RECREATION
WhiteWater

Why make the switch?

WhiteWater Composites, a British Columbia-based manufacturer of equipment for water parks, switched to open molding for some of its parts in 2002. Tim Boothman, the company’s vice president and general manager, says there were several factors behind the decision: “We switched for three reasons,” Boothman says. “First was the cost. We estimated it would be cheaper for the volume. Second was the volume itself. We calculated that we could build faster than we could with open mold. And third, closed molding gave a gel coat molded surface on both sides, which is important in the waterslide industry. It’s smooth on both sides, and that made it sexier looking product.”

The benefits

Boothman says WhiteWater has seen output improve since switching to closed molding. “We certainly have the ability to churn out more parts than we could before,” he says.

The closed molding process gave WhiteWater Composites, a manufacturer of water park equipment, the ability to more easily create a double-sided smooth product.

The closed molding process gave WhiteWater Composites, a manufacturer of water park equipment, the ability to more easily create a double-sided smooth product.

The company has also seen a 10 percent total savings (productions, material and labor costs), and styrene emissions have been reduced to 1 percent, versus 6 to 13 percent with open molding. “It’s a far cleaner environment for our workforce,” Boothman says. “The only time they have to wear a mask is during the gel coat at the beginning of the process, which makes them much happier.”

The challenges

WhiteWater has seen some savings, Boothman says, but less than what they had initially hoped—mostly because materials such as fiberglass mats are more expensive. Currently the business is 60 percent closed mold and 40 percent open, a fact largely driven by the cost of the tools. Boothman says open molding is a labor-intensive process but admits that RTM is a technology-intensive process. “If you don’t have the resin chemistry right or you don’t have your mold design correct, you’re going to make a lot of bad parts,” he says. “With an open mold, you can fix a bad part whereas with closed, you often have to throw it out.”

Similar to Ball, Boothman points out the steep learning curve associated with the switch. He says it took about six months to get the hang of the process, and mistakes are still made. “If you get a new operator and they forget one step or do one step incorrectly, you can potentially produce a bad part. That one step that might seem inconsequential, but in fact it is not,” Boothman says.