Improved Approach Boosts Savings for Aquarium Parts Maker

Polymer switch reduces costs, improves efficiency and cuts scrap

The Challenge

The market for aquarium products is competitive and price sensitive. So it was just part of the job when a leading producer of aquarium equipment, based in Shenzhen, China, went searching for a lower-cost source of the thermoplastic used to form the housing in one of its popular water pumps. 

It had been importing the acrylonitrile-styrene-acrylate (ASA) resin for the part, but found a new supplier located nearby that promised lower cost and improved logistics by supplying partially recycled ASA.

It wasn’t long, though, before the savings disappeared amidst a steady increase in production issues and quality concerns. 

The resin wasn’t performing well in the injection molding process, so scrap rates soared. And when rejected housings were reground to go back in the melt stream, it critically reduced the material’s impact resistance.

Despite the difficulty and cost of switching to yet another polymer, the manufacturer’s product team realized they needed a different solution. They found it just 75 km away at Avient’s Dongguan facility.

The Solution

The product team explained the issues they were having with the molded housing and outlined the performance requirements for the part:

  • It was often used outdoors, so it needed to meet UL f1 requirements for immersion and exposure to ultraviolet light.
  • It had to be color fast and maintain its physical properties under continued exposure to the elements. 
  • It had to be impact-resistant to avoid damage during overseas shipping and assembly. 
  • It needed to comply with the EU’s RoHS Directive, limiting the use of hazardous substances in electrical equipment, because it is sold in Europe as well as North America.

Working with Avient’s technical team, they determined a formulation of Geon™ M5240 would be the right solution. A vinyl rigid molding compound, it offers outdoor weatherability, a UL f1 rating, high impact resistance and excellent resistance to water.

Replacing one polymer with another is not a simple process; it requires careful planning and a methodical approach. An economic analysis based on specifics of the application and the new polymer was compelling enough for the manufacturer to commit to a trial run. In addition, an analysis of the tooling determined that Geon M5240 could be substituted without modifying the tool. 

The Impact

The trial went smoothly and the manufacturer completed its transition to Geon™ M5240. While the product now meets all of the durability and design requirements established at the beginning of the project, the big gains were an estimated $100,000 in cost savings.

  • Increased efficiency. Switching to the vinyl rigid molding compound reduced manufacturing cycle times.
  • Reduced scrap. Scrap rates dropped by more than 60 percent after the switch to the new raw material.
  • Improved sustainability. The manufacturer can incorporate, when needed, up to 20 percent regrind without sacrificing impact strength, a benefit not available under the ASA material it was using before.

The manufacturer also realized improved logistics because the Geon™ M5240 was sourced less than two hours away.

What started out as an effort to reduce a raw material cost ended up being much more. It built a template for future material and process improvement, reduced cost structures and increased quality of a major product line.

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