Product Spotlight: Redco ULTEM

High performance plastics face extra challenges other materials do not. Because of the prevalence of consumer grade plastic, unfortunately plastic with much of the public has become synonymous with “cheap” – low price and low quality. Unfortunately, this is a complete myth for the three grades of plastics (engineering/industrial, high performance, and imidized) that are above consumer grade plastics. In fact, at the higher tiers of quality plastics widely outperform metal and other traditional materials in most applications. And this does come with a subsequent increase in product cost (though usually a lower “lifecycle cost”). But for your money you get quality in a phenomenal material.

ULTEM (polyetherimide – “PEI”) in its virgin form has an interesting amber/translucent color. It handles hot water and air well, up to 332 Fahrenheit in continuous operation. Its resistance to repeated steam sterilization makes it a prized material for medical tools and devices. ULTEM is also very useful to the electronics industry due to its dielectric constant and arc resistance. It is also resistant to gamma radiation and does not absorb water. ULTEM is considered a dimensionally stable plastic with high strength and rigidity allowing it to be machined precisely to tighter tolerances than other plastics would allow. It is also available in 10, 20, and 30% glass filled grades to offer even higher dimensional stability.

If you have a high heat application requiring a precisely machined part ULTEM may be the optimal plastic for you. To discuss this or other plastics please contact us.

Application Spotlight: Redco HDPE “Play” As Outdoor Tabletops

Recently Terrapin Brewing Co (www.terrapinbeer.com) approached us with an interesting application. They wanted to create a plastic table surface for use at their brewery but this offered some unique challenges. For one, the tables were outside which meant that a UV-stable plastic was in order. Secondly, a variety of properties were important: wear, impact, anti-slip and non-fading color would be desirable. But most importantly the color had to be green and a green that was fairly close to the branding of Terrapin Brewing Co. This is difficult in the world of industrial plastics where custom colors can mean extra costs, long lead times, and minimum order sizes. In addition, an industrial plastic such as UHMW would be overkill for this application and would even have some undesirable characteristics, such as being very slick.

But our representative working on the application made an intuitive leap. We had access to a specialized HDPE material Redco “Play” board designed for playgrounds. In our world of sawmills, mines, and heavy construction this isn’t something we focus on! Nevertheless, Redco Play satisfied all the requirements of the application: it was green, UV-stable, impact-resistant, wear-resistant and had an “orange peel” textured surface so glasses wouldn’t slide around. They were supplied pre-cut into 24″ x 24″ x 1/2″ (thick) squares with a minimum order of 16. Terrapin quickly installed these and you can see a picture they sent us below. They have said they are very satisfied with the material and this application.

For assistance with your applications contact us today.

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Greenhouse Season Calls For Twin-Wall Polycarbonate

After this unusually brutal winter in many parts of North America, people are finally starting to “pick up the pieces” and are getting hopeful with the first signs of spring. With that, many gardening enthusiasts start to think of the work that needs to be done outdoors. For some, that may mean greenhouse maintenance or a new greenhouse altogether and if so, twin-wall polycarbonate should be strongly considered for the wall and roofing material.

Twin-wall polycarbonate is a corrugated economy grade of polycarbonate specifically designed for use in greenhouses and awnings. Unlike standard “smooth” polycarbonate, twin-wall comes standard UV stable on one side, meant to be installed facing outwards. Traditional polycarbonate sheets do not come UV-stable in their general-purpose form, commonly stocked by plastic companies. In addition, the twin-wall sheet is actually made up of plastic cells which help trap heat: critical for a greenhouse! The product is most commonly available in clear (which you would want for a greenhouse) but can be brought in on special order in bronze (more popular for outdoor awnings).

One important misconception about twin or multi-wall polycarbonate is that “thicker = better”. In general, that’s not true. The reason being is that users sometimes do not take into account that while the thicker material does trap more heat, it also lets in subsequently less light. So while you might have a warmer greenhouse you will also have one where the plants may take longer to grow and crop yields might be disappointing. Customers tend to find that large-scale industrial greenhouses use thicker multi-wall polycarbonate and assume this transfers directly to their application but that is an oversimplification: industrial greenhouse operations often have the benefit of artificial lighting to compensate for loss of light transference through the plastic. Something that most small home greenhouses do not have. For more information on this you might be interested in this blog post: Multi-Wall Polycarbonate: Beware Tradeoffs

We have found that 4′ x 10′ x 6mm clear twin-wall sheets offer the best balance of properties for home greenhouse applications. We have had satisfied customers from the wet coasts to the frigid northern prairies of Canada – so we believe for the home consumer thicker multi-wall may not be cost-effective for what you actually need.

For a quotation on twin-wall polycarbonate please contact us today.

Please let us know how many sheets you need, what size, and where you’re located for the quickest response.

Specifying Outrigger Pads

When customers consider a switch to plastic outrigger pads they sometimes don’t know where to start in how to get their quotation. Often we’ll be told that the customer has a certain piece of equipment and to spec a pad size and thickness for them but this over-complicates things a little. Regarding the size of the pad the simplest way is to just get the plastic pads with the same dimensions as the stock pads that came with your rig. If you don’t have your stock pads we can help you out but we do need to know the area of your outrigger feet (length x width and are the feet square or round?).

