By: Christina M. Fuges 20. August 2015

Moldmaking Hits the Northeast

Courtesy of Precision Punch.


Looking for local opportunities to see what's new in products and technologies for mold building and molding? Then mark your calendar for two events hitting the Northeast this fall, and MoldMaking Technology will be there to catch up on what's happening.

Hawk Mold and Die Supply Inc. has supplied mold and die components from plastics processing supplies and abrasives to mold components and tool steel since 1987, emphasizing “Made in the USA” parts whenever possible. For 25 years Hawk has been the largest PCS stocking distributor in the U.S, and now Hawk presents two opportunities in the Northeast to see its vast mold and molding technology offerings. Its annual Product and Technology Showcases are taking place this year from 1pm-7pm on Tuesday, September 29th in Pennsylvania at the Holiday Inn (1750 Sumneytown Pike, Kulpsville, PA 19443) and Thursday, October 1st in Massachusetts at the Leominster Lodge of Elks (134 North Main St., Leominster, MA 01453).

Showcases feature representatives from each of the company's vendors covering all aspects of mold building and processing.  Experts will be on hand to discuss the latest innovations in technology, many of which were unveiled during this year’s NPE show in Orlando, Florida. Following is the list of suppliers who will have representatives on hand to present their latest product offerings:

  • PCS Company: Mold bases, hot runners, controllers, mold components
  • Precision Punch: Custom punches, mold components, pins, perforators
  • Electrodes Mid-Atlantic: EDM supplies
  • Boride Engineered Abrasives: Polishing supplies
  • Nexthermal: Cartridge, coil, tubular heaters
  • Trivolt: Band heaters, mica heaters, cartridge heaters, coil heaters
  • Slide: Rust preventatives, releases, cleaners, purging compounds
  • American Screw and Barrel: Screws, barrels, tips, end caps, tie bars
  • Eastern Industries: Feeler gages and shim stock
  • ICS Laser: Mold texturing and engraving services ( electrodes, etc.)
  • Mitsubishi Hitachi Tool: Hard milling cutters
  • Nanoplas: mold coatings, greases, rust preventatives, cleaner/degreasers/releases
  • Polymer Cleaning Technology: Hot runner parts, cleaning, repair
  • RedeVault: Mold data storage, real time cycle count
  • Ultra Tooling Inc.: Graphite milling cutters
Courtesy of PCS Company.
And I'll be there on September 29th representing MoldMaking Technology magazine. I hope to see you there and catch up on what's happening in your shops.
Hawk is also including some technical presentations throughout the day, including:
  • 2pm-2:30pm and 5pm-5:30pm: PCS hot runner specialist Paul Hauser will give a presentation of the company’s new thermal gate hot runner system and discuss the latest in hot sprue technology and hot sprue bushings for high temp resins.
  • 3pm-3:30pm and 6pm-6:30pm: Jeff Lewis of Slide Products will give a presentation on purging with a focus on hot runner systems.
And I can't forget to mention the special offers. Hawk will have door prizes and a 5-percent discount on your next order (one discount per company), and if you pre-register and attend, you will be included in a special drawing for a 40” flat screen TV!
Register today by clicking here and include number of attendees. For more information, call 800-488-7757 or email

By: Matthew Danford 19. August 2015

People First

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez (center) visited Ameritech with U.S. Reps Robert Pittenger (R) and Virginia Foxx (R), both visible to the right, last month. As implied by the message on the back of this apprentice's shirt, many of the company's newer hires could have a virtually debt-free pathway to the middle class. (Image courtesy of US Department of Labor, Public Affairs.)  

This month’s profile article isn’t the only recent coverage we have to offer on Ameritech Die and Mold. Back in April, company president Steve Rotman penned a short column about the Mooresville, North Carolina shop’s specialist approach to production. Around the same time, I wrote a brief blog post on the opening of a new business venture outside of manufacturing plastic injection molds. Shortly thereafter, the shop started getting attention from the highest levels of government, and that news led to another blog post.

