Foam Fabricators works with end users (like DeWalt) and packaging partners (like Sonoco) to develop accurate designs on a "quick-turn" basis.
Available in hardware/home improvement stores across the nation, the DW744 10-in. portable table saw from The DeWalt Industrial Tool Co. has been dubbed "the undisputed rip-fence champion" of table saws. With a table surface that measures 261/2 x 191/4 in., and weighing in at a hefty 64 lb, the saw is most likely one of the undisputed heavyweights of portable saws, as well. Because of this, particular care must be taken to package the saw, along with its accessories, to prevent damage during shipping. Molded EPS was the logical solution. Below you can see the final pack, and CNC prototypes being produced in one of four CNC-Design Centers Foam Fabricators maintains in the U.S. These are in addition to several other localized engineering labs.
When DeWalt decided to repackage the saw to include a table stand, previously available only as a separate option, it required a new foam endcap design. The company placed the project in the hands of Hartsville, SC-based Sonoco Products Co., a $2.7-billion global manufacturer of industrial and consumer products and a provider of packaging services.
Sonoco's Protective Packaging Div., responsible for the original package design, enlisted the design aid of our Jefferson, GA, arm of Foam Fabricators, which cut to the chase, using its new CNC (computer numerical control) machine to quickly turn around a complex, uniform prototype.
Foam Fabricators purchased this Techno Model 160 Production CNC router from Techno-Isel. The robust machine, which offers an accuracy 0.003-in./ft, and 0.00005-in. resolution and repeatability, is designed for production routing and drilling of a wide variety of materials, including wood, plastic, MDF, solid surfacing materials and nonferrous metals.
The capabilities included in the Techno CNC system (above) were perfect for Foam Fabricators' needs. Providing a working area of 59 x 50 in., the machine allows the company to produce a large number of parts per run. After a piece of foam stock is fastened to the CNC machine, the operator hits the "start" button, and the sample is carved automatically with a 5-HP Colombo spindle from PDSColombo. The machine does not require any supervision, except to remove the finished piece and attach a new foam block to repeat the process. With the machine, a typical order for 20 samples can be completed in as few as two days. And, large sample orders no longer require the production assistance of engineers: The machine is simply kept supplied with stock and runs until the order is finished.
Also enabling flexibility is the machine's z-axis height of 12-in. and its raised gantry, which allow the company to produce very large parts when necessary. And, while the machine's top-rated speed of 800 ipm far outstrips the 150-ipm limit imposed by foam, Musgrove (F.F. Engineer) says the capability enables the company to produce parts as fast as the material can be cut.
Another useful feature is the machine's vacuum holdown table. "Typically, with most machining operations, you take the workpiece and actually clamp it to the table, but you can't do that with foam very well; it tends to deform, and bend and break," explains Musgrove. "The vacuum table allows us to maintain a firm hold on the block while it is being machined."
After viewing the prototype of the proposed packaging for the table saw and stand, DeWalt attests to the accuracy of Foam Fabricators' new sample-making system.
For Foam Fabricators, having the Techno CNC machine has paid off in a number of ways: faster turnaround of samples, more accurate prototypes, better satisfied customers and the ability to take on more complex jobs. In addition, having a CNC machine helps the company compete against other foam molders. "Making samples on a CNC machine is becoming the norm in our industry," explains Musgrove. "With the Techno machine, we have found a cost-effective way to meet this requirement."
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