Savvy Molder Willing To Share Its Smarts

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OCTEX adds advanced metrology technology to brand-new lab, and will make it available to other molders.

It’s not all that unusual when a big global molder invests in a high-tech laboratory and fills it with the latest technology. It’s a little more notable when a smaller company makes such a move. And it’s still more unusual when that smaller company makes all of the equipment in the lab available to other molders.

But that’s precisely the path OCTEX is taking as it continues to add equipment to its brand-new 5000 ft² lab located closed to its 70,000 ft² manufacturing plant in Sarasota, Fla., which includes a 4000 ft² clean room.

OCTEX is a full-service precision injection molder that specializes in micromolding, automation, design, design for manufacturing, and a range of other capabilities that offer customers in the medical, pharmaceutical, consumer/industrial, defense/aerospace, and automotive markets complete project management from “thought to finish,” remarks Jim Westman, CEO. OCTEX operates presses ranging from 15 to 400 tons, running a wide range of materials that include polycarbonate, LCPs, PE, and PP. Among its customers is Tervis Tumbler, for which OCTEX molds a variety of drinkware products from Eastman’s Tritan copolyester. OCTEX was founded in 1999; Westman bought the company in 2009 and the molder has doubled in sales since then.

Under Westman’s leadership, OCTEX has focused on investing in the latest technology for both manufacturing and R&D. To that end, the molder recently installed a Computed Tomography (CT) scanner from Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology, Maple Grove, Minn. “Like the CT scanner, we literally see things differently,” notes Westman. He maintains that OCTEX is the first molder with a sales volume below $50 million to have such a piece of equipment.

The machine is Zeiss’ Metrotom 800 CT Scanner. Inside the cylinder-shaped measuring range, parts can be placed in any position in the beam path via a continuously adjustable travel mechanism. The detector is always optimally illuminated with the part projection. Together with the vertical adjustment, this function allows specific areas of the parts to be enlarged to measure details in relation to the entire part. “Extremely small focal points enable razor-sharp projection of images on the detector, which is the foundation for high measurement accuracy” explains John Hoskins, OCTEX’s executive v.p.

Hoskins adds, “This is our differentiation point, which will strongly position us to current and potential partners seeking an innovative, nimble, segment-disruptor type firm able to understand and define their needs fast, and able to work quickly to obtain their desired goals. To create the magic they look for in the marketplace but aren’t seeing or receiving.”

OCTEX is willing to share the magic, and has set up OCTEX Labs  to do just that. “We’re going to afford other molders the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge technology more cost-effectively than would a third-party lab,” says Hoskins. “That means more accurate data provided on top-notch equipment by people with more than 100 years of combined experience in injection molding. We’re not a bunch of PhDs. We know molding, and if you are small molder and need these kinds of services, we can provide them at a savings of 20-50%. Sure, this technology can help drive our own molding business; but if not, that’s OK. Our business is more than ‘Send us your tool and we’ll mold you the part.’ We’re a solutions provider, and advanced analysis technology will permit us to get involved in every conceivable market and help our customers—including other molders—get better, faster, and more efficient.”

The lab also features an Instant Measuring Machine that provides in-process measurements of up to 99 critical dimensions in 3 sec; and a 3D Digital Measuring Microscope to fully validate all parts and tooling. States Hoskins, “Our name is among an elite group of solutions providers, all of which are much more massive companies than we are.” 

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