Ameritech certainly has lot going on these days, but that’s not the only takeaway from all this coverage. All of the articles also touch on a common theme: a heavy reliance and appreciation for what I’ve heard Rotman and other shop owners call their “most valuable resource:” People.

Consider the most robust piece, the August-issue profile. This article focuses on the advantages of driving production through engineering, a strategy many shops have adopted as part of the much-touted shift from “mold making to mold manufacturing.” At Ameritech, this approach has helped streamline and standardize processes, in part by facilitating efforts to extend the use of robotics beyond just operations associated with EDM. However, it’s also significantly impacted how people are trained. As detailed in both the profile and Rotman’s aforementioned column, the shop’s apprentices now follow a tiered system that grooms them to become specialists in certain aspects of the build.  

Those apprentices are literally the lifeblood of Ameritech, where the average age of the staff is only about 35, Rotman says. The youth of the Ameritech team is testament to a longstanding focus on workforce development, one that significantly predates the industry-wide handwringing over this crisis today. Back in 1995, the shop became a founding member of Apprenticeship 2000, a program inspired by Swiss models that has been wildly successful. Successful enough, in fact, to warrant a visit just last month from the U.S. Secretary of Labor and two Congressional representatives as part of a search for models that can be replicated throughout the country.   

Developed at Ameritech Automation, this system is used to assemble dust caps into watertight plugs used by electricians running underground power lines.

Finally, the evolution of the shop’s new business venture, Ameritech Automation Systems, demonstrates that success in any business often comes down to relationships with others. The new venture, which opened its doors in Florida in late 2014, focuses not on mold manufacturing, but on automation systems for pick-and-place, degating, assembly and other operations commonly performed by custom molders. Although the focus here is essentially on taking people out of the equation, it took a somewhat fortuitous series of both personal and business connections to get off the ground.

What’s the takeaway from all this? The title of that last piece on Ameritech Automation, “All About the People,” says it all. Ameritech certainly had to rely on the latest technology and processes to get where it is today. Yet, whether supporting its own staff or leveraging outside relationships, it’s never lost sight of the fact that the people behind the technology remain as important as ever.  

By: Christina M. Fuges 18. August 2015

"Cool" Tool

With all the discussion about conformal cooling, everyone is looking to enhance its design to optimize heat dissipation and achieve uniform cooling, as well as to improve product quality and reduce cycle times and costs. Here is just one tool that claims to help with these goals. Moldex3D partnered with One Process Machining (OPM) laboratory in Japan to develop a simulation tool for conformal cooling through which users can "build conformal cooling channels according to the contour of a product in a fast and intuitive way." 
According to Moldex3D, mold designers are then able to change the cooling design to make cooling channels closer to the molded products in the cavity, so the temperature can be more evenly distributed. This helps eliminate cold and hot spots inside the mold, minimizing residual stress, warpage, voids and sink marks. 
One interesting feature is a “slicing” function that allows users to slice up the imported part into several sections, easing and improving conformal cooling system design, according to the company. In addition, cooling analysis predicts the required cooling time, shows temperature variation inside the mold cavity and can predict coolant flow rate, pressure loss and vortex/dead water areas.

By: Matthew Danford 17. August 2015

A Successful Succession

Stacey Bales and Sara Mortensen are active members of the Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA), the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA), SPE and other organizations. Stacey Bales (left) also serves on the boards of the TMA, the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF), Midwest Chapter, and the related Chicago AESF Foundation, and she sits on the TMA’s Young Leaders and Women in TMA committees

“Sink or swim.” That’s how Stacey Bales and Sara Mortensen described the choice presented to them six years ago, when their father’s tragic and unexpected passing left the future of the family business solely in their hands.

Given that the sisters lacked even a broad outline of Steve Bales’ long-term plans for the company then known as Bales Mold Service, that future seemed uncertain at best when they took over in 2009. Yet, they’ve not only proven to be up to the challenge of carrying on their father’s legacy, they’ve taken the provider of surface coatings, finishes and value-added services to new heights. For evidence of that, look no further than the fact that sales increased by 73 percent in the first five years since the transition (and all indications are that the upswing will continue this year, the company reports).   

