Butterworth Industries manufactures cloth covers that slip onto industrial robot arms that paint cars. The covers protect the arms from becoming coated in the paint that is circulating in the air of the paint booth. However, as an arm would rotate and bend to perform the task, the cloth cover would get stuck in the arm’s joints. This kept the arm from functioning as intended, and to fix it, production would have to stop so the arm could be dismantled to remove the cloth from the joint. This was a major problem as every minute that an automaker’s production line is down costs tens of thousands of dollars.
To remedy this, Butterworth sought to make an additional cover to go between the arm joint and the cloth cover. At first, Butterworth tried making these themselves using hand measurements and sheets of plastic. The plastic would be cut into the proper shape and bent around the joint, but this led to bunching of the plastic that did not produce a good fit.
Butterworth soon realized that thermoforming could produce the fit they desired without hindering movement of the machine. They did not have the means to make a thermoforming mold and perform the manufacturing process though, so they turned to 3 Space as an outside vendor to complete these tasks.