Moldmaking Report: Molder Finds Modular Mold Inserts the Ticket for Getting New Business
In 2000, Gary Lane, general manager of Micro Precision Plastics, a division of Automation Tooling Systems, Inc. (Bowmanville, ON) was approached by a large OEM with a 150 small-part tooling project, w...
In 2000, Gary Lane, general manager of Micro Precision Plastics, a division of Automation Tooling Systems, Inc. (Bowmanville, ON) was approached by a large OEM with a 150 small-part tooling project, which later grew to include tooling for 180 small-part tools. The OEM was exploring the option of taking the moldmaking and molding work involved in this enormous project to China because of the pricing and delivery advantages that China promotes.
The OEM’s preference however, was to keep the project in North America, so they challenged Micro Precision Plastics to come up with a solution to meet the rapid delivery schedule and keep the project within budget. Lane had to devise a solution in which molds could be built quickly and accurately, utilizing quick mold change technology to maintain production while keeping overall cost-to-manufacture in line with budget.
Lane determined that some type of interchangeable, multiple insert system would have to be used to mold the large number of different small components required. At NPE 2000 Lane saw a demonstration of the Round Mate mold insert system from Modular Mold Systems. Ron Pleasant, president of Modular Mold Systems (Kenton, OH) was promoting a quick turnaround, modular system. Pleasant’s company, in conjunction with several other suppliers exhibiting at the show, produced a mold and molded parts all in five days using Modular Mold’s “RUSH” technology.
Pleasant notes that the intention of the RUSH technology is to compress manufacturing time and to promote “lean” concepts. “From a business point of view, we have to be able to change the way we think about manufacturing in general,” he explains. “From part design to production of finished goods using a modular mold system that is standardized, we try to teach that whole process, calling it RUSH technology.”
Lane was impressed. Although he’d looked at several alternatives, Lane determined that “round” seemed to be a better fit for the configuration of parts, which included gears and pulleys, that were being molded. Other systems also lacked 3-plate capabilities or the ability to change from 2-plate to 3-plate to accommodate the various part configurations required. “But mainly Round Mate fit into the smaller sizes we needed to accommodate our forte as a small-parts molder,” adds Lane. “One of the big selling points was that Round Mate had a system that fit in a Nissei HM-7, a 7-ton molding machine, as well as larger ones to fit our larger machines.” Micro Precision operates 45 injection molding presses ranging in size from seven to 82 tons.
The Round Mate system comes complete with machined base, eliminating the need to build a whole mold each time, reducing build and set-up time, and lowering the cost. “The big thing for us was they stocked the Round Mate components off-the-shelf so we could compete with China on cost and delivery,” Lane explains. “We proposed that solution to the customer, quoted it and it was competitive. We got the business.”
Lane met with Modular Mold Systems’ engineering team to devise a plan for molding the parts. Part volumes for each component were not high, so that allowed the inserts to be configured with like parts/materials in the same mold, with one cavity for each component. Also, all similar parts were designed to fit into a similar sized mold base.
The program was launched 2001. Since then, as a result of reducing mold build time and costs using the Round Mate system, Micro Precision Plastics has acquired additional programs with that OEM customer as well as other OEM customers. Says Lane: “Because the mold base stays in the machine, we can reduce set-up time and therefore set-up charges, which keeps the cost down. We also schedule the same material for many jobs in a row which reduces change-over time,” he says.
Currently, Round Mate mold bases are permanently installed in five of Micro Precision’s 28-ton molding machines, and in two 7-ton machines one is continually running the Round Mate System, while the other is installed on demand.
Lane reports that the OEM customer’s engineering team is happy about the project staying in North America. “There’s better control over the program,” Lane reports. “They’re an hour away, so we can do changes on the fly, and can drive there to take them sample parts and get immediate approval. With China it’s a different story. Being close at hand they can give us approvals in hours, instead of waiting weeks to get samples or paying high costs for overnight shipping.”
Modular Mold Systems 419-675-3334