Feature Stories Archive
GameTime Molding Childhoods
At GameTime, its most
important customers are children. This Alabama-based
rotational molding operation develops imaginative, safer and
more accessible playgrounds, helping to engage children in
physically and mentally stimulating
GameTime, the largest
manufacturer of modular and custom commercial outdoor
playground equipment in the United States, rotationally
molds more than 4 million pounds of linear low-density
polyethylene (LLDPE) annually into nearly 300 different
components and parts.
claims the Big Foot Slide is the largest one-piece
slide in the world and the most monumental advance
in slide technology since the one-piece spiral. It
features three slides in one with curved extra-deep
bedways that are individually configured with
rails, moguls and banks.
The Fort Payne, AL-based
company with 500 employees rests on 84 acres in a 400,000
square-foot-facility and has been making playgrounds for 70
years. Products are designed, manufactured and marketed to
educate, challenge, stimulate and entertain the mind while
providing opportunities for very active or somewhat passive
physical play. The molded products are utilized in
GameTime's PowerScape, its premier play system that is
responsible for over half of the entire business, as well as
PrimeTime and TotTime and six other lines.
GameTime has been
manufacturing playground equipment to non-consumer markets,
including municipalities, park districts, school districts
and other playground equipment users, since its inception in
1929. It was initially owned by several companies in
Linchfield, MI, including the major lawn mower supplier
Toro. The Siragusa family purchased GameTime from Toro in
1979, moving it to Fort Payne, AL.
GameTime was bought by
PlayCore Inc., a leading playground equipment and backyard
products company in 1997. PlayCore added GameTime to its
team of two similar operating units focused on commercial
and consumer play and backyard wooden storage buildings:
SwingNSlide, the market leader in the United
States for do-it-yourself wooden playground equipment, and
Heartland Industries, a leading manufacturer and marketer of
installed backyard wooden storage buildings.
The three combined last year
to help PlayCore to record sales of $191,936,000.
According to Jerry Sterling,
vice president of manufacturing and operations, GameTime's
Dragon Slide is a prime example of the spirit of innovation
that has fueled the company's success.
"Our leadership in
ADA-accessible products are an example of how PlayCore
people are shaping the direction of the industry," says
The double-wide Dragon Slide
is one of several ADA-accessible pieces of playground
equipment which include a built-in sit-down area, extra high
sides, extended exit area and smooth curved edges for the
children's sliding experience." "The SwingNSlide
and GameTime divisions have combined and shown a powerful
illustration of cohesion on play systems for the children's
playground market," explains Sterling. "Both GameTime and
SwingNSlide are pursuing their respective
growing markets and what is shared are the design and
manufacturing capabilities of each division in order to
achieve almost complete coverage of a target market. We also
share best practice methods which will not only provide
opportunities for cost reductions but will also serve as a
clearinghouse to coordinate the major changes in technology
in our business."
equipment and much more
The following are
the many facets of GameTime and what they offer their
customers. For more information, check out www.gametime.com
or call (800) 235-2440.
the year of the Dragon for GameTime. The massive
11-foot-high structure features a keystone archway
leading to a double-wide slide. ADA-accessible via
molded-in handholds, the Dragon is available as a
stand-alone or as an attachment to the Premier
PowerScape play system.
GameTime's premier play system features patented
factory-installed MegaLocs, 5-inch diameter galvanized steel
or aluminum support posts, a 49-inch grid system, safer
entry archways and a unique modular roof system.
KidTime offers the
quality and innovation GameTime is known for to meet the
developmental needs of children under age five. KidTime is
an ability-based play system designed for three different
groups: crawlers, toddlers and walkers.
PrimeTime brings the
Utilitarian play system featuring an exclusive bolt-through
fastening system, 31Ú2-inch diameter galvanized steel or
aluminum support posts, a 36-inch grid system and one-piece
rotationally molded slides.
scale play system is designed specifically for two- through
five-year-old players and features the PrimeTime
bolt-through fastening system and 31Ú2-inch diameter
galvanized steel or aluminum support posts used in 36-inch
modular grid system.
GT Components allows
designers to layout their own playground choosing from over
150 components including one-piece rotationally molded slide
chutes, innovative and challenging climbers, clever bridges
and overhead ladders, imagination provoking interactive
panels and adaptive tubes, Qubes and more.
GT Action brings
action-packed play enhanced coordination through equipment
movement. Products include track-rides, swings,
speed-limited whirls, see-saw Buck-a-Bouts and spring action
play such as SaddleMates and Cruisin' Mates.
GT Events offers
stationary play activities promoting social interaction
through traditional and theme climbing events, innovative
giant one-piece slides, interactive play panels, balance
beams and handicap accessible activities.
GT Sports includes
Quality physical fitness and game equipment for individual
and team activities including PE class, basketball, soccer,
tennis, volleyball and baseball, plus Parcourse outdoor
fitness circuits and centers.
Streetscape furnishings including benches, litter
receptacles, picnic tables, grills, campfire rings, bicycle
racks and metal shelters.
One of those changes as of
late has become the popularity of rotational molding.
According to Sterling, rotational molding is the fastest
growing segment of the polymer industry.
430 independent-arm rotational molder is one of
four Ferry machines molding linear low density
polyethylene into playground components at
This practice creates
lightweight, seamless, stress-free parts of virtually any
size in the most complex shapes. Rotationally molded
products represent a wide range of materials, performance
characteristics, colors, surface textures and
Rotational molding is a
three-stage, no-pressure, plastic molding process that
provides close tolerances and tight radii to afford
interchangeable and interlocking components. The most common
material molded by GameTime is LLDPE; HDPE, LDPE, PVC,
fluorocarbons, polypropylene, nylon and polycarbonate are
commonly used for rotational molding as well.
