Customer Collaboration Yields Better Product, Reduced Costs and Plastics Innovation
Industrial Molds Group (Rockford, IL)—a mold manufacturer specializing in precision molds with multiple complex actions— was pleased when its customer, MPC Inc.—a Tier 1 molder of automotive components for global OEMs—won the Single Part award in the Society of the Plastics Industry’s International Plastics Design Competition presented at the NPE2012 in Orlando, FL, last month where Industrial Molds had a booth to showcase its capabilities.
The Water Outlet assembly represented a metal to plastic conversion that integrated two components into one assembly. The thermoplastic replacement is a single-molded product, delivering greater than 25-percent cost savings and a 450-gram weight reduction. During the early development stages, “MPC discussed building these molds with multiple moldmakers, some of which had concerns with the design,” notes Brad Hakes, Product Engineering supervisor–Molded Components for MPC Inc. “While there were other moldmakers who believed they could make a mold for this part, MPC ultimately chose Industrial Molds.”
Tom Stonis, MPC’s tooling engineer for the Water Outlet project, says that through his experience with developing tooling for nearly 45 years, he knows that there are many moldmakers who can build the mold, but can’t guarantee the part will be successful. “We presented this project to several other moldmakers, but they backed away from it. I was told by some mold shops that they’d be surprised if we got a part out of the mold in one piece,” says Stonis.
“We chose Industrial Molds because of their expertise in working with MPC in these difficult types of tools— they have a lot of experience with us. Industrial Molds has a very good background with plastic molds and I worked with one of their top designers on this program,” Stonis adds. “The key to this collaborative effort was the fact that I spent many hours upfront—a month or two before the project launch—researching and walking through this concept with Industrial Molds’ designer to ensure the project’s success. I had a sense they really understood what I needed them to do.”
The Water Outlet assembly is made possible through the development of a complex injection mold, incorporating multiple sequential valve gates to prevent material over-pack and gas entrapment. The 10 male ports are created without a parting line usually required with conventional injection molding. Seamless hose joints are made possible through precision timing of multiple valve gates and multiple slide actions to properly form this complex product in one piece. “Because of the complexity of this mold, the mechanical actions, the hydraulics and electronics that had to be all married together, it was critical that each one of these movements in the tool had to move precisely in sequence,” Stonis remarks.
Through collaborative efforts between the engineering teams of Industrial Molds Group and MPC, the part design and mold design was developed using Moldflow™ analysis to determine feasibility of injection molding the component in a single piece. “We performed a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios with Moldflow to understand how to fill the mold and then get the part out,” Stonis explains. “This is not your typical plastic part and we’re using a glass-filled nylon, which meant we had to choose the optimum grade of steel to take the high-temperatures, upgrade the molding machine and customize the molding process to ensure that we could mold this assembly to spec.”
By converting the Water Outlet to a single piece injection molded component, MPC eliminated the need for 18 machining operations and two leak paths. The Water Outlet achieves machined metal tolerances right out of the mold without any secondary machining processes. MPC notes that the injection mold will last the life of the five-year program with annual volumes of approximately 800,000 pieces.
Tim Peterson, vice president of Industrial Molds Group, says “This award shows what we can accomplish when we work closely with our customer in a team effort to achieve what others said was impossible. Innovation in plastics is truly possible when we partner with our customers in a collaborative effort to help them get a better product and reduce costs.”
“I have to buy the tool and trust that the moldmaker can build the tool to meet the numbers,” Stonis comments. “I gave them the details and Industrial hit those numbers within tenths of thousandths. Everything went exactly as predicted. It was a learning curve for both MPC and Industrial. We’re getting more of these water outlets, but now we know what to do from day one and have the technology to do this. We picked the right company for this team effort.”
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