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ADA designed and built the above DVD display which was placed in 4,000 Walmarts, K-Marts, Best Buys and Sam’s Clubs across the country.

September Feature

Versatility, Quality and Commitment: Backbone of Acrylic Design Associates

Celebrating 25 years of high-end fabricating in 2001, Acrylic Design Associates has positioned itself as one of the top store fixture manufacturers in the industry.

By Chad W. Sypkens

One word: Versatility.

Beginning as a small plastics distributor in 1976, Acrylic Design Associates (ADA) has grown into so much more than that in its 25 years of existence. A “one stop shop” with the ability to thermoform, CNC machine, laser cut, finish, fabricate, die cut and silk screen, ADA recorded a record year in sales last year and is on its way to breaking that in 2001.

ADA has found itself perched among the ranks of the top 10 store fixture manufacturers in each of the last three years. CEO of ADA, Bill McNeely Sr., said he has been able to get his family business to this level by retaining quality employees and through the constant addition of new technology to his daily operations.

“Although we have become a large, high-volume company serving the entire country, Acrylic Design is still a family business and remains committed to the over-riding values of honesty and a handshake,” says Bill Sr., whose son Bill Jr. and daughter Stefanie are each involved in the daily operations at ADA. “We’ve felt that strong values form strong relationships, and strong relationships build business.”

If that is the case, it has certainly worked. ADA’s sales eclipsed $21 million last year, and it is shooting for the $25 million mark this year to help celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary.

DVD Display Drives Market

A large portion of ADA’s store fixture business comes from another Twin City-based company, Target, as well as several other national retail chains. When Warner Brothers contacted ADA about designing DVD displays, it was the beginning of a great relationship for the two firms.

“What Warner was looking for was a kiosk display that pushed DVD products to the front so it always looked clean and full,” says Bill McNeely Jr., vice president of marketing & sales, who has worked at ADA in many capacities, beginning as a fabricator on the plant floor while growing up. “We were able to do this and incorporate an anti-theft deterrent system whereby the customer is only able to take out one DVD at a time — thus helping out stores with loss prevention.”

Using a Brausse die cutter to cut out the PETG pockets, the DVD Kiosk display included a PETG extruded shelf with built-in price channels and styrene end caps.

The display also consists of PETG graphic end panels CNC machined by one of ADA’s four Komo CNC routers and extruded shelves which use patented injection molded polycarbonate connector clips to connect horizontal and vertical shelves to end panels without the need for gluing.

“We worked directly with Warner, placing 4,000 displays into Walmarts, K-Marts, Best Buys and Sam’s Clubs across the country,” says McNeely Jr. “It has been a proven success to the retailers in a short amount of time, increasing their sales of DVDs by 50 percent, and more often than not, the fixture pays for itself within four or five days.”

Customer List Lengthy

Retail, however, is just one of the many industries where ADA’s displays and fixtures can be found. The company designs and produces products for the banking, signage, medical, OEM and restaurant industries, turning customer concepts into finished products.

“We do numerous interiors of bank chains across the world,” says McNeely Jr. “Last year, for example, we did a rollout for Bank of America on the West Coast and Southwest, covering 4,000 branches where every branch had 10 to 15 different acrylic fixtures holding graphics or brochures.”

“We purchase vast amounts of extrusions and injection molded parts for our displays and have them shipped and assembled here,” says Karl Perry, vice president of operations. “All of our DVD display shelves are extruded and the displays incorporate wood bases, injection molded components and extrusions into the fixtures. We aren’t just a component house — we bring everything here for final assembly.”

ADA also has customer relationships with 3M, Boston Scientific and International Dairy Queen, also based in Minneapolis, and which, for the last 20 years, has received thousands of fabricated acrylic Blizzard bins from ADA.

All of Perkins Restaurants work nationally is also done by ADA, includi
ADA recently purchased this Schelling FLM 330 precision saw, shown cutting eight sheets of PETG. The FLM 330 is designed specifically for cutting plastic.
ADA operates four Komo routers 18 hours a day, including two VR 1005 TTs and two VR 1008 TTs, one of which has a 10-foot by 10-foot bed for machining large custom made sheets.
ng fabrication of their acrylic table caddies.

First Class Facility

With so many different operations available at ADA’s 120,000-square-foot facility, the list of equipment is endless. According to Perry, that is what ADA’s customers like best, being able to rely on one manufacturer for a project to be completed from design and production, to assembly and delivery, and every step in between.

“We just purchased a new top of the line Schelling panel saw that we are really excited about,” says Perry. “We purchased this machine due to our increased capacity and the fact that we were having difficulty cutting thin gauge PETG. The Schelling has done away with that problem and allowed us to accomplish cutting down to 0.0030-inch PETG, with no chipping and no blow out in the corners.”

Perry also mentioned the dust collection system as being another reason for the purchase.

“We are silk screening a lot of our displays now,” says Perry. “Prior to that step, the PETG sheets needs to be cut to size. With the Schelling they come off the machine with virtually no chips or dust on the sheets and can go right into screening. The less dust and dirt left on the sheet, the less problems and less time wasted. The internal characteristics of the system accomplish this, how it is built and where it picks up the dust from the bottom and from over the top of the blade, sealing it. There is nowhere for the chips to go.”

McNeely mentioned that another of the unique features at ADA is its in-house silk screening capability.

“That has really opened up a whole new world for us,” says McNeely Jr. “We have eliminated the need to outsource t
The K2 display contains all black Sintra with a silk screened silver swoosh and a laser cut acrylic K2 logo with reversed screened graphics which creates a 3-D look. The six pages of the book have been silk screened on PETG and serve as an information system about how the particular product was constructed. Acrylic Design rolled out 3,000 of these displays which were then shipped around the world.
his process which reduces lead time and expense, and allows us to keep a close eye on quality.“

ADA is in the process of adding UV screening in combination with their screening.

Silk screening helped ADA land a job for an inline skate display for K2, which contains all blank Sintra and incorporates a silk screened silver swoosh, laser cut acrylic K2 logo with reversed silk screened graphics with custom color red and applied pressure sensitive adhesive which gives it a 3-D look.

“The display serves as an information center with silk screened PETG pages containing information about the boot,” says McNeely Jr. “As you turn each page of PETG, it pieces the shoe together for the customer like a book, showing a cross section of the boot and each step of how the boot is constructed. They said they wanted the display to be versatile for slatwall or a countertop and gave us size parameters. They also mentioned that they wanted the book to be a library, an information center for their product and new boot. We came up with the design of the six-page library book system and screen printed the information on the sheets of PETG. We rolled out 3,000 of the displays that were shipped around the world, with a large portion going to Germany.”

Another reason ADA continued to grow was the recent purchase of its Brausse clam shell die cutter last year which has allowed them to use more PETG and design more indoor fixturing.

Large Plastic Purchaser

In addition to its large PETG usage, ADA is an acrylic distributor and consumer of Cyro, Atofina, Ineos, Plaskolite, Sheffield, Spartech and Polycast and many other manufacturers of styrene, ABS and expanded PVC.

“At the present time we are one of the largest purchasers from a single location of acrylic (2.3 million pounds) and PETG (750,000 pounds) in the country,” says McNeely Jr. “We also consumed 400,000 pounds of styrene last year as well. We have an advantage because we buy directly from the manufactures whereas many fabricators have to buy through distributors.”

For more pictures from ADA, click here

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