Ideas For
Plastic Fabrication


Happened across an article on the Los Angeles Times blog site that shares some great photos of fabricated acrylic furniture and flooring effects used in the movie, Tron: Legacy.

Plas-Tech has done quite a bit of movie and TV work, as well.  It’s quite a thrill to work with set designers right from the inception phase where you’re sitting around the able tossing around ideas, exploring how to turn the impossible into the possible; and then all of the talk turns into a drawing and then a set of design specs.


You can see this room in the trailer, below, at about 1:21

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Why Acrylic For Movie Sets & Props?

Acrylic is a GREAT material to use for movie sets and props – it comes in various edge finishes that can glow like neon. It’s lighter than glass and won’t shatter. And, it can be machined into just about any shape or form.  It comes in sheet, rod and tube profiles making structures and fixtures that appear to be of one solid body.

Posted by: In: Uncategorized 10 Nov 2014 Comments: 0
IMG_1045The Town of Whitby commissioned a park within a new North-end subdivision.
Part of the contemporary design elements included a covered canopy-like structure that provided park visitors protection from extreme sun and rain.
The city approached Plas-Tech to consult on the selection and manufacturing of a lightweight glazing product that could withstand direct sunlight and a large snow-load.
City architects selected 16mm polycarbonate multi-wall sheet (Ice) and the mega-lock 16mm aluminum profiles.
Posted by: In: Fabrication 04 Nov 2014 Comments: 0

Plas-Tech worked for the better part of 3 months at building one of Canada’s Largest Broadcasting sets in Toronto’s history. Plas-Tech was fortunate enough to be awarded the plastic fabrication portion of the innovative NHL set design located in the CBC building downtown Toronto. The set included thick cast acrylic anchor desks, frosted acrylic baffles and panels, roll stock white polycarbonate, custom machined wall display boards (puck walls) and many more features and finishes fabricated out of sheet, rod and tube. This set utilized Plas-Tech’s latest technology in plastic fabrication including 3 and 5 axis CNC machining, laser cutting, vacuum forming / drape forming and polishing / finishing.


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Posted by: In: Automotive 27 Aug 2014 Comments: 0

For Aston Martin, the problem was counterfeit DuPont plastic material used by a Chinese supplier in a relatively small and unsophisticated part – accelerator pedal arms. Recall: 17,590 cars.

BMW recalled more than 156,000 cars to fix bolts to hold a camshaft housing that were found at risk of loosening and breaking. Chrysler had ignition switches that might “over-travel” and recalled 900,000 vehicles. Mercedes-Benz recalled more than a quarter-million cars to fix faulty tail-lamp connectors. Ford recalled nearly 1.4 million vehicles to fix floor mats, rust in the licence plate lamp and electrical problems in the power steering.

We’ve barely touched on the millions of vehicles recalled in 2014. GM has issued 54 recalls totalling 28.9 million vehicles globally, including the small-car ignition switch problem in the Chevrolet Cobalt and its ilk. The cost to GM alone will be in the billions.

Do you see a pattern in all these recalls? You should. More often than not, small parts and arguably minor issues are causing massive migraines for car companies. In most, what’s involved is a relatively low-tech part and an affordable solution.

Aston had a nickel-and-dime problem with fake plastic in a minor part of its $150,000-plus cars. Ford had to deal with problematic floor mats worth what, $50 at Canadian Tire? Mercedes had tail-lamp connectors valued at perhaps a buck. And Toyota suffered from bad splash protectors – worth a few dollars at most, wholesale – that might affect the security of a spare tire no one is likely ever to use.

Even GM’s ignition switch is hardly the most costly part in a Cobalt. And to make changes to fix it would have cost GM less than a dollar per unit, according to reports. So for want of an inexpensive repair on an everyday part, GM’s ignition switch problem has gone from crisis to catastrophe. The company estimates 54 related accidents and 13 fatalities are involved and most observers expect those numbers to rise.

GM is in recall hell because of a commonplace part that was poorly designed and could have been fixed for almost nothing. But we should note that all car companies face challenges like this almost daily. Any one of the 1,800-2,200 parts in a car can bring a car company to its knees if not designed properly or if a recall is handled badly. Just ask Toyota.