However, increased sales hasn’t been the only change since the transition at Bales, which is headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois and operates a second facility in Harlingen, Texas. To help manage the additional work, the company has increased overall staffing levels by 40 percent and invested in an ERP system to improve scheduling and track workflow. That’s essential because Bales is taking on more work these days. It's taking on larger work as well.  To facilitate both, the company has made the following upgrades:

-A second blast room has increased capacity for larger components, and the size of that department has increased by 20 percent overall to allow for additional blast cabinets and equipment.

-The polishing department has expanded a full 30 percent, and the planned addition of a 5-ton hoist will facilitate handling of heavier components.

-New nickel-plating tanks are 30 percent larger than previous equipment on the aluminum line, while the steel line’s new tanks are 70 percent larger. In addition to enabling the company to handle slightly larger components, this upgraded equipment is reportedly facilitating faster processing and reduced lead times.  

-The chrome line features additional rectifiers, and the planned addition of a 500-gallon chrome tank will increase capacity in this area by another 25 percent.


The first new product introduced since Sara and Stacey took the reins is Diamond E.N., an electroless nickel coating with nano-sized diamond particles. Reportedly the company’s toughest nickel product yet, it plates at 57 Rc and reaches 70 Rc after post bake. Low coefficient of friction means it can take on wear and release issues all at once.

The sisters have also overseen some significant milestones in the company’s history during their short tenure. Recognizing their emphasis on environmental sustainability, the city of Downers Grove presented Bales with its first-ever Green Business Award in 2013. This year, the Daily Herald Business Ledger honored the company with its annual Award for Business Excellence in the Family Business Category. Based on nominations submitted by the suburban business community, this award recognizes organizations’ achievements, growth and community involvement (Bales donates Christmas trees to the zoo every year for local Girl Scout Troops, to name one example of the latter). Even more recently, the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) presented Bales technical services manager and long-time employee Harry Raimondi with its 2015 Moldmaker of the Year award (the same award presented posthumously to Steve Bales in 2010).

Sara and Stacey’s legacy so far also includes a complete rebranding effort, undertaken just a few months ago to honor the company’s path and reflect a bold vision for its future. As part of that effort, the name changed to Bales Metal Surface Solutions, which reflects a shift beyond the mold industry to cover all manner of companies experiencing problems with corrosion, release or abrasion. The new name is matched with a new logo, new marketing materials, a new website, and a new trade show booth design, all developed with help from a new partner, PR firm Red Caffeine.  

What accounts for all this success? The sisters are quick to credit others, such as Raimondi, for providing needed expertise and having their best interests at heart. They’ve also made a concerted effort to build up wisdom and experience by getting more involved in the industry.

The Bales sisters aim to carry on the legacy of their father, Steve Bales, who passed away in 2009.

However, there’s far more to Bales' recent success than that. The sisters’ story reveals that their own persistence in the face of adversity and uncertainty has been just as important. That story, including more specific details about tough decision points and efforts to carry on their father’s legacy, is told in this 2012 MMT article. Written by Stacey and Sara themselves, it’s a particularly interesting read in light of how far they’ve come since. It also offers some good advice on developing a succession plan, which seems a particularly hot topic among moldmakers these days. 

By: Christina M. Fuges 14. August 2015

Save the Date: MFG DAY 2015

Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY) occurs the first Friday in October each year. This year that falls on October 2, 2015.  According to organizers, this annual event is a celebration of modern manufacturing, which is meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.

This day gives manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a solid coordinated effort, what manufacturing is really all about! The goal is to continue addressing the skilled labor shortage by informing and inspiring our future generation of manufacturers.

So open your doors and hold an open house in your community. We've even created some tools you can show during your events. Click here for videos and other teaching tools to get kids and parents excited about manufacturing careers. If you have a unique way that your comapny is opening its doors, email me so I can help get the word out for you! 

If you are unable to host an event of your own, promote other events in your area.



« Prev | | Next »

Subscribe to MMT Blog

RSS RSS  |  Atom Atom

Subscribe to MMT Blog
RSS RSS  |  Atom Atom

Additive Conference
Additive Manufacturing
Register with us today to meet new customers looking for