Machinist and Production Process

At our company, we have skilled craftsmen and machinists who are trained on a consistent basis. We have several machinist onsite as well as millwrights, who perform certain hands-on maintenance tasks including leveling, aligning and installing machinery.

In terms of our production process, we begin by bringing in the raw stainless tool steel and aluminum and cutting it to the required dimensions as per the customer’s requirements. We then machine it and grind it to the required final size. Next, we prep it for wire EDM, and once the profile is cut to the final tooling drawing, we mount it to fit with one of the dozens of adapters we have in stock. The tools are then blended from the adapters and polished. Once all of these steps are completed, the extrusion die is ready for testing and flowing in.

The vacuum sizer in most cases is made from aluminum or stainless steel. We machine the blocks to size and then send it out for wire EDM. Once it comes back, we put it into the vacuum slots and cooling lines. We run in the vacuum sizer and tool to get everything into spec. Once complete, we send the vacuum sizer out for anodizing or plating, and sometimes in the case of stainless steel we chrome plate the sizers as well.

The main purpose of this process is to keep longevity in mind. We make products that last and we are thorough in maintenance. Our licensed tool and die makers and machinists are all extremely hard workers, and we take pride in the quality of our work by creating extrusion dies and process solutions for each and every project.

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The Current Status of Resin Prices for Various Thermoplastics

We offer competitive pricing on different thermoplastic extrusions, primarily using Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethylene (PE) to name a few.  As the prices change, it reflects in our pricing. Most prime grades of polyethylene and polypropylene pricing are remaining flat as spring approaches.  Slower demand, tighter balanced supplier inventories and lower feedstock costs are all factors playing into this flat price rate.

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PP is showing a decrease due to high stock levels compared to recent history.  This has caused a slight decrease as buyers that were hesitant to buy at the higher depleted their inventories.  Now we should start to see prices level out as demand increases again.

PVC resin prices dropped by one cent per pound in October and were expected to be flat or down another cent in November at the end of last year.  However, there has been increased interest from export markets. In general, PVC accounts for around 20% of all plastics used globally, and China continues to be the major player and largest exporter, satisfying 35% of global demand. Europe and North America, meanwhile, are both responsible for a further 15% each.

When it comes to material cost increases a 5% increase in material cost does not reflect directly in the part price.  Lots of factors are involved such as labor, machine time, and packaging all plays into the part costing.  This kind of increase could mean a 1.5-3.5% part cost increase depending on the amount of material in the part, the heavier the profile the higher the % of increase.

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Digital Signage Market in 2014

Technology plays a huge part in point of purchase (POP) displays now more than ever, and it’s actually put a fun new spin on POP displays, as there are so many different ways to make products stand out through the use of digital signage. Here at United Plastic Components, we produce extrusions and holders for tablets, and we use PVC to create these displays/signage. We manufacture temporary and permanent displays that use led strip flexible holders for back lighting for signage or lighting for highlighting products.

The digital signage market is now much more advanced and continues to make changes each and every year. In just the last few years alone, a number of new digital tools have been integrated into retail stores to enhance display racks, signage and other traditional POP displays.

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As we move further into 2014, there will be more of a focus on visual and aesthetic changes as display manufacturers explore more creative configurations for displays. There will be more multi-display installations and sizes that will vary messages as well as enhance engagement with multiple audiences all at one time.

There will also likely be more touchscreen technology integrated into POP displays. It will allow customers more flexibility to drive their own shopping experience by being able to customize product offerings. Having digital signage and similar technology is becoming an expectation by customers who are driving the demand and therefore prompting businesses to start implementing it.

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Frosted LED Lenses

UPC Frosted LED lensesFrosted LED lenses are acrylic light lenses that come out of an extrusion die with a textured surface similar to sandblasting. The material reacts when heated to create a texture/frosted surface.  This frosted surface diffuses the light of the LED. It can smooth and blend the appearance of the LEDs, making them less harsh.  High impact resistant grades help diffuse appearance with exceptional light transmission and high haze.

UPC Frosted LED lenses 2United Plastic Components has been manufacturing frosted LED lenses for several years.  In the past, customers had been using acrylic sheet and sand blasting it. They would first form or heat bend the acrylic and sand blast it afterwards. The frosted LED lenses remove a few of these steps, making the process much easier, and faster.

These frosted LED lenses are used for a number of things, such as store, office, and residential lighting, Point of Purchase Displays etc.  Extruded Frosted LED lenses are much more cost effective because it all but removes the labor portion of the process. You are also able to design in clipping details and other features that you ordinarily wouldn’t be able to get when just using a formed sheet. With a sheet, you’re only able to bend at certain angles and radiuses. With the LED lenses, we can custom design to your specifications and cut tooling to match that exact design.

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Retail Point-of-Purchase Displays Made of Extruded Plastics Really ‘POP’ as They’re Working Overtime This Holiday Selling Season…

store displayRetailers have a shorter holiday selling season this year, with Thanksgiving happening so late this month. Businesses, big and small, are lamenting the lack of time to make more sales. One recent article from MoneyNews.com says, “U.S. retailers have little room for error in the fast-approaching and shortened holiday shopping season, a period that typically generates 30 percent of annual sales.”

In addition to relying on their websites and online channels to promote holiday sales, retailers are also going “back to basics” with traditional merchandising techniques that boast time-proven effectiveness. Among these techniques: point-of-purchase (POP) displays.

