With you every step of the way.
To produce the arcade game top cover, we use a process called free forming as the material, the part does not actually make contact with the mold. We developed this process about 20 years ago out of an idea when we were actually forming a half of a light bulb. You may have actually seen the finished product in action if you’ve been to a local arcade such as Dave and Buster’s.
The process starts as the flat sheet of acrylic is heated up in an oven on one of our rotary thermoforming machines. The beauty of rotary thermoforming machines is that there are technically four stations within this specific machine. There’s a loading station, you have your idle station before the oven, the heating station, and then finally your forming station.
So basically the operator can run four sheets all at once which results in faster cycle times, less machine time needed for that specific job, and also more consistent product. You will see as the sheet comes out of the oven, and is placed over the mold, the mold rises and only makes contact with the excess part of the sheet that is machined off as scrap. From there the vacuum kicks on, which gradually pulls the sheet down to a specific depth into the cavity of the mold almost like blowing a bubble. While the actual part is still not making contact with anything, this is extremely critical as the finished product needs to be completely transparent if the sheet were to make contact with the mold, it would take the texture of the mold producing a defective part.
Once the part is cooled, it is then removed from the thermoforming machine and we are onto our machining center. The molded part is placed onto a fixture that has a cavity that is almost identical to the actual mold, where we CNC 5-Axis the part to produce the finished product. Our 5-Axis op begins with machining six holes and then goes right into machining out a circle in the top of the part. And then lastly, the machine comes up to the top of the fixture and machines the bottom of the part to the customer’s desired specs which removes all excess scrap. The final part is removed from the 5-Axis fixture, wrapped with paper masking and bubble wrap, is then placed on a pallet ready to ship out to the end-customer. So there you have our free form clear bubble, which is about 24 inches tall, with an overall diameter of about 55 inches, which you may notice next time you’re at your local arcade.