Case Studies

Plastic Injection Moulded Front Panel Module - Premium Domestic Gas Boiler

Background

Advanced Plastics Ltd were awarded the contract to produce a Plastic Front Panel Module for a new premium domestic gas boiler by their long standing core customer - Ideal Heating.

The premium boiler range, known as ‘VOGUE’ showcases unique boiler innovation, it utilises modern technology with premium parts and components to provide the next step in domestic heating intelligence.

The complete design from component specification, manufacture and build through to consumer use is engineered with quality in mind. All models in the Vogue range deliver premium performance, reliability and value for money, carry a seven year warranty and are UK Manufactured.
   
Scope

Having traditionally utilised sheet steel with a painted finish for boiler front panels, Ideal Heating required a more aesthetically appealing solution for their new premium boiler, a plastic injection moulded front panel offered the opportunity for a profiled surface with distinctive styling lines, seamless integration of a hinged access door with dampened motion control together with a high quality sleek gloss finish.

Advanced Plastics were commissioned to by Ideal Heating to deliver the following elements of the project:-

➢    Material recommendation to ensure the most appropriate polymer was utilised to achieve a high gloss finish, robust feel and adequate stiffness.
➢    To provide ‘Design for Manufacture’ (DFM) support to ensure the product could be produced to a consistently high standard of quality and finish utilising the most cost effective means of injection moulding and assembly techniques.
➢    To provide ‘Tooling Feasibility’ analysis to ensure the required component design could be achieved without adding unnecessary complexity and cost to the injection mould tools.
➢    To autonomously manage the sourcing, manufacture and development of the suite of injection mould tools and assembly fixtures required to produce the module.
➢    To provide serial manufacture of the Front Panel Module for the life of the product to include just in time supply, vendor managed inventory and vendor sourced returnable packaging.
 
The bill of materials for the module consists of:-

➢    Front Panel – Single piece injection moulding 750mm x 450mm - 1.5Kg in weight.
➢    Access Door – Two piece double skin injection moulding - 1.0Kg in weight.
➢    Hinge Pins – Injection moulded 30% GF PA66 in lieu of traditional steel pins.
➢    Dampers x 2
➢    Door Magnets x 2
➢    Sealing and Insulation Panels x 7
➢    Badges x 2 (Ideal and Vogue Model)
➢    Sundry items (fixings, etc.)
➢    Controls Housing with Soft Feel Control Knobs, Illumination Lenses, Control Buttons, Printed Detail, Connection ID Labels and Programmer Insert Panels.

Challenges

This project posed some specific challenges for the injection moulder in that the Front Panel and Door had to offer an ‘as moulded’ faultless high gloss surface finish without any secondary coating being applied, the white colour carries a stringent colour match, UV resistance and contamination specification and must provide the durability and robust feel associated with a traditional painted steel panel.

Design Phase

Advanced Plastics utilised their extensive experience in the design and manufacture of technical injection mouldings and assemblies to ensure the most robust and cost effective design was achieved.

Working closely with our selected material supplier and toolmaker we coordinated the DFM activity with the customer’s design team, we attended regular design review meetings as frequently as daily at the most critical point in the design freeze phase.

Tooling Phase                            

This was our Core Customer’s first venture into an ‘all plastic’ Front Panel Module for their premium product range, together with the stringent A surface requirements the B surface geometry is particularly complex with a series of undercut features dictating numerous lifters and hydraulic cores being incorporated into the tool design.

It was therefore paramount that we selected the appropriate Tooling Partner with a proven capability in the design and manufacture of large and complex injection mould tools produced to exacting standards to ensure we delivered this ground breaking project in line with the high expectations of our customer.

Project control was also of paramount importance driving our decision to have these tools manufactured in the UK to ensure we could closely monitor progress and resolve any issues swiftly and effectively with a tooling partner who shared our stated core values of Partnership, Integrity, Respect and Commitment.


We selected Investment Tooling International – Manchester on the basis of them fulfilling the above requirements, their proven capability in producing large and complex injection mould tools, their previous track record and excellent reputation within the industry, thus keeping the whole project under close control and within UK shores.

Significant time and technology were expended at the tooling design stage to ensure we stood the best possible chance of a right first time result at the tooling maturation phase.

The technical expertise of Advanced Plastics and ITI was combined together with that of carefully selected external partners to ensure that all aspects of the tooling functionality were addressed.

Extensive moldflow analysis resulted in the selection of a two drop sequentially controlled valve gate system for the Front Panel moulding to avoid any visible weld lines or flow marks on the A surface, a balanced conventional runner system was selected for the 1+1 Door mouldings.

Mould cooling was analysed in detail to ensure cycle time optimisation and minimised post mould warping of the products.

The partnership of UK Moulder and UK Toolmaker proved to be a huge success in delivering the project on budget, on time and to the exacting quality standards required.

Advanced Product Quality Planning

A Process Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (PFMEA) was conducted to identify all risks within the manufacturing and assembly process, this prompted a number of controls to be implemented to either prevent or detect errors at the earliest possible stage of the process. The use of vision technology and Poka Yoke (error proofing techniques) assisted in achieving this.

Production Part Approval Process

Advanced Plastics provided comprehensive Initial Sample Inspection Reports (ISIR’s) for each individual component of the module together with the final assembly.

Process Capability Studies were conducted on all critical features with the process and tooling developed to achieve >1.67 Cpk

Capital Investment

In order to produce injection mouldings of this size Advanced Plastics invested in a new Injection Moulding Machine and Six Axis Automation Cell, a combined investment exceeding £500k.

The Engel Duo Machine with 1500t Clamp Force was selected for its compact footprint, high build quality, ease of setting and 5 year inclusive maintenance package, a second screw and barrel was purchased to ensure that white materials are processed free of contamination.  

The six axis Fanuc robot cell was provided by HiTech Automation who handled the interfacing with the Engel Machine together with the provision of a comprehensive training package.

Manufacturing

Serial Production takes place at Advanced Plastics world class manufacturing facility in Hull, East Yorkshire. The recently refurbished, energy efficient, 50,000 sq. ft. site houses twenty injection moulding machines ranging from 40t to 1,500t clamp force including automated insert moulding and 2K moulding, together with extensive assembly and finishing operations including Printing, Linear Vibration & Ultrasonic Welding and In-Line Assembly & Test facilities.

Processes utilised in the manufacture of the Front Panel Module include:-
➢    1,500t Injection Moulding with de-moulding via 6 Axis Robot.
➢    2K Moulding of Control Knobs.
➢    Assembly and Test with Vision Technology and Barcoding for Error Proofing.
➢    Digital Printing of Controls Housing.
➢    Pad Printing of User Interface Buttons.
➢    Ultrasonic Heat Stake of User Interface Button Set into Controls Housing.