Earlier this year, Toyota agreed to pay $1.2-billion (U.S.) after reaching a deal with the U.S. government after admitting “that it misled U.S. consumers by concealing and making deceptive statements about two safety issues affecting its vehicles, each of which caused a type of unintended acceleration.” Remember, Toyota’s woes began with recalls in 2009 having to do with what Toyota says were ill-fitting floor mats and sticky gas pedals.

The bad news is we’re likely to keep seeing huge numbers of recalls going forward, says Stout Risius Ross Inc., a financial advisory firm. That is, the number of new models being introduced is surging and the cars coming to showrooms are loaded with increasingly complex technology. Government regulators are scrutinizing car companies like never before, too, itching for the theatrics that come with dragging a company boss before a committee or hearing.

Thus, car companies – in the wake of Toyota’s and now GM’s problems – are acting on the side of caution when it comes to recalls. When in doubt, bite the recall bullet immediately. As well, car companies need to be cautious with suppliers (see Aston Martin) and will issue a recall if there is any doubt. Then there’s the trend to use common parts across product lines. This practice is accelerating, which if a part fails in one car it could fail in millions and they all need to be recalled.

You think this is a big year for recalls? Wait ‘till 2015.




Posted by: In: Fabrication, Innovation 27 Aug 2014 Comments: 0 Tags:

Every day, it seems, there is more cool stuff that you can 3D print — from wedding cake toppers based on a 3D scan of you and your betrothed to replicas of fossils in museums to personalized iPhone cases — if only you had a 3D printer. And who does?

3D printed objects Toronto Public LibraryToronto Public Library users can choose from a variety of different colours of plastic in which to 3D print their projects. (Emily Chung/CBC)

Not many people, but publicly accessible 3D printers are popping up all over the country, at places ranging from libraries to makerspaces to small businesses that liken themselves to internet cafés for 3D printing.

It’s not just libraries in big centres likeEdmonton, Toronto and Ottawa that are offering 3D printing now, but even smaller communities like Sudbury and Kitchener, Ont., and townsright across Nova Scotia, from Yarmouth to Sydney.

Ab Velasco, who helped set up the Digital Innovation Hub at the Toronto Reference Library that includes 3D printers, said it’s just a continuation of what libraries have always done.

“Libraries were one of first places to offer free access to computers, internet, wifi… and so offering access to other new emerging technologies — it’s just a natural fit,” said Velasco.

Personalized chess set, TV mount

Mike Ross is co-ordinator for the program that offers access to a 3D printer at the Colchester-East Hants Public Library in Truro, N.S. Since the printer was installed in 2012, people have printed all kinds of things from a personalized chess set based on the Magic: The Gathering card game to parts to repair a dishwasher or mount a TV, he said. The City of Truro has even used it to print out waterproof cases to protect devices designed to provide the town with public wireless internet access.

Mike HarvieMike Harvie checks the progress on his print job at the Toronto Public Library. (Emily Chung/CBC)

Alex Lai, digital design technician at the Fort York Branch of the Toronto Public Library, said nameplates and jewelry have been popular with library users. One couple even scanned themselves holding hands using the library’s 3D scanner and printed out a custom cake topper for their upcoming wedding.

Since the Toronto Public Library started providing access to its 3D printers in February, there have been huge waiting lists for the 60-minute certification “class” that library users have to take before getting access to the 3D printers.

Mike Harvie is one Toronto library user keen to take advantage of his new access to 3D printing. On a sunny August morning, he came into the Fort York branch of the library with a file he downloaded from the popular website Thingiverse, eager to 3D print an object for the very first time. Thingiverse offers free printable 3D models of objects ranging from toys to jewelry to home decor.

Makerbot 3D printerIt took about an hour to print the bottom half of the Raspberry Pi case on the library’s Makerbot 3D printer. (Emily Chung/CBC)

Harvie said he’s interested in having access to the printer in case something small gets broken around the house and he needs a spare part.

But he wanted to do a test project first – “to see the texture and sturdiness of it,” he explained.

He considered making a toy for his two-year-old son, but changed his mind and decided to make something for himself — a case for his smartphone-sized Raspberry Pi computer.

Lai was on hand to help Harvie out.

