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Striving for sustainability and internal efficiencies in manufacturing

One factor that will increasingly characterise manufacturing into the future will be a growing focus on efficiencies and sustainability, as well as energy and waste reduction, in the manufacturing process.

Here at DaRo we have already made a great deal of progress towards lean manufacturing and have introduced a number of important changes to improve our operations.

Reducing waste arising in production processes is not just something we do for ‘green’ reasons – it can also have a major effect on cost reduction. The challenge, however, is to shrink this waste without diminishing the effectiveness or quality of the process.

Every piece of material that goes to landfill costs money, so we look to recycle as much as possible. All metals are segregated and collected by recycling companies while any plastic that is left over from jobs is granulated and re-extruded back into sheet form to be reused on new projects.

Not only does this approach save the company money on material purchases, it also gives us greater control over our own materials in terms of stock levels and quality control.

We can achieve considerable savings per tonne by recycling our materials and it is not just us that benefit from the savings we reap. These efficiencies make us more competitive when buying our materials, savings we are able to pass on to our clients.

We also look at minimising any losses that may occur in the production process itself, such as reject reduction. Prevention is better than cure and by constantly monitoring our production processes and carrying out regular maintenance we are able to avoid waste.

Another area where we have done a lot of work is analysing how we can reduce energy use from our processes. Over time we have replaced a lot of our machines that were previously running on old hydraulic motors and upgraded them with newer machines that are powered by more efficient electric motors. Some of these, for example our CNC punching machine and our press brakes, which are both used in our sheet metal fabrication processes, now use a quarter of the energy they previously did to do the same amount of work and require less maintenance.

In addition, we are in the process of installing LED lighting across our workshop and storage areas using a product we helped to develop for a client. LED lights have a lifespan and electrical efficiency that is an improvement on incandescent lamps, and vastly better than most fluorescent lamps. We are replacing old 400 watt lamps with 100 watt LED lamps – and not only will they last longer and require less maintenance, they also produce a brighter light. If you consider we are replacing between 20 and 30 lights – that is a huge saving.

Other innovations to reduce energy consumption relating to lighting include sensors that will turn lights off if no-one has been in an area of the warehouse for a given time and that will gradually bring the lights on up to full power as the amount of natural light gradually diminishes.

Finding efficiencies and reducing waste is an on-going journey for us and we will continue to look for areas where improvements can be made.

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How sheet metal fabrication works

At DaRo we are experts at sheet metal fabrication allowing us to manufacture a wide variety of products from highly complex x-ray enclosures, telecoms equipment and heating and ventilation products through to simple components such as mounting plates, brackets and face plates.

But just what is sheet metal fabrication? Here’s how sheet metal fabrication works:

Sheet metal fabrication is a manufacturing process, which uses raw material in sheet form to produce components and structures. At the high end it can be a complex process that involves a number of stages overseen by highly skilled professionals with a diverse range of expertise.

Computer technology is at the heart of modern-day sheet metal fabrication and we use the latest CAD/CAM and computer numerically controlled (CNC) technology, as well as state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment to offer an efficient, reliable and cost-effective service.

In our workshop, the sheet metal is processed and formed using a number of techniques. It can be punched using a CNC manufacturing process that involves the use of a punch press. The press is programmed to rapidly move a sheet of metal, positioning it accurately under the punching ram, so a series of holes and cut outs can be punched and parts profiled precisely to within 0.05mm tolerance.

At DaRo we also use CNC hydraulic and electric press breaks to form the metal sheet into predetermined shapes, achieving fast, accurate, consistent results.

In addition, our auto-feed Pemserter machines are utilised for fast, accurate threaded insert, bush and press stud insertion, if that is what the design requires.

Another key element of the sheet metal fabrication process is welding used to join different sheet metal parts together. We deploy a number of different welding techniques depending on the product and material type, from spot welding to Mig and Tig welding and fabrication in mild steel, stainless steel and aluminium. Our welding staff are highly skilled and coded to ensure the product strength and appearance is perfect every time.

