Micro-Matic Tool: Craftsmanship And Dedication Yield Repeat Business

Strong customer relationships coupled with innovative technologies guide moldmaker through tough times.
#automotive #consumer #electronics


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For Youngstown, OH-based Micro-Matic Tool, Inc. - a moldmaker specializing in the complete mold building process from design to sampling as well as repair for the automotive, medical, electronics and appliance industries - this past year was its busiest year ever, despite a somewhat gloomy economy and fierce foreign competition.

The company's formula for perseverance? A strong reputation for quality service and its recent foray into some unique molding processes, according to Eric Farnham, Micro-Matic Tool's marketing manager. "We have had some of the same customers for more than 25 years," he states, "and we have never lost a customer due to poor performance."

Getting Started

Some 30 years ago, Micro-Matic Tool President Bob Platt worked as a tool engineer locally at a nationwide custom molder when he decided to take a chance and branch out on his own. According to Farnham, Platt was confident that he had the "know-how to make a successful go of it." So, he rented a small building and his dream of owning his own business - along with a strong desire to make the best molds in the industry - began to become a reality. He founded the company with two employees in Boardman, OH. Within six months he was able to hire two more people, then three years later Micro-Matic moved to its present location. Today, Platt retains approximately 50 employees.

Throughout the years, Platt realized that his biggest challenge was finding dedicated, hard-working employees. Once he found them, they stayed true to that quality - some have been there for more than 20 years. "He treats his employees like family," Farnham notes. "He wants everyone to have a place to work and the ability to earn a living for their families.

"He has not laid off anyone in the 30 years he has been in business," Farnham continues. "During the few slow times we've experienced, Platt kept people busy washing floors or painting walls until business picked up again. Luckily, that has hardly happened! Loyalty breeds loyalty, and we believe this is some of what it takes to compete at a very high level today."

That and making sure that the employees are properly trained. "We make it a point to not just instruct on a machine or from theories in a book," Farnham states. "From the start, our apprentices are cross-trained and given specific jobs to do. There's plenty of instruction with a lot of open avenues to ask questions and learn what it takes to get the job done. Moldmaking is a lost art, and we make it a priority to teach them the art of moldmaking."

The company also has made a commitment to stay on top of the "latest ideas and procedures" that are out there, notes Farnham. To that end, the company has delved into the challenge of liquid injection molding (LIM) technology (see Table at the end of article.) Basically, LIM deals with raw liquid materials, allowing significantly more control over compounds as well as flow.

Farnham adds that Micro-Matic's manufacturing capabilities are second to none using the "latest in equipment and state-of-the-art technology." A Makino SNC 64 - with spindle speeds in excess of 30,000 rpm and capable of .0001 tolerances - machines graphite as well as hard machines the company's most intricate inserts. "In most cases we are able to go straight to 320 stone when polishing, saving a dramatic amount of labor costs and allowing us to sell our product at more competitive prices," Farnham says. The company also has many machines capable of operating 24 hours a day to meet all of its customers' needs.

Engineering, along with building a multitude of molds for so many years for such a diversified customer base, allows Micro-Matic to design and build a lot of complex tools that competing moldmakers wouldn't even quote - including thermoplastic, thermoset, die cast, stack and shuttle, to name a few. "We will make anything from a prototype tool in days to a 128-cavity tool in eight to 12 weeks," Farnham says.

Forging Ahead

Micro-Matic contends with overseas competition by using lean manufacturing to streamline its mold design and build processes. "We have taken a close look at each aspect of the process to see what we can do to make things faster," Farnham comments. "Additionally, we are teaching our employees ownership in the way that they are each responsible for what he or she is doing while being open to everyone else's ideas and opinions."

This philosophy also has been applied to unattended machining time. The company tries to use each piece of machinery as efficiently as possible - and it develops and designs molds with this concept in mind. According to Farnham, Micro-Matic's main goal is to be the "best one-stop moldmaker in the business."

Micro-Matic also uses word-of-mouth to help achieve its goal. "We have such a strong reputation that we get calls all of the time about building new tools," Farnham stresses. "We are not resting on our laurels - my sales team and I continue daily to develop new markets while still tapping into the existing industries we serve. The economy is definitely tough out there. It's all about building a superior product - on time with unparalleled service. We build strong relationships with our customers - a partnership if you will. As a team environment in a world of individuals, we don't want to just build one tool for a customer; we want to be the resource for them to solve their problems and further their goals as well as ours." Additionally, the company advertises in a number of trade magazines.

The Micro-Matic team of experienced moldmakers, programmers and engineers clearly has what it takes to stay in the game. "Our craftsmen are dedicated individuals, working together to produce the highest quality product," Farnham notes. "They constantly strive for excellence - combining their experience with new technology and the latest processes and materials."

Liquid Injection Molding
The liquid injection molding (LIM) process utilizes Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) - a two-part catalyzed product - to mold parts. This process involves several steps. First, the two parts are mixed together and the combination is injected through the barrel and nozzle assembly through the sprue holes and the runners. It then enters the mold cavity, where it is cured or vulcanized. The finished part is then ejected.

The benefits to this process are numerous, including:

  • Faster cycle times, yielding higher productivity.
  • Lower cost due to the elimination of milling and preforming processes.
  • Ability to have runnerless and flashless molding.
  • Greater design flexibility, as the material flows easily into thin sections.
  • Tighter tolerances.
  • Increased efficiency.