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Aesthetic appearance and functionality behind the success of washing machine panels

Autotype International : 12 December, 2005  (Company News)
MacDermid Autotype and Maf 3 have combined forces to create a new washing machine control panel manufactured from Autoflex EBG, a high performance hardcoated polyester-based product, combining durability, ergonomics and aesthetic appeal.
To withstand the conditions in which washing machines regularly function, the panel features high level humidity resistance, yet just as importantly, it also guarantees ease of use, is scratch resistant and possesses excellent resistance to aggressive chemical substances, such as those present in detergents and fabric softeners.

Italian-based Maf 3 specialises in 3-D printing, moulding and Film Insert Moulding, and completed an in-depth study from design to manufacturing in order to achieve the standards necessary for the washing machine panels. Autoflex EBG from MacDermid Autotype played a vital role in the entire process, as it ensures resistance to chemicals and scratches, can be formed into tailor-made shapes, is resistant to both heat and humidity, as well as being fully compatible with a wide range of decorative inks. In addition, aesthetic appearance and the long-term operation of moving parts such as control push-buttons are instrumental to the success of washing machine panels, and Autoflex EBG possesses an excellent shape memory, meaning that the panel can resist five million push-button actuations, returning to its original shape every time.

Ideally, Film Insert Moulding, or IMD, should achieve the functional and structural properties essential for operation and long-life of the product, as well as the necessary aesthetic qualities. It can be difficult to develop a concept that incorporates all the variables associated with these aims, partly because there are few materials available with properties suitable for the purpose. However, when the 3D decoration power of FIM technology combines with innovation and the availability of state-of-the-art materials from MacDermid Autotype, then this goal is attainable.

For this project, Maf 3 specially developed a forming tool capable of forming the film into the shape of the housing while integrating mechanical push button switches and windows into a single part. Maf 3 also designed a number of new processes for cutting the perimeter of the shaped film and developed graphic inks compatible with the forming and injection backmoulding at 300C. This resulted in a unique part combining excellent aesthetic appeal, push-button switches, window and housing from one single piece of film. As a result manufacturing and development costs were virtually eliminated, minimising expensive downtime and associated costs.

Mario Ferro, Managing Director of Maf 3, says, Maf 3 offers its customers a complete package right through from the initial graphics stage to the completed product. We work in synergy with our customers and suppliers and must give credit to a material such as Autoflex EBG for making everything a lot faster and more efficient'.
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