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Achieving the Perfect Match...

Cutsheet Thermoforming Machine


Brown Machine Cutsheet Thermoforming Machine video

Brown Machine Delivers Advanced Cut Sheet Thermoforming Machine to Meet Sheet Producer's "Color/Finish/Formability" Requirements

Invision, Inc., (Sharon Center, OH) a subsidiary of A. Schulman, Inc. is a leading supplier of high-performance plastic decorative sheet. They needed a way to demonstrate their sheet solutions in a variety of thermoforming applications as well as control their quality levels and production time line for new sheet opportunities.

Because of customers’ increasing demands for shorter product development time and perfect color/finish matches, Invision, Inc.’s challenge was to bring the entire product development process in-house by setting up a material test/tryout facility that would work with their production line to deliver that perfect material (cut sheet or roll stock) in the shortest time possible. A very limited manufacturing floor footprint for their thermoforming room proved to be a further challenge. Brown Machine LLC (Beaverton, MI) was able to work with Invision, Inc. to provide them with a thermoformer to meet all of these needs and fit in the limited space that was available.

On Invision, Inc.

Invision, Inc. produces olefin based sheet products which can perfectly match the appearance of a painted finish. The company specializes in making plastic products that have a paint-like appearance by producing a clear layer over a colored layer. The typical sheet thickness ranges from .017” to .220”.
“The uniqueness that our product brings to the market is its ability to match a paint surface so the sheet can be formed and shipped. It’s already coated,” says Dennis Smith, Director of Technology for Invision, Inc.

Invision, Inc. provides customers with quick turnaround product development that includes color matching, sheet production and part thermoforming testing. Because their goal is to provide customer results in the shortest possible timeframe, everything is accomplished in-house. They are able to produce molded prototypes for customers within a few days, rather than the weeks or months it would take if the customer had to go to different companies for each phase of the product development (i.e. contract thermoformer for product testing).

“A customer can come in with a color match and we can produce sheet in the color and form a part they can take with them within just a few days,” notes Smith. “We see it as a way to give us a step up on the competition who cannot offer these types of services and turnaround time. One thing that enables us to service a customer in an application or program over someone who doesn’t have our capabilities is that we can offer the full support. If a sheet supplier doesn’t have that, then it usually falls back to the end customer to try to find that capability to do the evaluation. As the supplier of the sheet product for a thermoforming application, it’s very important to be able to demonstrate the product in the end form. We can do that and we feel it gives us a tremendous advantage.”

Invision, Inc. has been in operation since September 2005. The company has a 30,000 square foot facility that includes a clean room environment lab with pilot and production extrusion lines, as well as a near-clean room environment to house its Brown thermoformer. The pilot line with sheet capabilities up to 22 inches is used to test color, materials, and produce production quality sample sheets. A production line with sheet capabilities up to 42 inches is used to produce sheet for customers once the color matching and sample sheet have been approved. Invision, Inc. can produce both roll stock and cut sheet material.
Invision, Inc. also has a Quality Control lab that employs various pieces of equipment to test the color quality. The equipment includes a McBeth Light Booth to view the sheet in different lighting situations, a Goniospectrophotometer to measure color from infinite angles (one of only ten in the world) by rotating the color sample while it’s being viewed, microscopes to check layer structure, a moisture analyzer to verify the moisture content of the materials and other devices.

Finding the perfect match (in color finish & formability, that is) can be tricky

In order to provide the highest quality service to their customers, Invision, Inc. felt they needed an in-house thermoformer to be able to test the formability of their product and provide complete product development services.
“We had a number of reasons why we wanted to have thermoforming capability in-house,” Smith explains. “One was so we could have in-house product development capabilities to truly know if a product can be thermoformed to meet the needs of the industry.”

Their thermoformer needed to have a wide range of forming flexibility and capability so that Invision, Inc. could match the capabilities of customers’ thermoformers or show them what they could do if they had more advanced thermoforming equipment.

“The way we operate is that we will work with a customer with a specific application in mind, totally supporting that application by utilizing our equipment to validate the design so that they don’t have to coordinate with multiple suppliers and facilities to get that accomplished,” says Smith.

Another difficulty that Invision, Inc. had was how their cleanliness requirements led to their limited space considerations. In order to better maintain the clean room environment in the area for the thermoformer, the room had to stay small, which allowed less floor space for the machine’s overall footprint. Maintaining a clean or near-clean room environment is key to Class A forming because it allows for climate and dust/dirt control to enable them to provide the highest quality surface finish. The thermoformer had to be able to fit in that environment.

These factors meant that Invision, Inc. needed a very specific, high quality thermoformer designed to fulfill each of their needs.

One thermoforming machine with “all the bells and whistles”

Brown Machine provided Invision, Inc. with one answer to their many questions – a S-Series High Pressure S-48-S special single station thermoformer. “We use the thermoforming machine for a number of different things,” says Smith. “Anything from material development, sheet development, color development, quality control, and offering product development services to our customers. There are just so many different things that having an in-house thermoforming machine brings to our organization.”

