming Workshop at Penn College, Compuplast (representatives of T-sim in N. America) presented findings from several tests and case studies where HYTAC plug materials were used. T-sim software (as shown in image above) was used both to predict and optimize outcomes of a formed part. One of the biggest takeaways was understanding how much time can be saved through running multiple iterations of design parameters. In fact, using design of experiment methodology to study parameter influences on a specific outcome (such as material distribution) means that users can analyze multiple variables to determine what has the largest impact on the outcome. As it relates to the plug assist, understanding the impact of plug geometry and plug position can be effectively modeled to optimize part design.
Click here to download a whitepaper that we published last year on optimizing plug geometry. We plan to publish new papers in 2016 on DOE for thermoforming. If you would like to partner with us on a specific application, let us know.