Materials & Processes
Applied Product Design has a great deal of experience in working with a wide variety of materials and technologies. This has assisted our clients in developing their ideas in the most cost effective and applicable way to meet their specifications. Some of the key materials and processes that we work with are as follows:-
Sheet Metal is metal that is manufactured into a flat section, usually varying from under 1mm to over 5mm in thickness. Due to its thin section, holes of varying shapes and sizes can be punched or laser cut into the material. The sheet metal can then be cut and bent in order to create a final component or product. The materials that we regularly use in a sheet format include Aluminium and Steel. These materials are ideal for making into chassis and enclosures for products. Once cut and bent into shape the finished fabrication can then be painted to create a finished component or product.
Extrusion is a process used where a constant cross section of material is required. To create this the material can be drawn or pushed through a die of the required cross section. Examples of the type of sections vary from simple round ones that would form a pipe, through to much more complex shapes that may be used for frames or beams etc. Some of the advantages of this process are that the finished aluminium extrusion has a very good surface finish, often requiring no further work. As well as this long pieces of material can be generated, technically of unlimited length, although very long lengths would prove impractical for handling, storage and transport.
Plastic extrusion uses a very similar process to aluminium, and again is used to create material where a constant cross section is required. In order to do this the plastic usually starts out as small pellets or plastic chips which are heated up before being pushed or pulled through the require die. Similar to the aluminium simple sections may include pipes, through to more complex sections for frames such that may be use on windows etc.
Vacuum moulding is a type of moulding process where sheets of plastic are formed over a single sided mould tool. The tool is often manufactured from wood or aluminium. To generate a moulding the sheet of plastic is clamped into position and heated up to soften it. Once the plastic is in the correct state the tool and mould are brought together and then a vacuum applied so that the plastic is sucked down onto the tool to take up its shape. After cooling the plastic and the mould tool are then separated, leaving the shape of the tool in the plastic sheet. A common use for this process is to produce trays, bubble type packaging etc.
Injection moulding is generally used to mould plastic into more complex shapes than vacuum forming. The process requires a mould tool, which often consists of two halves. These are usually made from steel or aluminium, which have machined into them the inverse shape of the finished product. The mould tool is then put into a machine that injects molten plastic into it under high pressure. The molten plastic then takes up the shape of the mould tool. Once the tool has cooled it is then opened and the finished moulded component is ejected out. The injection moulding process is used in manufacturing many day to day objects varying in size from a few millimetres for pins etc through to large components like garden chairs.
Die casting in some ways is similar to Injection Moulding, in that injecting molten material into a tool under high pressure produces the end product. Many castings are made from non-ferrous metals such as zinc. The tools used for die casting usually consist of 2 halves, which will contain a cavity of the inverse shape of the component. The tool is then closed and the molten metal forced in under high pressure. Once cooled the tool can be opened and the component ejected. The process is then repeated to make further components as required. In some circumstances several components can be cast at the same time by having more than one cavity for each component.
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. This is a method of control used on many modern machines, which enables high accuracy in the processes being performed. Such processes may include:-
Used to punch holes in the shape of the punch usually into sheet metal.
Laser cutting is used often for sheet metals to cut out complex shapes, or shapes that a punch may not exist for.
Water Jet Cutting
Water Jet cutting is used for similar applications to laser cutting, but it has the advantage that the material does not get heated up in the process.
Lathes and Milling Machines
Lathes and Milling machines can be used either for machining components, or to help manufacture tools such as used for the various moulding processes described above.
Ultrasonic welding is a process that can be used to join plastics together. The process works by vibrating the join between two components at an ultrasonic high frequency whilst under pressure. This creates a weld between the two components, which holds them together. This can be useful as no other components or substances are required in order to join the components.