The final stage of the sheet metal fabrication process involves finishing the metal in some way, whether that is sand blasting, priming and painting, or powder-coating. The preparation of a sheet metal part or product before finishing is always critical which is why at DaRo we have a highly trained team to unsure a first class finish is achieved consistently.

Over the years we have built up a great deal of expertise in the sheet metal fabrication process, with a highly skilled team able to turn around projects quickly and effectively. Our rapid prototyping service is aimed at clients who have a challenging deadline but at the same time expect nothing less than a professional and quality service.

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How the result of the general election will affect the manufacturing industry?

Most manufacturers would have been pleased to see the Conservatives win the General Election with a majority but the result brings with it certainty and uncertainty in equal measure.

With little to choose between the two main political parties, employers in our sector are more interested in stability than politics and a returning government that does not have to do any deals to stay in power offers that in the short term.

We can point to a number of policies the previous administration brought in that helped the manufacturing sector. Relatively low corporate tax rates and a flexible labour market have enabled UK manufacturers to remain competitive while initiatives to help small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMEs) with advice and access to export opportunities were taking shape.

The new Business Secretary Sajid Javid has showed he intends to build on this work and recently announced details of a new Enterprise Bill that the government says contains measures to support entrepreneurs and job creation.

These include plans to cut red tape for business by at least £10 billion over the next five years and the creation of a Small Business Conciliation Service to help settle disputes between small and large businesses, especially over late payment practices.

This latter policy should help small manufacturing businesses. Small firms are owed over £32 billion in late payments but many are not aware of their rights or are reluctant to launch legal challenges.

However, there are also some areas of uncertainty now all the electioneering is over and only time will tell how things will unfold.

Some have expressed concerns that without the influence of the Lib Dems to temper the Conservative’s austerity drive this timer round there might be a reluctance to provide the investment required to boost the country’s industrial sector.

Then there’s the nagging issue of Britain’s membership of the EU and the referendum that Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to offer. Mr Cameron wants to renegotiate the terms of the Britain’s membership to the EU ahead of any vote and says he needs two year to do so before a referendum.

However Andy Burnham, a leading contender for the Labour party leadership, is among voices calling for any referendum to be brought forward to next year to avoid a prolonged period of uncertainty for businesses in the meantime.

And what would happen if Britons voted to leave the EU – the so-called ‘Brexit’ outcome? Already the CBI has urged businesses to be more vocal about the benefits of EU membership and argues that no credible alternative to EU membership has been set out.

With all this uncertainty around only one thing is for sure, the next few years promise to be very interesting for manufacturers.

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What plastics do we use for plastic vacuum forming?

In an earlier blog we talked about DaRo’s plastic manufacturing and plastic vacuum forming sections but it is interesting for our customers to know a bit more about the extensive range of high quality plastics we use and their individual properties.

Below is a brief description of some of our most frequently used materials although this listing is by no means exhaustive.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

Properties:

One of the most widely used plastics in vacuum forming, it is an easily formed and machined, tough, low cost rigid thermoplastic with high impact strength, recyclable, ideal for moulding, turning, drilling, milling, sawing, die-cutting, shearing. Readily available in a wide range of colours and surface finishes.

Used where:

When aesthetics and dimensional accuracy are essential and for applications where a product needs to be tough and shock absorption is critical such as in automotive parts and enclosures.

 

High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)

Properties:

HIPS is a cost-effective material that is relatively easy to form, machine and fabricate, paint and glue. It has excellent dimensional stability and is readily available in a wide range of colours, gloss and Matt finish but without the impact strength of ABS.

Used where:

As HIPS is FDA compliant it is used widely in the food, dairy, and medical packaging industries. Also commonly used for point of sale displays.

 

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

Properties:

Easy to vacuum form and stronger than standard polyethylene, HDPE plastic is resistant to acids, alcohol, oils and grease. A tough, durable material that can withstand an extreme temperature range.

