Reformulation of the raw material and the process used to manufacture rear parcel shelves for passenger vehicles has resulted in significant cost savings, with reduced price to the customer, and the elimination of a significant solid waste stream.
Insulform Pty Ltd (Insulform) is a relatively new company, formed in 1987, that manufactures acoustic and trim components including rear parcel shelves, head liners, trunk liners, door trim parcels, under engine panels and wheel arch liners for the Australian automotive industry. The company now supplies components to Ford, General Motors Holden and Mitsubishi and has about 100 employees at its operations in West Heidelberg.
One of Insulform’s main product lines is rear parcel shelves for passenger vehicles. This component, along with others, has traditionally been manufactured from 'Triflex' - a composite material of mixed textile fibres and a thermoset resin (phenylformaldehyde).
The process of making rear parcel shelves from Triflex involved:
- forming the Triflex sheet to the desired shape in a press operating at 2000C. This process sets off the
- phenylformaldehyde producing a stiff board of the desired shape;
- gluing a carpet backing to the Triflex using an aqueous based adhesive and a second press operating at 800C;
- trimming of the finished shelf;
- hot melt gluing of specific insulation inserts onto the parcel shelf; and
- Inspection and packing.
The trimming waste was fully cured and was not able to be recycled or reprocessed. This waste material was sent to landfill. The heat curing of the phenylformaldehyde resin also generated fumes, which were extracted and passed through carbon filters prior to discharge to the atmosphere.
Cleaner Production Initiative
Insulform have replaced the Triflex material with a new material known as Hi-Papia. Hi-Papia has been developed in Japan and is a composite of polypropylene and polyester fibres. While the general process of manufacturing parcel shelves using Hi-Papia is similar to Triflex, the following differences are significant:
- the Hi-Papia sheets are pre-heated prior to pressing at 800C temperature;
- the carpet backing is joined to the Hi-Papia sheet in the same press, thereby eliminating the need for a second
- pressing operation;
- insulation inserts are using ultra sonic technology welded onto the parcel shelf; and
- trimmings can be reprocessed back into the raw material, thus eliminating a significant solid waste stream.
Advantages of the Process
The most obvious advantage of Hi-Papia has been the dramatic reduction in solid waste requiring disposal to landfill. In contrast to the former Triflex process, all trimmings and offcuts from the Hi-Papia process are sent to a processor who granulates and extrudes the 'waste' back into the raw material.
Insulform’s experience indicates that there has been no deterioration of quality even after repeated recycling and reprocessing. This has eliminated approximately 3800m3 (117 tonnes per annum) of waste that was previously sent to landfill. In addition the Hi-Papia sheet produced from recycled trimmings is currently cheaper than the imported virgin sheet. Other advantages include:
- no fumes are generated as the raw material does not contain any resin and the press operates at ambient temperature. As a result fume extraction equipment is not required.
- a lower reject rate is being experienced (from 7.5% on Triflex to 1%).
- the product has greater dimensional stability and can be used in higher temperature applications than Triflex.
- the cycle time has been reduced, resulting in significant productivity improvements - the Hi-Papia process requires a 1 shift per 5 day week operation to achieve the same production output obtained from the Triflex process operating 2 shifts per 6 day week.
- the change over time between products has been reduced from approximately 8 hours to 10 minutes, because there is no requirement for cool down and heat up of the die.
- Energy consumption has been significantly reduced because there is no requirement for heating of the dies (50% plus reduction).
- reduced transport costs and storage requirements as the Hi-Papia sheets are more compact than the bulky Triflex material.
- the product offers the potential to allow for recycling of the product at the end of its useful life.
a cheaper price to the customer.