Thickness is a little trickier to specify. UHMW plastic, commonly used for outrigger pads, is virtually unbreakable but having a pad that is too small and thin may lead it to bend around the outrigger foot as it is more flexible than wood and this may destabilize the rig. A general rule of thumb for most vehicles in the 20-50 ton range is to go with 1.5″ thick pads. 2″ thick is usually good for 50-70 ton but using 2″ pads for lighter equipment will result in less flex with the pad and a more stable lift. Above 70 ton 3″ thick pads are strongly recommended. To reiterate: the plastic will most likely not break on a thinner pad; however, the amount of flex may be undesirable. This is partially dependent on where the pads are being used – we have certain customers who only ever lift on concrete surfaces and thus can use a thinner pad because it has more support. Customers who lift on soggy soils may need thicker pads. As always, we refer to OSHA in that lifts should only ever be done on stable, level, ground.

For questions about our Redco Outrigger pads or to get some pricing please contact us for a quote.

Product Spotlight: Redco VHMW

While we’ve been able to supply VHMW for a few months now, only recently have we updated our website with a separate Redco VHMW section that can be found by clicking here. VHMW holds a new “middle ground” in the polyethylene family between HDPE and UHMWPE. Redco VHMW, which stands for “very high molecular weight”, can be substituted in applications where UHMW is considered to be “overkill”. The price on VHMW will be less than equivalent UHMW; however, only if you require several sheets of material. We do not currently stock VHMW and therefore freight costs, minimum orders, and small order fees may apply.

Compared to UHMW, VHMW has similar wear properties at a less expensive cost. It also has a better surface finish and is smoother than the typically skived UHMW sheet. Like UHMW, Redco VHMW performs very well in cold applications and is quite durable. It is also FDA and USDA approved for applications with food contact. Typical manufacturing tolerances on UHMW permit a (+-) 10% variance on sheet thickness; however, VHMW is manufactured with a variance of only 5%. The standard sheet size is 4′ x 8′ in 1/8″-1″ thick but custom sheet sizes are available on request.

For more information on Redco VHMW please contact us.

Product Spotlight: Redco Acetal

In the world of thermoplastics acetal (polyoxymethylene or POM) sometimes gets overlooked in applications as customers consider more well-known plastics such as UHMW, nylon, or PTFE. However, acetal offers excellent versatility, overall properties – all while being the most machinable thermoplastic. Unlike many other plastics, acetal is quite hard with a dense weight that reminds one more of a metal than a plastic.

Given this property, acetal can be used to replace precision machined acetal parts that were formally metal. Examples are gears, valves, and parts like the bolt in paintball markers. Acetal is often used as a nylon replacement in marine applications. This is because it can take similar load yet will not absorb water like the nylon will. But there is often no reason why you could not have specified acetal as a nylon replacement in the first place.

Where acetal really excels; however, is dimensional stability. It is one of, if not, the most dimensionally stable plastic. What this means is it can be machined to tighter tolerances than other plastics and will hold those tolerances better. In addition, it has excellent resistance to creep at normal operating temperature. If dimensional stability in an application is of top priority than acetal should be near the top of your list!

As with any plastic, acetal does have some concerns. They are attacked by strong acids and oxidizing agents so keep that in mind. Acetal comes in two common grades the homopolymer and copolymer, with the copolymer being better in hot air or water environments. Acetal is available in FDA approved grades, including metal and x-ray detectable grades. Acetal should not; however, be used with chlorine washdowns or cleaners. In that case PET should be selected as a substitute.

For answers to your questions about Redco Acetal please contact us.

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Plastic Plow Blades & Cutting Edges – Saving The Paving!

One of our employees recently took a couple photos after parking at an area we won’t disclose in Metro Vancouver a day after a recent snowfall. Upon pulling into his parking spot he noticed that every single stall had a large pothole where the snow had been pushed. Having been a weekly visitor to this lot he knew the holes were not there a few days before and therefore must have been caused by the snow removal contractor. The damage is extensive and will be a huge headache to fix! How much money will it cost to repair? What will happen to the reputation of this snow removal vendor?

And it was a completely avoidable disaster that never needed to happen.

Industrial plastic plow blades (or “cutting edges”) have been used for years to prevent this sort of issue. The cutting edges, made of polyurethane, rubber, or UHMW, are simple rectangular strips that are bolted to the bottom of a metal plow or bucket. Therefore it is this softer, non-damaging, plastic surface that actually touches the ground as the equipment scrapes and pushes the snow instead of the metal blade. There are multiple ways the metal-on-pavement contact can cause damage as besides creating potholes the blade can also destroy things like lights or reflectors embedded in the asphalt. Such as is common at airports for example.

The blades are an investment: even the least expensive blade will be at least a few hundred dollars. But how much is that few hundred dollar investment compared to losing contracts, a hit to your reputation as a contractor, and even potential lawsuits? The simple fact is you are “playing with fire” if you don’t have a high-quality plastic cutting blade – it’s an investment that must be made! Several plastics with different prices, properties, and suitability to applications are available so please contact us with the details of your application.

And save the paving!

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