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Design Freedoms of Polyurethane RIM Process Create Fusion of Design, Ergonomics in Laser Micro-Welding Workstation

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 26 June, 2002  (Company News)
LaserStar Technologies, Riverside, R.I., offers an alternative to soldering or microplasma welding for precious metal jewelry production, fabrication and repair of dental prosthetics and micro assembly of medical devices and electronic components.
The company's laser welding workstations eliminate the need for solder by using a sharp, focused laser beam to weld together any two metal parts.

'For the next generation series of LaserStar Workstations, we wanted to soften the look of the product and improve its ergonomics,' said David P. Braman, Vice President of Engineering and Operations for LaserStar Technologies. 'We hired a product design firm to help us achieve this. Based on the design firm's advice and articles that our own engineers had read in the trade press, we decided that reaction injection molding was the right choice to replace the sheet metal panels that form the workstation's facade.'

Item New Product Development, Providence,R.I., and Exothermic Molding, Kenilworth, N.J., recommended the PRISM CM-200 solid polyurethane RIM system from Bayer's Polyurethanes Division.

With a UL94 flammability1 rating of V-0 and 5VA, the PRISM RIM system is well-suited for applications in medical, electronic and other markets. The material is excellent for thin-wall molding and offers improved strength, surface finish and large-part capability.

1Flammability results are based on small-scale laboratory tests for purposes of relative comparison and are not intended to reflect the hazards presented by this or any other material under actual fire conditions.

RIM Creates Softer Look

'The polyurethane RIM material gave a softer look to the workstation and it allowed us to create curved surfaces and flowing lines that sheet metal could not achieve,' said Braman. 'The surface quality of the painted parts is very good.'

An important material requirement was the ability for the molded panels to transition well into the sheet metal panels that still enclose the anterior portion of the workstation, Braman explained. 'Bayer's polyurethane RIM material has no difficulty achieving this. It also helped to better blend in the cuff boxes which are the areas where users insert their hands to perform micro-welding when using the workstation.'

The PRISM RIM system's UL flammability rating made material selection easier, too, saving the manufacturer time and money otherwise required to establish a flammability rating, said Braman.

The Designer's Perspective

'We thought polyurethane RIM was the appropriate material for this application due to the production volume and part costs as well as the design freedoms we could achieve to accomplish the client's goals for a more appealing appearance,' said Justin Sirotin, Designer with Item New Product Development. 'Our firm has worked with theRIM process before,so we knew that it would give us a good platform to take the product's styling to the next level.'

The RIM process served functional purposes, too. 'It allowed us to improve the ergonomics of the workstation by utilizing more curved and contoured shapes,' he said.

According to Sirotin, it is relatively simple to design using the RIM process. 'The design process went very smoothly. You enjoy a lot of freedom with the design of the part and the tooling that will form it.' For example, he said Item New Product Development incorporated large ribs under the surface of such parts as the access door for reinforcement, as well as molded-in bosses and inserts for assembling the parts.

Sirotin said the molded parts look 'beautiful' after they are finished and painted. 'When the appropriate opportunity arises again, we would nothesitate to consider the RIM process for a product,' he said.

Five Parts, Four Color Options

'I recommended the PRISM RIM system because it met the OEM's requirements for cost and appearance while also providing the highest impact properties,' said Paul Steck, President of Exothermic Molding. 'The PRISM system also allowed us to mold the parts with thinner walls than a structural foam material. From a molder's perspective, it's an excellent material that helps us to produce outstanding parts.'

Four machined aluminum molds designed by Exothermic Molding produce the five parts of the LaserStar Workstation's facade. Steck said his custom molding company was able to go from the design firm's CAD files directly to cutting tooling without producing drawings, which saved time and money on the project.

The five parts molded with the PRISM RIM system are a left cuff box and right cuff box, a bezel ass embly that covers the top of the workstation and surrounds the stereo-microscope and electro nic controls, and a footrest cover at the base of the workstation.

A splash of color enhances and complements the workstation's new design. Buyers can order their workstation with the PRISM RIM system parts painted in sapphire blue, emerald green, ruby red or pearl white two-component polyurethane paint. The sheet metal skin of the other panels is painted pearl white.
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