Vacuum Molding Process Used For American Airlines
This part for American Airlines’ baggage handling trolleys was manufactured by ATI using the Vacuum Molding process. Additionally, we employed Design For Manufacturing to avoid potential problems later in the process. A challenging part due to size and material used, this project exemplified good use of DFM. Beginning early in the process, we spent necessary design time with their engineers. Thus, we were able to solve ongoing issues they were encountering with their fleet of trolleys.
Creating Solutions to Challenging Thermoforming Problems
First of all, the steel lids on their existing trolley carts were not weathering well. The weathering resulted in the need for constant maintenance to combat rust and keep them looking good. Our initial challenge was in finding a material that would alleviate fading from prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays. To remove the weatherability issues, we chose a TPO (thermoplastic olefin) material. In addition, we chose a custom color package created by PolyOne to match the American Airlines’ blue. Finally, PolyOne tested the material with accelerated UV exposure in their Xenon chamber to ensure durability.
The second problem we were tasked with was the phenomenon of rain and snow sliding off the slick steel top. This issue frequently resulted in a drenching of the baggage handling crew. To alleviate this issue, we manufactured the cover with “gutters” to channel the run-off.
Challenges of Heavy Gauge Thermoplastic Material
An additional challenge for us was working with a TPO sheet in this large a part, 6′ x 11′. We had to deal with the excessive sag created by the weight of the sheet when heated during the vacuum forming process. Due to the low hot strength of TPO, a challenge is created in getting the sheet from the oven to the forming station. Even after being removed from the oven, the sheet continues to sag at the forming station. Hence, we used a combination of timing and zone heating techniques, which resolved the issue.
You can see these parts at all major American Airline’s terminals.