Concept Laser Conformal cooling irons out production problems

Editor: Eric Culp

Appliance manufacturer Rowenta has applied targeted mould cooling for its multi-component household iron bodies to improve both the quality of the parts and the economics of production. Additive manufacturing plays a key role in the process.

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Before one can press a shirt, the iron parts have to run through a press, and a number of cycles for multiple component injection.
Before one can press a shirt, the iron parts have to run through a press, and a number of cycles for multiple component injection.
(Source: Concept Laser)

Rowenta, a division of French appliance-maker SEB Groupe, is proud of the “Made in Germany” branding its ironing products carry. However, manufacturing in a high labour cost location such as Europe means making full use of automated production technologies – as well as novel designs – to reduce costs and to deliver products that consumers want to buy.

Pulling together more than 100 components

This means catering to what a customer is looking for in regards to both form and function, according to Rowenta Project Engineer Klaus Maier. “The average buyer makes an initial choice based on appearance. If they like something, they pick it up – so for us, the handle is a key element of the iron. Only then do they take a closer look at functionality and performance details.”

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A typical iron is made up of some 150 individual parts. Plastics components include the soleplate heat shield, which is produced in a thermoset BMC, and the handle and reservoir. Handles and reservoirs are generally made in PP at Rowenta, with dials and switches produced in PC. The handle components, together with the rear cover and thermostat controls, are manufactured in the company’s dedicated plastics production facility in Erbach, Germany. “The handle is key to a purchasing decision,” Maier reiterated. “If it feels substantial in your hand, that’s the mark of a good iron.”

Years of experience add up for processing finesse

Rowenta has been making extensive use of two and three-component moulding and conformal cooling technology to help it to minimise manufacturing costs for close to a decade. Maier said the company produced its first three-component parts in 2004, using conformal cooling techniques in key areas of the complex mouldings from the outset. Compared to assembling individually moulded parts, the multi-component manufacturing approach reduces assembly requirements, improves functional integration, allows for better quality to be achieved, and results in shorter cycle times, Maier explained. Replacement of several individual processes with one – albeit more complex - manufacturing step also results in reduced costs, the company noted.

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