Brown was able to customize the thermoforming machine to fit each of Invision, Inc.’s unique needs. Most importantly, the machine has “all the bells and whistles” and can accomplish any forming configuration from vacuum, bubble blow, bubble pull, pressure or twin sheet arrangements, allowing Invision, Inc. to mirror the setup of a variety of customers’ thermoformers or to demonstrate higher capabilities to show customers the many possibilities in thermoforming their products.
Brown Machine also worked with Invision, Inc. to produce a thermoforming machine that would fit in the limited amount of available floor space. The machine needed to be designed to fit through a 10’ x 10’ door; so much of the machine was reassembled on site. Due to height constraints, the lower structure sets in a below ground pit to allow it to fit in the given area. For a lab application this also allows sheetline to be accessible from the floor level by the operator.
“For us, it was better to have a pit. We had specific height limitations and we wanted the sheet line to be closer to eye level for our trials and demonstrations,” explains Smith. “We worked closely with Brown on the physical design requirements of the pit in our facility for the thermoforming machine and making sure that we had adequate space to operate the thermoformer but not excessive space that would consume extra energy or air flow requirements.”

Brown’s thermoforming machine allows Invision, Inc. to do nearly all types of thermoforming operations, from straight forward vacuum to high pressure/twin sheet applications. The thermoformer is equipped with quartz ovens that have 360 control zones, allowing for maximum temperature control on both the top and bottom ovens. When forming a part, the large quantity of zones allows Invision, Inc. to simulate oven zoning that matches their customers’ ovens. The Brown thermoformer was also designed with servo valves, allowing for maximum/repeatable control through the PLC. Often Invision, Inc. can demonstrate a better oven configuration to the end customer, resulting in their process improvements by installing a new oven or even showing the customer the benefits of production and quality through upgrading to new thermoforming equipment.

The thermoformer was further equipped with the Level 2 open architecture control system that proved to be very easy for employees to learn how to operate. “The control system allows us just a tremendous amount of latitude,” says Smith. “It’s a very intuitive control system, very easy to learn. Our operators who had no experience in thermoforming picked up on that system within a matter of a few days and were working with it without instruction after that.”

A. Schulman’s Brown Model S-48-S Single-Station Shuttle Thermoformer features:

  • Maximum mold size of 48” x 96”

  • Level 2 Non-Proprietary Open Architecture Easy to Operate Machine Control:

  • Industrial Allen Bradley Supervisory PC that utilizes National Instruments Lookout software on a Windows XP operating system with a 17” color monitor and modem. Ethernet and USB communication.

  • Allen Bradley SLC-5/05 solid state programmable controller for machine functions.

  • VFD Drive Control for platen, rotate and lift table movements.

  • Oven Zones controlled through Heater Control Modules (HCM’s) for precise oven control and advanced diagnostics.

  • High Pressure Forming Station

  • Platen movement at 8” per second with a platen stroke of 44” top and 65” bottom and a sheetline of 54”\

  • High Pressure Station rated at 30 PSI internal tool form pressure with deflection rating of .0015” per inch on mold width (higher forming pressures can be achieved on smaller parts)

  • 72” x 120” Upper and Lower Oven:

  • Instant on-instant off quartz heater capabilities for optimum heater control and efficiencies.

  • 360 control zones are assigned through the thermoformer control supervisor in 1% increments (0-100)

  • AL90 Four-Way Adjustable Clamp Frame System with quick release pins that allow tool-less adjustment in minutes without having to replace short bars and brackets.

  • Multiple upper and lower vacuum/vacuum bleed circuits with servo valves coupled with complete pneumatic circuitry for a variety of thermoforming routines.

  • Standard programmable four-post lift table system for load/unload operations

Another satisfied Brown customer

thermoforming machine by Brown Machine

“We needed a very specific design and a customized solution to enable us to fit in the room we had,” notes Smith. “But we didn’t want to give up any type of flexibility or capability within the thermoforming machine itself and Brown Machine was able to deliver a very good solution to all of those requirements. We consulted with a number of people in the thermoforming business, as well as industry consultants, OEMs and different manufacturers – a diverse group of people, and based on that we came to the conclusion that Brown is high on the list, from a vendor’s standpoint. From there we held meetings and really confirmed our conclusions. Additionally, Brown was able to not only meet the timing they had provided; they were ahead of schedule by four weeks.”

“In my experience, the Brown brand has meant a high quality machine, dependable, easy to operate which allows us a tremendous amount of flexibility in producing parts to meet our customers’ requirements,” Smith says. “We’d highly recommend Brown. It’s been a very good thermoformer. It’s been a good experience for us. In our facility, we’ve purchased a lot of different pieces of equipment from a myriad of vendors as we’ve purchased sheet extrusion equipment and laboratory equipment and equipment of various complexities. But I have to say the experience of the Brown purchase, installation and operation of that equipment has probably gone as smoothly as anything we’ve installed in the facility.”

On Brown Machine

As a global leader of thermoforming technologies, Brown Machine LLC engineers and builds a complete standard line of continuous and cut-sheet thermoforming equipment and related tooling/peripheral equipment. Specialty thermoforming systems suited to a wide range of markets (including automotive, recreational, packaging, appliance and various other industrial segments) can be custom built to exact customer specifications. Brown Machine fully supports the thermoforming industry (Brown machine owners and competitive models, as well) with a full complement of 24/7/365 on-call service and parts support.



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