Published on 29 January 2013
Goose feathers and cork seemed like a rare choice of engineering materials to TWI, when it was first approached by a company under the Joining Forces Yorkshire and Humber programme.
But to its client, Echelon Sport, one of the world's leading shuttlecock manufacturers, they are everyday materials. So when it presented TWI with a unique joining problem, the challenge was irresistible.
The company is in the early stages of creating a variant to the game of badminton. It's a scaled-up version of the indoor game and uses bigger and heavier shuttlecocks ideally suited for use at the beach and park, where wind considerations can seriously put you off your stroke.
For manufacture of its range of conventional shuttlecocks, several methods for joining the flights to the nose are already in use. One of the most successful is a mechanical push fit which is particularly well suited for joining nylon flights to the cork or synthetic polymer nose.
The nose deforms easily to accommodate the appropriately shaped flight base and springs back to complete the mechanical lock.
But for the up-scaled outdoor version, Bigmington as it's known, a new and unique set of problems presented itself. TWI was asked how to join the large spherical polymer foam nose of the oversized shuttlecock to its equally oversized nylon flights. Free technical support from Joining Forces enabled Echelon to review and investigate their options.
The push fit approach was not sufficient to retain the two components completely and a hot melt adhesive looked to be the most likely and the most cost effective solution.
Further investigation into how the adhesive should be applied concluded that by using simple tooling, a gun or dispensing arrangement could be used to fill the 25mm deep recess in the nose, and allow the flights to be inserted while the adhesive stayed molten.
The hot melt adhesive solution has much to commend it to the client. It requires a short hardening period, the capital equipment is inexpensive and cheap to run.
On top of these basic requirements for cost effectiveness, the process demands very little operator training and is easy to stop and start during production.
TWI's help was available to Echelon Sport under the Joining Forces Yorkshire and Humber technology transfer programme. The programme aims to boost growth, competitiveness and innovation in the region's small and medium-sized companies.
For information about TWI's capabilities please contact us.