Coffee, Baseball, And Polycarbonate

Today we’re highlighting a recent application by our Spokane branch. Recently we were contacted by Dutch Bros. Coffee who has a location at Avista Stadium: home of the Spokane Indians baseball team. Dutch was looking for a clear plastic to protect their storefront signs and graphics. General-purpose polycarbonate was chosen for its excellent impact strength which will prevent breakage from anything from vandalism to accidental bumps. In addition, the polycarbonate is much more forgiving with drilling than acrylic – and several screws were tapped into the sheet. The polycarbonate was 3/16″ thick for this application. The picture below shows the completed application.

For help with your polycarbonate needs please get in touch with 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.

terrapin

 

 

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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Tuffkast: The Problem Solver

Plastics solve problems and they can overcome issues that plague traditional materials such as metals and wood. But for the most part a plastic still has some weak spots that under certain situations can create a trade-off in properties: the optimal material but not perfect. Redco Tuffkast; however, is our material with the fewest weak points and therefore can solve problems that other plastics simply cannot.

Tuffkast is most commonly a replacement for nylon in areas where nylon suffers deficiencies: water absorption, impact, and low-temperature performance. In each case Tuffkast’s properties are superior to nylon: it absorbs much less water, is an excellent impact and low-temperature material. This means in applications where nylon is commonly used Tuffkast can be substituted, applications such as bearings and sheaves. To reduce the coefficient of friction, Tuffkast is available in both oil-filled and dry lubricant grades. Tuffkast has excellent wear abilities and impact resistance that is over double that of nylon.

Any drawbacks to Tuffkast are minimal. It does have a higher cost than many plastics of the engineering-grade tier but this is offset by its excellent performance. The higher coefficient of friction than materials it replaces (such as UHMW) needs to be considered but again, this can usually be offset by getting one of the lubricant filled grades. In general, Tuffkast is an extraordinarily versatile engineering plastic that is able to solve many problems other plastics simply cannot. For more information on Redco Tuffkast please contact us.

 

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Solution Spotlight: ULTEM Emergency Valve Replacement

As people involved in performance plastic solutions, things often move slow. Consultations, material tests, and products that sometimes involve several weeks lead time to manufacture. But every now and then that pace is broken up with an urgent situation. Recently one of our sales people was contacted by a client in the food service industry. They had a valve that was seizing up and could only run the plant at 1/2 speed. The OEM of the equipment gave a 5 week lead time for a replacement valve, which would have cost our client an enormous amount of production. Our sales person went to work, first quoting a replacement for the under-performing acetal valve, made out of higher performance Redco ULTEM. ULTEM is a high-performance plastic that has excellent physical properties, is very tough, can handle high temperatures, and machines very well.

After some quick back and forth verbal quoting we received the go-ahead to rush the valve with less than 48 hours to get our hands on the ULTEM, machine, and get it to the customer. The valve was installed and was a total success. In fact, the customer who has multiple machines using this valve, will be converting over to the Redco ULTEM version exclusively.

Redwood Plastics reps are committed to doing their best for our customers. And while we can’t always work miracles, we will give it our all when circumstances such as this emergency come up. To contact a Redwood Plastics representative click here.

Valve_ULTEM

When Is A Custom UHMW Extrusion Feasible?

Redwood Plastics regularly receives inquiries regarding custom UHMW polyethylene extrusions. In some cases, an extrusion is the most feasible choice, but in many cases an extrusion may not fit the budgetary requirements, especially for smaller runs. One often overlooked factor is that you need to consider tooling costs. Tooling can reach several thousands of dollars and in addition, our pricing has to factor in several hundred feet of wasted material as we calibrate the tooling. Tooling can also take 5-6 weeks with the extrusion run adding about 2 weeks onto that. Factor in shipping and you could be looking at 7-8 weeks to get your first run. There are also limits on extrusions, for example, we get many requests for very thin thicknesses of perhaps 1/16″ (almost like a ‘tape’) and this poses a few problems. First of all, we cannot have a tool done for materials so thing but even if we could, UHMW is not a dimensionally stable material and both expands and contracts due to heat and cold. It’s very possible that you would be delivered an extrusion that is out of tolerances, simply because of the ambient temperature.

A custom extrusion is a good idea; however, if you will have ongoing need for a certain profile and those needs are several thousand feet at a time. Then the tooling charge and run quantities may be a fit. If a custom extrusion is not a fit what are your options? Firstly, many standard profiles exist that could be adapted by machining. For example, 3″ x 3″ UHMW angle could be machined down to 2.6″ x 2.6″ if that were needed. Another option is having us advise on the closest standard profile to what you’re looking for and see if your application may be adapted for that profile (minimum order runs would still apply on standard extrusion, usually a few hundred feet). Secondly, if you do not have very tight tolerances and are looking for strip we may be able to manufacture that out of standard 4′ x 10′ UHMW sheets for an economical cost. We do this often machining custom U-Channels.

In conclusion, UHMW extrusions can provide an economical price per-foot cost for large, ongoing runs of material. However, due to tooling costs and minimum orders it may not fit many budgets. But that does not mean a solution cannot be found, simply that you may need to be creative in either adapting your design around existing “standard” profiles that are available or going the route of machining out of sheet stock. We would be glad to give you honest advice on any potential project you may have, so feel free to contact us today.

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