Canadian Plastics

Global perspective: Tips from Portugal’s moldmakers

As exporters, Portugal's moldmakers have come up with some innovative means to maintain and enhance their long-distance relationships with clients. The following are tips Cindy Macdonald picked up on ...

June 1, 2000   Canadian Plastics



As exporters, Portugal’s moldmakers have come up with some innovative means to maintain and enhance their long-distance relationships with clients. The following are tips Cindy Macdonald picked up on her recent trip to Portugal to visit the country’s moldmakers.

Let the client see what’s happening: The Internet and the proliferation of digital communications presented these moldmakers with a breakthrough technology.

To reassure clients of the status of their mold, almost all the moldmakers in Portugal regularly send clients a weekly or biweekly progress report. Digital cameras provide them with a quick and easy means to show clients the work in progress.

It’s a minimal investment to raise the bar a notch on customer service.

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Neil Stephenson, Canon Canada’s technical marketing manager, reports that a suitable digital camera for this type of application should cost about $800. Digital cameras are generally sold as a turnkey kit, with all software and adapters that you would need to transfer the images to a computer and then print, email or manipulate them.

One benefit of digital photography is the ability to immediately see the results. “A preview screen right on the back of the camera lets you know if you got the shot before you leave the scene,” explains Stephenson.

Good shop design: At Moldit, an innovative shop floor design lets the company take full advantage of its coordinate measuring machine. The quality department is housed in an enclosed area at the edge of the shop floor, within the reach of the overhead crane. A section of the ceiling can be lifted out to allow the crane to place heavy or awkward mold components directly on the measuring table.

Save time on milling: Depocam, a German NC programming software distributed by Depo Milling Technology in Canada, gets rave reviews for rough milling. Jose Costa of Moldit reports that machining programmed with Depocam can be up to ten times faster than with other programs.

Extend your services: Compressing time-to-market is a key issue for customers of Socem, so the moldmaker has developed an in-house rapid prototyping division. The company is able to do SLS prototypes, vacuum casting and aluminum tooling. Socem builds about 50 prototypes per year and about 250 molds per year.

Specialization improves efficiency: Because the company manufactures a wide range of mold sizes, AFA-SPEM has organized its shop into distinct production areas: one each for small, medium and large tonnage molds, and an EDM department. Each production area has its own CAD/CAM department and quality control to encourage specialization and efficiency. In all, the company employs 135 people. A computerized scheduling system tracks all jobs and monitors productivity.

Congrats to us: Many of the Portuguese moldmakers reported they had no Canadian clients because Canada’s moldmakers are “very competitive” in price, quality and technical capability.


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