The molds utilized by
GameTime are all cast aluminum and are primarily purchased
from Wheeler Boyce Co. in Stow, OH. These molds receive a
special Teflon coating applied by E.L Stone Co., which
enables GameTime employees to do quicker color changes and
makes the chore of demolding much easier.
GameTime operators mix their
own product from a 100,000 pound silo using six mixers,
weighing out the resin, placing it in the mold and locking
it. Once clamped shut, the molds will go through several
stages, being rotated in two axes at low speeds. Typically
the major axis revolves four times to every one time of the
minor axis. The speeds are slow enough that no centrifugal
force is involved.
During the heating stage,
the mold is sent into the oven for a preset time where it
slowly rotates in two planes (bi-axial rotation) at
temperatures ranging from 500F to 700F, creating a tumbling
action. Heat transfer causes the plastic charge (resin)
inside the mold to melt and as the heat penetrates the mold,
the resin adheres to the mold's inner surface, uniformly
coating the interior of the mold until it is completely
During the second stage, the
mold moves to the cooling station, where it is cooled by air
and/or water spray. And in the final load/unload stage, the
part is "demolded" or removed from the mold.
While the process starts
over with a new charge of material loaded into the molds,
the finished component then receives some secondary
fabricating techniques that are necessary prior to shipping
such as trimming paper-thin pieces of LLDPE which form along
the groove where the two molds meet during
Molders Fit the Bill
GameTime began its molding
operation with a single rotational molder, a Ferry
Industries 430 Model, in 1982 with only three colors
available and six operators. Today, those numbers have
increased to four Ferry machines, three shifts, 38 operators
and 16 standard colors. The 220, 280, 430 and 500 Ferry
models go through 4 million pounds of LLDPE a year, with the
280 and 430 acting as the work horses of the four.
Ferry 220 fixed-arm turret rotational molder at
GameTime is a carousel machine. Each of the three
arms move simultaneously on a preset timer from one
station to the next.
"The operators do more then
just add the resin to the mold and send it through," says
Sterling. "They are the added quality which we feel sets us
apart from the rest. We have people who take pride in what
they do, not only with the machinery, but the secondary
operations as well: trimming, cutting, flaming or drilling.
We have a great group of people working at GameTime from
start to finish, all the way down to the complete inspection
of parts throughout the process."
The four Ferry machines
allow GameTime to provide increased processing capabilities
while promoting the most efficient use of its labor force. A
turret machine is provided with all arm assemblies fixed to
a common indexing turret. Indexing the turret from station
to station results in all the arms moving to the next
GameTime's 280, 430 and 500
models operate with all the arms being independent of one
another. GameTime utilizes the RS-500, with a swing of 200
inches and a weight capacity of 7,500 pounds, to run the
much larger hallow components.
An example of a much larger,
heavier molded part on its RS-500 is GameTime's latest hit
slide, The Dragon, which consists of two large molds, one
mold for the head and one for the body. Assembled with bolts
which go through molded inserts, the Dragon is an
11-foot-high rotationally molded play apparatus which
instantly turns a play equipment system into more of an
"Customer response to this
product has been incredible," says Sterling. "A product like
the ADA-accessible Dragon illustrates two inherent strengths
of our company: our innovative design talent, as well as our
state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities that enable the
production of such ambitious products. We continually
challenge our product design teams to really get inside the
minds of children, while appealing to the decision-maker's
sense of safety and playfulness, in order to create a
win-win situation for our customers and
A lot of the tools or molds
used to create the different polyethylene parts incorporate
molded inserts to aid in assembly. The Rock and The Big Foot
Slide are two examples of components using large two-piece
molds with the inserts incorporated in the LLDPE
Designs in No Time With GT CAD
Since 1997, GameTime's GT
CAD software has assisted with KidTime Designs as it
supplied informational videotapes, plus an organized kit to
help guide groups step-by-step through the playground
funding, creation and building process.
KidTime Designs can assist
with the organization of future playground projects. From
planning the fund-raising and publicity campaigns, creating
the special design-day for kids, through construction day
and the "dream-come-true" ribbon cutting ceremony.
KidTime Designs, the
community built playground service, assists hundreds of
schools and communities with fund raising and building new
playgrounds every year helping make GameTime the largest
manufacturer offering community built playgrounds in the
In the future GameTime will
also begin to reap the benefits of a now-completed $3.5
million plant expansion which will provide an additional
272,000 square feet of capacity and improved manufacturing
square footage allowed us to situate production departments such
that work flow would be more efficient," says Robert Farnsworth,
president. "This will result in improved delivery time and
overall product quality."
The changes included
relocating the press and welding departments, which allowed
for more space in the paint, hardware, shipping and Pentes
departments. It also allowed space for additional loading
docks bringing GameTime's total to 26; a new learning center
for all types of training; a 5,580-square-foot product
design center and improved receiving area.
"The expansion, moving and
rearranging was completed in January and the changes are
exceeding our expectations right now," says Sterling. "We
have seen a big difference in all aspects of GameTime. The
overall flow of material, especially the metals area, has
been tremendous. Now that the departments are all in line,
things flow a lot more smoothly.
"These improvements have
and will continue to help us with our commitment to develop park
and playground equipment that is creative, durable and above all
& emdash; fun," says Sterling.
year 2000, GameTime introudces"America's fastest
compliant slide chute," the CyberSlide which offers
a very quick descent, ending in a slowing long
runout. The slide is attached to either a 51/2 or
8-foot platform, allowing children to attain the
speed they desire without the intimidating climb
required on traditional 12-foot and 14-foot-high
here to go back to the PMF feature
Plastics Machining & Fabricating
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