Take a close look at any bricks-and-mortar retail location and you’ll find POP displays all around you. End-caps, kiosks, shelf talkers and counter displays are all part of the POP family, and there are many other variations. POP displays are strategically designed and positioned to attract the attention of buyers, to differentiate products among competitors, and to boost sales – and their effectiveness as sales promotion tools has been proven over many decades.

Right now, in the holiday selling season 2013, POP displays are working overtime during the abbreviated selling season. When you’re doing your holiday shopping (or when you’re shopping at any time of the year), take note of all the POP displays around you. You’ll see that most POP displays are designed and manufactured using plastics, whether it’s  extruded plastic material being used, vacuum formed sheet, or injection molded plastic.

Three types of extruded plastic materials commonly used in the manufacturing of POP displays are:

  • PVC – (Poly Vinyl Chloride) a rigid thermoplastic. Originally introduced in the early 1930s, PVC’s popularity has grown steadily because of its many applications, durability, rigidity and competitive price
  • Flexible PVC – As its name states, a “flexible” version of PVC offering a wide range of flexibility and applications based on varying levels of plasticizer being used in processing.  When used as a co-extruded material can provide a hinge point, or gripper to hold signage.
  • Styrene – A petroleum byproduct, Styrene is commonly used for packaging, signage and other related applications.  With a lighter specific gravity, large parts can be made to be less expensive than most other materials.

If you’re designing or manufacturing POP displays and have questions about the types of extruded plastics you should be using – we’ll be happy to tell you more about how POP displays made with extruded plastics really “pop” and work to boost retail sales!

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Get Ready to Pick the Right Polymer if you’re in the Auto Manufacturing Industry!

Auto Industry Growth Will Drive Demand For More Extruded Plastic Products

The pace of production in the auto industry is picking up: According to Bloomberg.com, “The U.S. auto market is poised for a fifth straight year of growth for just the second time since World War II.” Growth in the auto industry means production and growth in the plastics industry will soon follow suit. Auto sales are expected to continue to increase through next year, and this will drive demand for more extruded plastic products. Why? Because (and you may be surprised by this fact), according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), plastics make up more than half of the volume of the average automobile produced today!

The ACC says plastics “hold the key to a host of safety and performance breakthroughs in today’s cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs.” The ACC also notes that while today’s plastics make up 50 percent of the volume of new cars, plastics only account for 10 percent of the weight. It’s the light-weight nature of plastics, the versatility and the innovative design capabilities of plastics that all contribute to the safety and performance features and fuel efficiency consumers expect from the automobiles they buy today.

Auto manufacturers have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting the materials used for extruded plastic products for auto designs and projects. How the plastic components are used (their applications) typically are what dictate the types of materials selected to make plastic extrusions.

Here are some of the common polymers and compounds often used in extruded plastic components for automotive projects – materials we keep in stock and on hand for our customers at United Plastic Components (UPC):

  • Santoprene (a.k.a. “TPV” or Thermal Plastic Vulcanite) – typically used for weather stripping, glazing boots for window seals, commercial glazing gaskets, expansion joints and gaskets. (P.S. UPC is one of the largest extruders of Santoprene in Canada!)
    • 5700Flexible PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) – because it offers excellent resistance to water and aqueous solutions, flexible PVC is used for door and window components, fabric coating, extruded wire covering and pipe.
    • TPO (Thermal Plastic Olefin) – TPO was designed primarily for automotive exterior ornamentation applications requiring low thermal expansion characteristics and a moderate degree of flexibility.
      • PP or Glass-Filled PP (Polypropylene) – selected for its strength, impact resistance and high-temperature capabilities, and often used for electrical applications. Glass reinforced polypropylene compounds are used in structural components that require higher levels of stiffness, strength and heat resistance.
      • ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadine-Styrene) – a terpolymer of acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene, ABS is typically used for automotive hardware, pipe and plated items.

If you have any questions about extruded plastic components,  polymers and compounds,  or more specific information about each of the polymers mentioned in this post –please don’t hesitate to ask!

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The Importance of STEM Education—For Us, Our Country, and Our Future

It’s widely recognized that one of the reasons American manufacturing has made a comeback—and one of the main ways to ensure it will continue—is through innovation.  An industry that is constantly growing, looking to the future, and making concrete progress is one that will succeed.

collegeYet numbers also show that the country’s manufacturing industry is finding it harder and harder to fill positions with skilled workers.  At the same time, American students are falling behind their foreign peers in certain areas, particularly math and science.  So it stands to reason that a generation of kids less versed in technical skills cannot help a future workforce that needs these same skills.  By the same token, it makes sense that by properly educating kids in STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—we can help build a generation of people qualified for good manufacturing careers; this could be a win/win for both the kids and the industry.

This is why initiatives throughout the country are working to ensure just that happens.  From the federal government’s Educate to Innovate program—a public-private program dedicated to advancing STEM education—to programs throughout the country sponsored by local and state governments, people around the country have gotten behind the movement.  Another example is the STEM Education Coalition, which works to “to raise awareness in Congress, the Administration, and other organizations about the critical role that STEM education plays in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.”

Personally, we believe in the importance of STEM skills for our country and our industry. At UPC, we regularly train our employees—and send them for outside training—to further their knowledge of the industry and their individual roles. We take their skills and expertise seriously. We seek to hire those who have great knowledge and experience, while also hiring employees with true potential, allowing them to work their way up through the company. We place importance on their learning while on the job, while encouraging potential and future manufacturing workers to learn, in advance, what it takes to have a successful, rewarding career in the industry.

American manufacturing is poised to become better than ever—and with the right education, our children and grandchildren will reap the benefits.

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