Smart Hero Amps Up Efficiency for Solar Lights

Rethinking and replacing metals adds $500,000 to Smart Hero’s bottom line

By:Michelle Maniscalco

The Challenge

While Smart Hero’s outdoor lighting was finding success around the world, its engineers needed to decrease the cost of manufacturing its line of painted metal solar-powered lights.

Since the China-based contract manufacturer used metal and plastic in its products, its manufacturing team thought converting metal parts to plastic could lower costs. But initial test with pre-colored ABS failed because they weren’t retaining color when exposed to UV light. 

The Smart Hero team needed to find a more viable material.

The Solution

The engineers reached out to Avient’s Dongguan, China, facility for help in identifying a material it could use in the solar-powered lights. But it had to meet a number of stringent requirements:

  • Withstand daily exposure to outdoor UV rays with minimal color fading 
  • Exhibit excellent flow characteristics to efficiently fill the complex geometry needed for the light
  • Display an excellent surface finish and overall visual appealing
  • Decrease the cost of production

The Smart Hero team found the solution they needed in a pre-colored version of Geon M5705, Avient’s high-flow vinyl molding formulation for outdoor use. The pre-colored material was matched to the painted metal lights, which were being produced in gray and black. 

Molding trials allowed the company to optimize processing conditions, leading to the creation of ideal parts for evaluation. As a result of the evaluation, Smart Hero was confident that Geon M5705 was the best material to replace painted metal in its solar-powered lights.

The Impact

After moving to pre-colored Geon M5705, Smart Hero reduced its manufacturing costs by $300,000 by eliminating the painting process and reducing scrap.

In addition, the use of the new material eliminated the volatile organic compounds previously produced during painting operations, reducing the production facility’s impact on the environment.

Smart Hero’s product was so commercially successful in the initial black and gray colors, the company moved ahead with an expansion of its product line to include seven additional colors made with Geon M5705, which will save another $200,000 a year.