A lot can be learned from a “small” project. When you lean into anything in manufacturing there are challenges. No matter the size of the part or assembly, there are things you can learn that apply to a whole host of disciplines. Take for example our 20-year production history of the PolyJohn PJ III models. These miniature models are coin banks in the shape of portable toilets. Our client initially came to us with this idea, because they wanted to have a miniature version of their portable toilets to give out to their customers as a promotional item. Since then, we have made many of these PolyJohn PJ III banks for many companies in the portable toilet industry.
Any industry can take what they use in the real world and miniaturize it. Not everyone is successful at getting the job done as there are a lot of complexities when you shrink something. When our client had the idea for the PolyJohn bank, we knew that the full-size portable restrooms were vacuum formed, and believed that we could take a similar approach to the miniature versions. So, we began by measuring the full-size potty house and made detailed drawings.
The next step was the assembly. We looked at molding the three panels of the side walls and the front door panel at one time flat. This was perfect for vacuum forming but it left us a challenge, how to bend the corners and keep details and not soften the plastic up with heat too much so that it would distort. We came to the solution of building a custom “hot wire” to direct enough energy (heat) to the fine line of the corner, so the thin gauge plastic (Styrene) could bend sharp enough to make a nice crisp corner. We then had only one corner left to figure out how we could overlap and bond it so that it looked real and nearly identical to the full-sized models.
Then came attaching the roof. These had to be strong enough that if they were full of coins that it would not fall apart or the lid come off if you lifted the entire model with just one hand and all that weight in it. We chose hot melt glue however the glue was so hot it would heat melt or distort the plastic. We then found out that if we used a child’s hot melt glue gun, safe for kids it had a lower melt temperature and would not soften up our plastic parts.
Since making the first PolyJohn bank in 1997, we have made 12,000 of these models by hand. By making things in higher volume you learn to become efficient, impact the process with quality controls, train and retrain your staff over the years as a production run that spans 20 years does see a lot of different hands, minds, feet and eyes employed to make them.
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