Used where:

Highly suitable for manufacturing processes such as vacuum forming, injection moulding and blow moulding, HDPE is found in many applications such as food packaging, cleaning product containers, meter and valve boxes and garden furniture. Due to its strength and chemical resistant properties it is an Ideal material for vacuum formed transit trays for the manufacturing industry.

 

Polycarbonate (PC)

Properties:

Polycarbonates are strong, stiff, tough, hard, transparent engineering thermoplastics that can maintain rigidity up to 140°C and toughness down to    -20°C. The material displays excellent mechanical properties and high dimensional stability, is thermally resistant up to 135°C and rated as slow burning. Special flame retardant grades exist which pass several severe flammability tests.

Used where:

Due to its transparency and excellent toughness, Polycarbonate (PC) is one of the most widely used engineering thermoplastics ideal for vandal proof glazing, riot shields, baby feeding bottles, safety helmets and light lenses.

 

Polyethylene Terephtalate Glycol-modified (PETG)

Properties:

Lightweight and transparent, PETG is a thermoplastic sheet material with outstanding thermo-formability and good impact resistance. It also makes a good gas, alcohol and solvents barrier.

Used where:

Typical applications include, packaging such as blister and clam packs, Point-of-Sale displays, merchandising displays, transit trays, prototype models, machine guards and housings.

 

Polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF)

Properties:

PVDF is used most often in applications requiring the highest purity, strength, and resistance to solvents, acids, bases and heat. It can also withstand exposure to harsh thermal and chemical conditions and is unaffected by long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Used where:

Applications include chemical tank liners, semiconductor equipment components, pump and valve parts and flanging.

 

If you would like to talk to one of our team about which is the most appropriate and cost-effective material for your application, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01787 881191 or email via info@daroplastics.co.uk.

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What is plastic vacuum forming?

Here at DaRo we use a wide variety of plastic materials to produce products for a vast range of applications – such a medical equipment, light fittings and product packaging. Many of these products are made using a process known as plastic vacuum forming. But just what does this process entail?

Plastic vacuum forming is one of the most established methods used for processing plastic materials and is employed to make many common items that we regularly use as part of our daily lives.

The process involves making a plastic sheet pliable by heating before placing it over a mould. A vacuum is then used to pull the plastic into the mould. Advanced technology assists the process using computer controlled pneumatic, hydraulic and heat controls to enable faster production speeds and more detailed and consistent vacuum formed shapes.

Range of materials

Depending on the application and structural properties required, here at DaRo we can manufacture in a wide range of materials, including Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polycarbonate (PC) and High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS). We can also process specialist moulding materials such as chemical resistant, flame retardant, antibacterial and high strength plastics.

Because of the low forming pressures used in the process, tools can be produced at a relatively low cost and moulds can be made in-house from inexpensive materials – all leading to a production cost that is economical.

DaRo’s vacuum forming manufacturing process is high speed and highly accurate. We offer a tailored service, and specialise in batch production, repeat batch work and can also cater for one-offs and prototyping. A diverse range of products are manufactured for a wide range of applications, including machinery covers, point-of-sale displays and enclosures.

We also specialise in the design and manufacture of plastic industrial packaging and transit trays. Many of our customers bring us a sample of the component, and we design and produce a bespoke enclosure or casing to provide protection and support in transit. We also have an in-house design team who offer a complete product design service, as well as providing advice on material selection too.

Environmentally aware

Unlike other thermoplastic forming processes that use powder or resin, vacuum forming uses plastic sheets at as the starting point. In many cases this means a secondary process may be required to trim the formed sheet to give the desired finish. At DaRo all vacuum formed products are finished to the highest standards with computer-controlled routers, drilling and punching equipment used to ensure accurate, high quality and fast drilling, trimming and finishing.

Any waste material from this stage will be granulated and recycled for further use in vacuum forming jobs, resulting in a zero waste manufacturing process that DaRo is proud to offer.

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