Metal replacement is a key concept in many new industrial applications that need to meet the future challenges imposed by always more demanding world-wide markets.
This is not an easy process at all as thermoplastic materials with superior performance are required to successfully replace traditional and well known materials such as metals. A company that has taken up this challenge to remove brass from some parts of it's product catalog is Ultra Finishing Ltd in conjunction with the designer and moulder CPA Products who decided to adopt LATIGLOSS for the new "Pioneer" thermostatic shower valve project.
The goal of the project was to reduce overall cost, limit the weight of finished parts and the foot print of the valve assembly. Thanks to the ingenious tooling developed by CPA, the number of components in the assembly was reduced and it is no longer necessary to machine the finished valve body to meet the required tolerances. This concept-to-reality process took only 8 months, from an initial design to production tooling, thanks to a very effective collaboration among the players: the moulder CPA, the owner of the project, Ultra Finishing and the specialist material compounder LATI S.p.A.
The geometry of the component was reviewed so as to maximize the mechanical properties of the engineering thermoplastic compound, not only obtaining a product that is extremely tough and resistant to water pressure, but also managing to limit the overall weight of the piece to values close to one tenth of the original brass product. It is also interesting to note that the thermoplastic valve is also very stable in terms of size, despite the high content of glass fibres.
This intrinsic dimensional stability has been achieved through the use of precise design process engineering, and actual design of the part, introducing stiffening ribs and other relevant features as necessary. Ultra Finishing conducted a rigorous in house testing programme on strength, pressure and leakage. The new engineering thermoplastic part met all the expected requirements, including working life expectancy thanks to the non-water corrodible chemical nature of the selected thermoplastic compound.
The experience of Ultra Finishing is actually an important example of how solutions that can comply with the future regulatory regimes and market boundaries may be introduced before these become an insurmountable limit to sales.
So it is crucial to start thinking now about new projects in this field through the use of Engineering thermoplastic compounds.