Formed Plastics’ quest for precision deburring
Plastics can be found in almost every industry to produce various products for different applications, so innovation is essential for growth and survival in the competitive landscape of plastics manufacturing.
Formed Plastics, an AS9100 contract manufacturer based in Carle Place, NY, with a history spanning over 75 years, understands this imperative. Specializing in rotational molding and thermoforming, Formed Plastics has evolved as a frontrunner in custom plastic production for industries like agriculture, medical, lighting, aerospace, and military and defense.
With an unwavering commitment to quality and consistency, Ron Joannou Jr., VP of Manufacturing, and Engineer Joey Morsi emphasize how the company is always looking for ways to advance its processes, but sometimes finding the right technology for a complex application can take years.
The right technology for a complex application
One solution Ron and Joey are actively seeking involves streamlining the finishing process of their spine boards. Each board requires deburring of excess plastic buildup around parting lines, or the visible seam around the part where the two mold halves connect.
The deburring process is done manually, and each board can take up to 10 to 11 minutes of non-stop work. “It’s an ergonomic nightmare,” explains Ron. Joey agrees, adding that the boards are also very large to comfortably handle.
Ron, who has been with Formed Plastics for over 40 years, has been dreaming about a solution that could help streamline the deburring process and remained optimistic that the technology would someday exist. “The big issue we’re running into is part-to-part variation,” explains Ron. “When you create a part using a mold, it wants to shrink after it cools down. We can sometimes prevent the shrinking by putting something in the mold, but if we take the part out hot, nothing prevents it from shrinking.”
To automate the deburring process, Ron and Joey explained how they would need a robotic solution with a vision system or some sort of sensor to detect those variations. “The trimming machines that we have on our shop floor operate using fixed spatial coordinates from common datums to trim parts fed onto the machine. However, these machines are unable to constantly adjust those coordinates to account for size variations,” says Ron.
Joey adds, “What we’re asking for is a solution that can pinpoint the exact locations of the variations on each part that needs to be deburred, which can be very difficult considering the variations may be significant across the production lot of parts.”
A call that sparked promise
One day, Ron received a call from HowToRobot. He explained his issue and his skepticism about the technology being available and was quite intrigued with their approach.
Instead of simply presenting a catalog of suppliers, they conducted meticulous research and came back with a small list of potential partners who were equipped to tackle their specific needs. “They did all the homework for us, and there were at least three options of very high potential,” admits Ron.
“We have one that’s a really great fit,” Joey adds. “And they even thought of a similar solution we discussed internally before having a conference call with them.” Formed Plastics sent them a part to play around with and they are excited to see what the results will be. “I’m not even sure they can do it, but the fact they have the technical mindset and the willingness to look is tremendous and makes us hopeful,” says Ron.
A hub for collaboration and support
Ron and Joey were also impressed by the functionality of HowToRobot’s platform, which acts as a hub for collaboration and support.
“Just having a tool where the supplier and user can communicate, collaborate, and review each other’s portfolios is a great asset,” says Joey. “Overall, the platform is well equipped and user friendly. It’s also very easy for us to identify what we need and elaborate on the details. It’s awesome altogether.”
HowToRobot’s personalized approach alleviated Ron’s previous apprehensions about the feasibility of an automated solution for their deburring process. “I just kept waiting for the ball to drop, but it never did,” says Ron. “Everything they said they would do, they always held to their end of the promise. They are giving us the best opportunity to connect with the right company that will help us achieve our goals.”
A future of growth and innovation
The partnership between Formed Plastics and HowToRobot has created the potential to revolutionize the plastics industry by automating a process previously thought impossible due to part variation challenges.
This venture into automation doesn’t just hold promise for Formed Plastics’ operations but also for the broader rotational molding industry. Ron and Joey now see the possibility of a solution that could set a precedent for other manufacturers facing similar challenges. The success of this endeavor could lead to transformative changes in how complex, variable parts are handled in manufacturing.
With HowToRobot’s guidance, Formed Plastics is well on its way to addressing a challenge that has persisted for decades and enhancing not only their productivity and efficiency but also the industry’s perception of what’s possible. As Formed Plastics steps into the new era of automation, they carry with them a legacy of ingenuity, adaptability, and a commitment to pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved in plastic manufacturing.