Built-In Quality

This month MoldMaking Technology magazine asks its readers how to ensure the quality of a mold.

No one would argue that quality moldmaking is critical to maintaining a successful business or that a moldmaker will always make every effort to create a quality mold, but are there differences in the way moldmakers define quality? Our experts share with us what steps are necessary for them to take before a mold is released.

Derek Beattie, owner, PolySurf Design Services (Galt, CA). You need to start with communication. Understanding the mold requirements of your customer - such as the function of the part, plastic material to be molded, cavity and core surface finish, gate type and location - is the key to designing and building a mold that will produce qualified parts with minimal adjustments. Don't underemphasize the design/planning stages. Discuss the project with the mold designers and the moldmakers prior to starting the design of the part. This gives the whole team an opportunity to share their ideas regarding all of the aspects of the project. It is better to develop a clear plan early on than to 'make one up as you go.'

Once you have a solid design, submit designs for customer approval and maintain a systematic approach to each mold project and allow room for improvement. During manufacturing, a set of company standards for various machining procedures is helpful and employees must be trained in their application. Establishing company standards and procedures will help ensure the consistent quality of the finished tool, which in turn will be reflected in the plastic parts the mold produces.

Walt Bishop, executive director of SPI Machinery, Molders and Moldmakers Divisions (Washington, D.C.). The best way to ensure the quality of a mold is to have it built in the United States. With any mold builder, it is essential to keep the lines of communication open from concept to delivery. Be as specific as possible and remain involved in the production process, ensuring that what is being produced is what has been ordered.

Thomas Fenton, toolroom manager for Minntech Corp. (Plymouth, MI). Design and build the mold to the specifications required for the mold to produce parts to print for the expected life of the mold with minimum repair and maintenance. Good decisions about the steel, heat treatment, gating and other mold components are as necessary as the moldmakers' decisions when they build the mold.

Jim Meinert, director of international marketing for Snider Mold (Mequon, WI). Quality is a big issue in our industry, as well as ISO-9000 or QS-6000 certification. Quality starts with a commitment to create awareness within the entire company, top to bottom, or across the board. We are currently installing ISO-9000. We need to change the way we do things and to embrace the new procedures needed to have the buy-in required. The simple answer is to inspect and check along the way as you build a mold, but the best method is to have your team 'build-in' the good quality.

Jean H. Kroes, owner of J.H. Kroes Consulting (Ottowa, Ontario). Put quality workmanship into the mold. That involves adhering to strict procedures like applicable ISO standards and common sense. We need to find out before building the mold what the requirements will be, for instance the work conditions under which a mold will be working and the material which will be used if the original plastic is not available and there is a change to a different material, such as one with higher fiber contents. While the customer may be requesting a specific steel, in lieu of long-term demand, we may want to give a little better grade, something that may also work itself better and, in the long-term be more economical to use because of reduced machining or polishing time.

Software is fantastic, but human input is still the most valuable component. The action of the mold, the slide functions and ejection paths need to be reviewed in the moldmaker's mind and verified. Software usually works with a large margin of safety, not necessarily allowing the optimum capability for location. As a result, cooling or heating channels may not work to a maximum. This input based on a mold builder's past experience is what guarantees long-range satisfying performance and the quality of a mold. Old-fashioned ways may be ideological, but then it comes from one who was asked during his apprenticeship more than once, 'Why is there never enough time to do the job right, but always the time to do it a second time over?'

Karl Van Blankenburg, president of American Mold Technologies, Inc. (Harrison Township, MI). We utilize a comprehensive Advance Quality Planning process that is part of a documented Quality Operating System. The AQP process employs the use of multi-disciplined teams made up of experienced personnel in design, engineering, quality and manufacturing. The teams manage the product development process, which includes design, prototyping, tooling manufacture, and production readiness and launch phases. AQP checklists and a series of team 'milestone event' approval steps are an instrumental element. During the actual mold design and build phases, mold standards and a series of specific AQP checklists and related quality validation/verification steps are incorporated into the process. The steps include verification that all customer requirements are met, such as dimensional items, visual checks, validation to specifications and production readiness elements. In addition, throughout the process, 'learned lessons' are evaluated and applied to future programs as part of continuous improvement.

Robert Rieck, VP of Traverse Precision, Inc. (Traverse City, MI). We ensure the quality of our molds through our ISO-9001 Quality System. Our policies and procedures are set up to ensure that each mold has the same set of criteria to be followed. Each facet of our mold design and build is followed to the letter. Our people have been trained to never cut corners to jeopardize the quality of each mold. We only hire conscientious personnel.

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