As a major global appliance manufacturer prepared to make consoles for a new line of laundry machines, the product team was at an impasse.
Marketers said that consumers demanded clean designs in bold metallic colors. But the engineers said that manufacturing options for those specs were limited to three processes, all of which came with significant drawbacks.
They could use metal, but it would restrict design freedom and show dents and scratches, leading to increased returns. They could use chrome-plated or painted plastic, but those operations require costly extra steps and come with associated environmental challenges. They could even borrow a page from outside the appliance market by molding parts from polymers pre-colored with metallic pigments. But molding highly pigmented polymers tends to accentuate the presence of unsightly weld lines, where the material flow fronts meet in the mold.
The team needed a breakthrough approach that would deliver the bold, metallic colors and attractive designs that consumers desired, with the cost efficiency and environmental friendliness that the company needed.
As the team pondered its options, they found an answer after taking a look at samples of a new pre-colored, rigid vinyl material with metallic appearance from PolyOne. Leveraging experience in metallic colors for a wide range of markets, PolyOne’s technicians provided a specific formulation and colors that met the manufacturer’s stringent requirements.
The product team quickly agreed the technology would provide the cost-effective manufacturing process the engineers needed and the desirable look the marketers needed. But what about the weld lines? If these lines showed up on the front of the console, they would ruin the quality aesthetic the team sought.
Close cooperation between the manufacturer and PolyOne’s design group avoided this issue. The solution involved optimizing the part's geometry as well as the gating system within the mold. Using computer design and simulation analysis, combined with years of experience in configuring vinyl parts, the PolyOne team suggested changes to the tooling that strategically positioned the weld lines to an area not readily visible to consumers.
Switching to a pre-colored, rigid vinyl material enabled the appliance manufacturer to meet its goal of producing an attractive line of laundry machines in bold, metallic colors while reducing costs — by more than $500,000 a year.
In addition, the manufacturer anticipates savings through fewer returns due to surface scratches and mars because the molded-in color extends through the console walls, helping to maintain appearance during shipping, handling and normal use.