Speed Comes From Your Choice of Machine, But Your Accuracy Comes From Your Choice of Tooling

Innovation in both the design and moldmaking processes has helped one moldmaker stay ahead of the game.

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Tech Tool & Mold of Meadville, PA is no stranger to success. Originally established as Tech Tool & Die in 1973, founders Bill and Eva Hanaway changed the business's name after several years of experience revealed a core strength in the area of plastic injection molds. Since then, Tech Tool & Mold has consistently succeeded by staying at the forefront of innovation, both in design and processes.

 

Growing with Technology

In their efforts to best serve their market, Tech Tool & Mold developed extensive research and development services. This expanded capability established the shop as something beyond a mere contract manufacturer. The total-package approach to injection molding led to a reputation not just as a producer of high- quality injection molds, but also as a product development partner that specializes in project management and product design.

As technology advanced to allow higher levels of productivity, Tech Tool & Mold implemented the concept of lean manufacturing into their operations. Higher levels of automation allowed the shop to add second and third shifts. This move resulted in both shorter turnaround times and an overall increase in workload capacity. It also brought about a new variety of challenges.

"We've seen our work get smaller, more intricate and tighter on tolerances," says Donnie Schanz, EDM operator for Tech Tool & Mold. "Coupled with unattended machining, this really makes your choice of tooling a vital decision. Your speed comes from your choice of machine, but your accuracy comes from your choice of tooling. To be confident with lights out machining, you must have full confidence in your tooling."

 

Sound Investments

For the past 13 years, Tech Tool & Mold has relied on EROWA to sustain that confidence. The shop employs a wide variety of EROWA products, ranging from 50 mm electrode holders to ITS chucks to 148 mm pallets. All told, Tech Tool & Mold currently uses approximately $300,000 worth of EROWA tooling. It's proven to be a sound investment.

"EROWA tooling allows us to run our machines at full speed," explains Schanz. "Numerous times, I've spoken with others in the industry who tell me they've had to slow down a machine's changing speed due to their tooling. EROWA tooling ensures that our machines are reaching their true potential."

It also helps the company as a whole reach its full potential. With the level of design work performed by Tech Tool & Mold, the increased flexibility of a reliable pallet system is invaluable.

"To adequately respond to our customers' needs, we have to be able to change the design on the fly," says Tech Tool & Mold Director of Marketing Mark Hanaway. "With our EROWA systems, we drastically reduce the time it takes to pull a piece, review the design, make alterations and then reinitiate machining."

This design flexibility helped one of their customers beat the competition in bringing a part to market. The piece in question was a large framing square used for rafters in the hardware industry. During the design process, the customer inquired as to whether the part could be finished two weeks ahead of schedule, to debut at a major trade show in Las Vegas.

"With the EROWA system we've established, we were able to go straight from design to machining to production for sampling," recalls Hanaway. "The final piece came off the press at 11:30 at night and debuted in Las Vegas the next day."

 

Customer Service

In addition to providing reliable solutions, Tech Tool & Mold credits EROWA with providing something they themselves proudly provide their customers, superior service.

"We're used to working with our customers to find the best solution to what they need," explains Schanz. "It's good to do business with a supplier that applies that same philosophy to our company. EROWA is always committed to helping us find a solution to whatever comes across our path."

"Our dedication to providing our customers the best possible solutions causes us to be the leader of innovation in our market," says Tom Watkins, vice president of engineering at EROWA. "Without our philosophy of examining all the options instead of just the obvious ones, we wouldn't be able to arrive at solutions like the sub gate holder Tech Tool is now using (See Burning Sub Gates Table at end of article)."

On top of needing solutions that work, Tech Tool & Mold looks for solutions that last. The shop currently owns approximately 750 50 mm ITS holders for electrodes. They began using the workholder 13 years ago and it is still a staple in their operations.

"We've found the only time we buy more is when our work expands, as the parts just don't wear out," says Schanz. "You can't tell one we purchased last week from one we purchased 13 years ago. When we do run into a problem, we never look at our EROWA products as the cause. We've never had to. They're just that reliable."

 

Burning Sub Gates
Recently, Tech Tool & Mold approached EROWA in search of a better way to burn sub gates. With a wide variety of workpieces requiring the process, the shop hoped to find a simple, quick and extremely accurate means of creating sub gates in a wide variety of sizes and angles. A team at EROWA's manufacturing facility in Arlington Heights, IL analyzed the problem and set about designing and building a solution.

By integrating the proven and reliable EROWA Compact system onto a custom adjustable holder, the design allows the base holder to be set to a specific angle while also providing for quick replacement of electrodes to an accuracy less than 0.002 mm. The final holder is a precision collet system with the EROWA Compact system built onto the back. This let Tech Tool load a blank electrode into the collet and machine it to the angles and qualifications needed. The entire setup can then be mounted accurately onto the adjustable holder without affecting its preset angle. The system can hold electrodes ranging from 2 mm to 16 mm and incorporates preset detents so the customer can set a custom angle or position the electrode to a common sub gate angle. The new method resulted in great savings to Tech Tool & Mold.

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