He asked Harvie to pick what colour plastic to use. He chose red. They then discussed which way up it should print to minimize the amount of time and plastic and therefore the cost. Because the entire project would take longer than the two-hour time limit, they decided to start with the bottom half of the case and print the top half another time.

Then, with a push of a button, the print job started.

Curious onlookers

As the print head of the microwave-oven-sized MakerBot printer moved back and forth, squirting out red plastic layer by layer, half a dozen other library users popped by for a look.

3D scan wedding caketopperA couple recently used the 3D scanner at the Toronto Public Library to scan themselves and then 3D printed the model to use as a caketopper for their upcoming wedding. (Emily Chung/CBC)

“Oh wow, that’s amazing,” said Nomi Drory, an art teacher and designer who had never seen a 3D printer before. She was quick to ask about how she could sign up for a library workshop.

An hour later, Harvie was invited to peel his case off the tray with a spatula.

“I think it’s going to work out pretty good,” he said as he examined it.

In addition to casual users printing knick-knacks, at the library entrepreneurs and engineering students have created prototypes of devices such as smart watches for a fraction of the price that it would cost to print commercially. The library charges just $1 per print job plus 5 cents a minute.

Both Ross and Velasco say they have a wide range of users, from kids to seniors.

“We definitely have a lot of people who are newcomers to technology, who have never seen a 3D printer before,” Velasco said. “Because we’re the library, generally we are a space for everybody… there’s less of an intimidation level to use the technology.”

New makerspaces opening

Unfortunately, not every community has a 3D printer in their library yet. But in many of those communities, the public can still get access to 3D printers at clubs called hackerspaces or makerspaces, which exist in most major cities across the country.

Mike Harvie with his 3D printed Raspberry Pi caseMike Harvie holds up his first 3D-printed creation – a case for his Raspberry Pi computer – which was printed at the Fort York Branch of the Toronto Public Library. (Emily Chung/CBC)

Some brand new ones providing access to 3D printers have opened up in the past few months, including the Saint John Makerspace in New Brunswick,Yukonstruct in Whitehorse andVancouver MakerLabs.

“Part of it is just the access to the technology is becoming more affordable,” said Derek Gaw, cofounder of MakerLabs.

Using a makerspace is more expensive than using 3D printers at the library — MakerLabs, which is for-profit, charges $100 per month. Non-profit makerspaces such as Regina’s Crashbanglabs and Calgary’s Protospace charge as little as $30 and $50 a month respectively.

But for that price, members typically get access not just to 3D printers, but often a wide range of other equipment, such as laser and plasma cutters, said Ben Eadie, who is on the board of directors for the Protospace hacker space in Calgary: “You could literally build a vehicle from scratch in that place.”

Many members are also very experienced with different kinds of equipment.

“The people in the library can’t necessarily help you out to the same level that Protospace can,” he said. He added that the club has a variety of members, some as young as nine years old, and he encourages anyone interested in 3D printing to come in and try it.

‘Internet café for 3D printers’

Finally, for those who want to avoid the commitment of a club and the waiting lists of the library, there are a few other options, such as Toronto’s MakeLab.

MakerLabs' 3D printerMakerLabs’ essentially acts as a showroom their 3D printer, which is on loan from a 3D Systems distributor. (MakerLabs)

“It’s essentially like an internet café for 3D printers,” said Jonathan Moneta, creative lead for the business that offers 3D printing workshops and one-on-one training, as well as assistance with preparing models for 3D printing.

“You can really just stop in, take a short training course and then parachute in whenever you need to use the 3D printer.”

He said the facility is popular with entrepreneurs, partly because they can use multiple 3D printers at once to test different versions of an object.

On the other end, MakeLab’s couples’ workshops are popular on date nights and kids who drag their parents in to print out physical versions of things they built in the video game Minecraft.

Other companies that primarily serve businesses sometimes also offer workshops for the general public, including Toronto’s Hot Pop Factory. It has hosted special events like a “3D printed kissing booth” where participants were encouraged to scan themselves while kissing and print out a model.

With so many options, just about anyone should be able to try 3D printing for the first time. It’s just a matter of figuring out what to print and where. For some ideas, check out our photo gallery.