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By: Matthew Danford 1. October 2014

All Under One Roof

MET plastics process-focused approach to design and production incorporates input from both the toolmaking and molding portions of the business. The mold for the parts shown here, for instance, was designed to enable end-of-arm tooling to orient them correctly for packaging upon removal from the press.

Ask a moldmaker about significant turning points for their business, and you may well hear something along the lines of how they’ve moved “from mold building to mold manufacturing.”

At least, that’s what more than a few shops have told me when I asked that question (here's one example). In essence, moving from building to manufacturing refers to taking executive decisions about how to make parts out of the hands of individual toolmakers, who instead surrender to a predetermined process. Predictable procedures, the logic goes, produce predictable—and repeatable—results.

Among the shops to make this transition is MET Plastics, the Elk Grove Village, Illinois-based subject of an October issue profile article. The difference is that MET Plastics isn’t just a toolmaker; it’s a molder as well. This business model made moving to a more process-focused approach arguably more beneficial that it would have been for an operation dedicated solely to either side of the fence. In essence, that’s because getting input from the molding side of things is much easier when that input is coming from the next room, rather than a customer in a separate facility with separate ownership and sometimes, separate priorities.

Of course, changes haven’t been limited to the moldmaking side. Heavy investment in automation and a move from batch processing to single-piece flow have significantly impacted the molding operation’s efficiency as well. Meanwhile, extensive data tracking enables the company to objectively judge the effects of changes and root out inefficiencies. Read the article to learn more.


By: Christina M. Fuges 30. September 2014

Partnering up to Push the Limits of Technology and Innovation

“Franchino was excited to participate in the design and construction of this large project,” said Todd Phillips, Vice President of Franchino Mold and Engineering. “It’s motivating to work with partners that keep pushing the limits on technology and innovation.”

Franchino Mold and Engineering of Lansing, Michigan engineered and built this aluminum and steel cavity and core hybrid mold with the largest hot runner manifold system in operation in the world.  The cavity work was machined using a Tarus 5-axis mill with a 114" x 120" table. More than 10,000 man-hours invested this project.

This all started with the development of the world’s largest low-pressure injection molding machine designed and constructed by Infiltrator Systems. The injection press took five months to engineer and nine months to build and is producing the Infiltrator IM™-1530 Septic Tank product line.  

The molding machine has the largest injection molding platen area in the world; has parts handling and finishing stations that use the largest six-axis robot in the world; and produces the world’s largest molded part at 245 pounds.

Infiltrator is the world’s largest septic products company. 


By: Matthew Danford 29. September 2014

Banking on Five-Axis Capability

Sable Engineering's G350 goes to work on an automotive air box mold cavity.

 

“My personal view is that within five to ten years, you won’t be able to compete at all without five axis.”

Those words were spoken by Andreas Batz, co-owner of Sable Engineering, in describing why the shop’s first five-axis machine likely won’t be its last. Moreover, the engineering and mold manufacturing services provider will likely choose the same model again. In addition to an unusual trunnion-type, horizontal configuration that improves access to deep features and large parts, the Grob G350 offers features like thermal compensation and automatic tool blowoff, which Batz cites as particularly useful for lights-out work. Read this article to learn more about how the new addition has improved productivity on the company’s mold and die work while also enabling it to diversify into new markets.


By: Christina M. Fuges 26. September 2014

Hot Energy Savings

I heard Paul Boettger of Technoject speak about methods for producing energy savings when using hot runner systems. He mentioned these eight considerations:

1. Resin selection and resin processing temperature

2. Shot size

3. Delta T mold temperature

4. Hot runner manifold

5. Hot runner nozzles

6. Rectangular heaters

7. Mold base size

8. Runner reduction

Boettger explained that insulating materials can be used to completely encase hot runner manifold blocks reducing radiation and convection. Also, increased contacting surfaces through metallic bonding and reshaped manifold heaters lead to more efficient heat transfers thus reducing the size of heater wattage. Furthermore, profiled coil heaters can supply heat in areas of demand and lower the heat output in other areas of lesser demand translating into further heat reduction requirements. Lastly, choosing a smaller nozzle for small cavities can significantly reduce the wattage requirements due to smaller hot runner components used. Combining the various efficiencies can translate into savings of up to 35 percent.


By: Ryan Pohl 25. September 2014

Facing Reality

Have you started building your talent acquisition, development and management system yet? If the answer is ‘yes’ then keep up the good work. If the answer is ‘no’ then perhaps a review of the skilled labor shortage data will spur you into action. 

According to the United Stated Bureau of Labor Statistics 44 percent of the workforce in the United States is 47 years old and older, which means that the vast majority is at or near retirement age.  If the demographics were balanced properly, no segment of the population would represent more than 33 to 36 percent of the available workforce.  However, as it stands, we are facing an approximate 8.5 million person shortage—and that’s just to replace the people currently working. 

This number is across all occupations, not just advanced manufacturing. Actually within advanced manufacturing the challenge is even greater.  According to a recent survey by the Manufacturing Institute, 74 percent of manufacturers is already reporting difficulty in business growth due to a lack of skilled labor.  This is by far the highest of any other occupation. 

Just one of these statistics would be reason enough to act. Overcoming each of these problems individually would be a daunting task, but combined it could be overwhelming.  How about adding a third variable? This one is harder to quantify, but you do not have to work in this trade very long to know that it exists.  I am referring to the negative perception of working with your hands. 

In America, we seem to have forgotten where wealth comes from.  We have idealized the “white collar” jobs and created a system that pressures the “best and the brightest” young people to pursue a college education because anything less would be beneath them. High school graduates have been pushed hard to go to college, whether it is the best thing for them or not. Or, like Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs says it, “We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.”  This has become the modus operandi of our culture. 

So like Mike Rowe correctly asks at his website: What about the skilled trades? There are plenty of reasons to get into the trades, now more than ever as a matter of fact.  It is time for each individual company to make their own efforts to contribute to solve the problem.  We all must work on this together.  It is not an insurmountable task if we all have a plan. 

 



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