Injection moulding is in our DNA

4 min read

Rutland Plastics MD, Steve Ayre, shares details of three very diverse and challenging projects that tested the capabilities of this family run business, set up in 1956.

Here at Rutland Plastics, the whole team are firm believers in design and manufacturing agility. It’s our mantra and we believe it to be one of the key reasons for our continuing success.

Replacing metal with plastics

Material challenges are always interesting and when Viridian Systems approached us to replace a metal component with a plastic injection moulded alternative there were many considerations. Viridian provide environmental solutions for the landfill industry. They are renowned for their range of automatic self-regulating VP pumps, which assist in the management of landfill leachate. The company were keen to reduce the part weight, but at the same time it had to be considered that the pumps are manufactured to tight tolerances, high specifications and technical accuracy.

The Rutland Plastics Design Team recognised that the plastic material would need to be very strong as the pumps are continually under immense stress. Additionally, it would need to be able to withstand high temperatures and because of chemicals encountered in the leachate, be corrosion resistant.

After selecting the most suitable material, it became clear that an exact copy of the original metal design would not offer the strength required. Our team worked on a series of modifications to gain greater strength and the final result totally fulfilled the customers’ requirements. Furthermore, the success of this part prompted Viridian to explore the replacement of a further component from the same product. We were able to design a plastic replacement for the float used in the pump, the manufacture of which had previously produced a large amount of scrap. Rutland Plastics created a highly unusual solution for the material to facilitate the perfect density for the part to function efficiently. We were delighted when Viridian reported that the new plastic parts were more than a match on performance and additionally outperformed the originals quite significantly on cost.

Pitch perfect tooling

Our tool room offers a comprehensive suite of tooling services, ranging from routine maintenance and refurbishment right through to design and manufacture. Substantial investment in new technology and machinery means that we are able to take on the most complex of projects. We were therefore ideally placed to assist quality audio equipment specialists Rega.

When the company decided to move production of their clear acrylic turntable dust covers back to the UK, they specifically sought a manufacturer with combined expertise in both plastic injection moulding and tool making, who would be able to meet their exacting standards. Rega’s products are world class and are known for their minimalistic design. Not just an aesthetic choice, but a serious technically based decision.

Rega states: “Mass absorbs energy and lost energy equals lost music.”

Victims of their own success in a way, Rega had originally produced their minimalistic dust covers by hand. However, as orders significantly increased and production was placed with a Danish moulder, problems developed. It became necessary to mould in tinted acrylic to hide blemishes and after three different mould tools Rega took the decision to re-shore production.

On their own admission, the dust cover breaks every basic design rule for injection moulding. It has no draft angles, which is a major issue for de-moulding, and features sharp corners and edges. Not to mention the requirement for a clear material with a faultless mirror-like sheen. Obviously, there is no tolerance for imperfection.

Tackling all the concerns head on, we initially struggled with moulding from the existing tool. Not only because of the design constraints, but additionally we discovered two vital processes in the making of the tool had not been addressed. These omissions were contributing factors for the failure to achieve the clarity required. We also discovered that the quality of the tool steel that had been used was unsuitable for this type of moulding. Using our combined skills across our departments, we proposed a material that would match the quality and appearance Rega desired as well as delivering additional cost savings. Our 3D printer enabled us to build test samples, which allowed us to show Rega our re-design vision in a clear tangible format. This greatly assisted them in visualising our suggestions and agreeing to our recommendations.

Getting our teeth into a new product

A proposal for a travel case to protect a battery toothbrush from turning on mid-journey and draining its power was presented to us as a conceptual design. The vision was for a product that would be lightweight and compact, but also robust.

Our design team discussed the manufacturability of the case with the customer and suggested improvements to both the outer and inner features. These enhancements meant that the cost of the mould would be reduced and additional savings could be made on assembly costs. We were also able to recommend the use of a polypropylene material with a antimicrobial additive. We trialled the design in a number of different grades, finding the optimum solution. The result has been a dishwasher safe, shatterproof case, moulded in eight colours.

All three of these projects illustrate the continual drive for improvement, innovation and a competitive edge. Although in diverse markets, the commonality between the three is that our customers sought a partner they could trust to add value to their projects. We believe that the key to successful partnerships is trust from the outset. This is critical to the strength of our relationship with a customer and their willingness to adopt our recommendations.

Technology and manufacturing is a continually changing scene, but moving into the future competence–based trust is a necessary constant.

Steve Ayre, Managing Director, Rutland Plastics

We certainly look a lot different from when the company started out in 1956.Expansion has continued on the same site and the factory area now exceeds 66,000 square feet.We employ over 140 staff, with a turnover in excess of £10 million.

Rutland Plastics is still a privately owned custom moulder of quality bespoke products for a wide variety of industries. Throughout the company’s development, we have remained steadfastly dedicated to building strong partnerships with both customers and suppliers, while consciously investing in areas that add real value to these relationships.