In our fourth and final day in the greater Los Angeles area, we had the opportunity to gain some knowledge into composite production using pressure forming and vacuum forming, as well as visit another product development firm.
Our day began at Ray Products where President Brian Ray showed us the advantages of using pressure or vacuum forming over such methods as injection molding. Such advantages include low tooling cost (and long tooling life), highly detailed parts with multiple colors and textures within the same part, deep draft parts, zero draft and undercut parts and produce a part that's low weight. All of these features can help us tremendously when used in the right area, so once we have selected our design, we will assess which areas of the vehicle lend themselves to this process.
Our next stop was to Planet Plastics. Inside their 43,000 sq. ft. facility, they can accommodate custom parts of only a few inches in size up to a piece of acrylic or polycarbonate up to 7'x12'. A lot of the products they make are dome-shaped parts for such industries as food service, lighting, and movies. We were also fortunate enough to see how they save time in processing the edges of the acrylics by flame polishing the material rather than going through the tedious process of hand sanding and buffing the part. In a matter of seconds, using a torch at high heat, you can pass the flame along the edge of the acrylic and have a finely polished edge with near mirror like finish. This would have come in handy during those late nights at Factory Five getting cars ready for SEMA and various other events sanding and buffing head light lenses, rear hatches for Coupes etc. until my fingers were about to fall off!
Our final order of the day was to pay a visit to Javier Valdivieso at ADM Works, another product development firm. Javier and his team have had great success in the auto, movie and fine art industries. Like Aria and Metalcrafters, they have 3 and 5-axis mills on site to cut anything from a mold of cartoon characters for the movie industry to full scale automobiles, to parts such as wings for aircraft well over 50' long.
Although we had visited four other product development firms the previous day, it was great to add another potential builder to the list as each offers a different approach to solving the development of vehicle prototypes.
Thanks to the assistance of Bob Schureman, who set up the vast majority of the California leg of our trip, we were able to see all of these great places in a short amount of time albeit come away with the knowledge of everything that each of these places have to offer us as we move forward in our development of the first LM vehicle.