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Maximizing HVAC Component Design and Durability

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Challenge:
A major HVAC appliance manufacturer needed to quickly deploy a more efficient and durable residential unit platform design that would reduce assembly time, materials cost and warranty repairs without sacrificing safety.

The customer specified and designed a flame-resistant plastic fixture that would displace an existing heavy metal component. Key to success was finding an experienced extruder who could effectively bring the solution to life.

 

Solution:
Modify the specified design during product development and deliver a co-extruded part that includes value-added welding and fabrication assembly. Pexco also optimized and improved the part design to ensure better performance control for air flow and channel moisture while contributing to a more efficient manufacturing solution.

 

Innovative Thinking:
These days, efficiency is the top priority for manufacturers of heating and air conditioning equipment. Their customers demand HVAC units that run efficiently in order to save energy and money; and they also value trouble-free operation. Manufacturers, too, want long-term functional quality because it helps to reduce service costs and calls for warranty repairs. In addition, they continuously strive for efficiency and safety in the manufacturing process.

One leading manufacturer of residential HVAC systems wanted to redesign blower units to offer better long-term quality. The design modifications included a solution that would be less labor-intensive and expensive to manufacture by replacing copper wiring with aluminum, exchanging sharp sheet metal for plastic and reducing the number of parts and screws required. Two critical components, the coil baffles and air diverters, were redesigned.

In addition to designing and specifying the new components, the manufacturer set an aggressive timeline for delivering the new solution. After a review of leading extrusion companies, the manufacturer turned to Pexco, a preferred supplier and also a leading plastics extruder with a wealth of design capability, years of custom plastics extrusion engineering expertise and multi-site manufacturing capacity.

The team that was assembled at Pexco’s Yakima, Wash., quickly reviewed the designs, asked some questions and was able to recommend a few design tweaks including a different resin that would meet the high performance and flame-resistance ratings. During its review the team also addressed several challenges, including developing extrusion tooling, as well as incorporating welding of discreet components in order to supply a single finished part, and setting up in-line fabrication punches to reduce costs.

During development of the extruded parts, it became apparent that there were some problems with the original design supplied to Pexco. The key issue was a poor fit between extruded diverters and a separate injection molded drain pan, which meant the parts would not meet the tight tolerances. The Pexco engineering team was able to manually adjust the diverter extrusions on line in order to produce the desired fit of the diverter with drain pan. This modification saved time and allowed the team to deliver the part on time for testing and implementation. Following the manual adjustment, Pexco developed new drawings to represent the modified parts, and re-tooled the line to produce the redesigned parts on a consistent basis.

The team continued to work with its customer on improving the design of the baffles and diverter components. For example, it was able to reduce the wall thickness of the part by 20 percent, which reduced materials cost and the weight of the assembly.

Because Pexco was able to show how the drain pan could be part of the design modification and created with extrusion instead of injection molding, the customer added this critical part to the assignment.

The team was able to meet the tight deadline and after final development in Yakima, the tooling was transferred to Pexco’s Columbia, S.C., facility for production. Conducting design, engineering, and development at one facility and doing production at another is nothing new for Pexco. Such arrangements are common as they take advantage of the available multi-site talent and expertise, along with a production plan that is most convenient for the customer.  Today this product remains in production at Pexco's Chicago plant operation.  

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Custom design capability addresses design flaws and creates a superior solution.
  • Materials knowledge delivers maximum benefit of engineered polymers.
  • New component reduces customer’s assembly time and cost while increasing efficiency.

 

About Pexco:
Based in Atlanta, Georgia with several manufacturing plants across the United States and Mexico, Pexco is a North American leader in the design and fabrication of specialty plastics products. It provides standard and custom products and components to manufacturers and end-users for a broad range of market applications, including the Aerospace, Medical, Filtration, Lighting, and other Industrial sectors. Pexco offers a full range of design, engineering and fabrication services. It operates six Class 7 & Class 8 medical clean rooms. Pexco meets the requirements of ISO 9001:2008, and holds ISO 14001, ISO 13485, 21 CFR 820, OHSAS 18001, GMP, AS9100C, ITAR and other registrations and/or certifications for its manufacturing operations. Pexco is your trusted plastics advisor for specialty plastic products and solutions. For more information, visit www.pexco.com or contact 404-564-8560.