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Assembly In Action: Dispensing System Joins Winners Circle at Academy Awards

November 28, 2011
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Orion RED has fabricated several sets for the Academy Awards. For the 2011 ceremony, the company was asked to create an elegant, crystal-studded “Winners Circle” in which the honorees would receive their Oscars. The project involved building a 15.5-foot circular stage studded with more than 40,000 Swarovski Elements crystals.

Orion RED used a Nordson EFD dispenser to place a consistent amount of two-part epoxy inside 40,000 tiny holes, without rework or cleanup. Photo courtesy Orion RED

Orion RED, a builder of high-end displays, has fabricated several sets for the Academy Awards. For the 2011 ceremony, the company was asked to create an elegant, crystal-studded “Winners Circle” in which the honorees would receive their Oscars.

The project involved building a 15.5-foot circular stage studded with more than 40,000 Swarovski Elements crystals. The substrate consisted of medium density fiberboard topped with a high-pressure laminate and divided into wedge-shaped segments arranged around a circular center. A CNC machine was used to bore the flat-bottomed 2.5 millimeter- to 4 millimeter-wide recesses in which the crystals would be mounted.

Securing the crystals was a high-profile application that had to be perfectly executed. Orion decided to use a clear, two-part jewelry epoxy that had a one-hour pot life and was packaged in side-by-side mixing syringes.

Having found the right adhesive, Orion knew it was critical that a consistent amount of adhesive be applied at the bottom of each small recess. Too little adhesive would prevent the crystal from being reliably secured; and excess adhesive would cloud the crystal’s sparkle or overflow when the crystal was seated.

“On projects where we were gluing only 10 or 20 crystals at a time, manual guns were fine,” says Howard Turco, product manager for Orion. “But getting just the right amount of glue into the bottom of 40,000 little holes was a totally different challenge. Plus, these holes were so small that they were very easy to overfill and any excess had to be carefully wiped off, slowing down the whole process.”

Orion turned to Nordson EFD for the right dispensing system. Orion has designed several trade show booths for Nordson.

Unlike dispensing guns and similar tools that rely on operator judgment, Nordson dispensers use a precisely timed air pulse to control the amount of material applied. The material is contained in a disposable syringe barrel that is fitted with a precision tip and connected to the dispenser console by a flexible air line.

The amount applied is determined by a combination of the dispensing tip size, the air pressure used to move the fluid through the syringe, and the length of time that pressure is applied. Once these parameters are set, all the operator needs to do to apply the same amount of material every time is place the tip in position and tap an electronic foot pedal.

A five-member crew set the crystals in place. However, because the lead operator was moving around the stage ahead of the crew, Orion opted to initiate the dispensing cycle with an electronic finger switch attached to the syringe.

As each batch of epoxy was mixed, Orion transferred it into a 55-cubic-centimeter syringe barrel fitted with an 18-gauge (0.033-inch ID) dispensing tip. After adjusting air pressure and dispense time to produce the desired shot size, the operators went to work.

“We had initially allotted a week for this project,” says Turco. “But because we were able to control the amount of adhesive with so much precision, we were able to set the crystals over the course of a weekend, without the need to bring in extra personnel.”

For more information on dispensing equipment, call 800-556-3484 or visit www.nordsonefd.com.

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