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Step Up and Support Manufacturing Day

By: James Callari 16. April 2014

The third annual Manufacturing Day is coming up Oct. 3. Far away, you might think, but close enough that you maybe start planning if you intend to participate.

 

Manufacturing Day, for those who don't know, is an important day for any company that makes things to show off their businesses, technology and the products they make to students, parents, teachers, and job seekers who are interested in learning about manufacturing and the skills and training needed to start a career in the field. To strut their stuff, as it were.

 

I believe plastics processors need to take this event more seriously.

 

The second annual Manufacturing Day was held last Oct. 4. On that day, more than 825 manufacturers in 48 states opened their doors to in excess of 35,000 guests to show what manufacturing is all about.  “Manufacturing Day 2013 was a success because hundreds of manufacturers invited their communities—including students, educators and legislators—to visit their operations and see first-hand the value of the work they do”, states Ed Youdell, president and CEO of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association.  

 

Youdell added: “By focusing the events of so many manufacturers around a single day, participants collectively delivered the message that manufacturers are of significant importance to the U.S. economy, are well-managed companies that can compete globally, and offer family-supporting careers to students who follow technical and community college paths as well as four-year degree programs.”

 

Manufacturing Day gives companies a chance to inform the general public about the issues they face, such as a shortage of skilled labor. During the events they hosted, many manufacturers reported how this shortage affects them on a day-to-day basis, as well as the solutions they are developing to tackle it. That message was delivered not just to the 35,000 visitors at local events, but to more than 80 million viewers of the website and social media postings.

 

“At The Manufacturing Institute, we are working to help manufacturers attract quality talent and develop the workforce pipeline,” noted Jennifer McNelly, president of the group . “When we all work together, manufacturing is stronger, and when manufacturing is stronger, the U.S. is stronger.”

 

“The robust response and participation in Manufacturing Day from across America shows manufacturers’ commitment to developing the talent needed for a 21st-century workforce,” added Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. “By opening shop floors to young and curious minds around the country, we are able to show that modern manufacturing is a technology-driven industry that offers secure, good-paying jobs and the ability to develop products that will change the world.”

 

But of the 800+ manufacturers that opened their doors to interested people last October, only a handful—fewer than 10—were processors. That’s a disappointing number at any point, particularly when this industry, like many others, is having enormous challenges finding young talent.

 

One processor that took part in the 2013 festivities was Plastic Molding Technology (PMT), El Paso, Tex. "The goal of the Manufacturing Day event at PTM was to draw greater attention to the outstanding opportunities a career in manufacturing can provide, and to promote the pursuit of skills leading to a long-term career for qualified candidates," said Charles A. Sholtis, owner and CEO of the company. “Manufacturing is coming back to the U.S.,” Sholtis added. “The role of manufacturing in the supply chain has become increasingly important to end markets. Hopefully, by opening up shop floors around the country to students and other businesses, we were able to show modern manufacturing for what it is—a sleek, safe, technology-driven industry that offers secure, good-paying jobs.”

 

PMT plans on participating again this year, and expects a bigger turnout at its plant than last year. Why don’t you give it some consideration? Log on to mfgday.com to learn how to get involved.

Visiting university students watch in amazement as Baxter the robot demonstrates the future of automation in manufacturing during Plastic Molding Technology Inc.’s plant tour for Manufacturing Day 2013. Baxter was supplied by Shepard Controls. Photo: Plastic Molding Technology Inc.

Mill-and-mail moldmaking no more

By: Tony Deligio 16. April 2014

That observation on the new selling cycle for moldmakers came from Bill Muldoon, cofounder and president of Clinton, Mass. based NyproMold, speaking at Engel’s recent Medical Day event from its technical center in Corona, Calif. I suppose if shoot-and-ship molding is gone, mill-and-mail moldmaking’s days figured to be numbered as well.

 

NyproMold, which along with Nypro became part of Jabil in 2013, now operates two sites with 160 employees and annual mold build of 200 tools/year, according to Muldoon, who spoke about how the adoption of the latest technologies helps his company satisfy the increasingly challenging demands of customers.

 

If you’re tired of the spiel about how “only shops that invest in the latest technologies can compete,” I’ll spare you, but will say if you want a real-life example of why it’s true, check out NyproMold.

 

DMLS, 5-axis machining, CT scanning…
The company boasts direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) capabilities, but beyond “rapid manufacturing” hype, Muldoon showed its practical application, including a “hybrid” mold core featuring an H13 steel base joined to a DMLS top section, specially designed for maximized cooling.  DMLS isn’t the only conformal cooling option the company can offer. NyproMold also applies 5 axis drilling and vacuum brazing as cheaper alternatives to getting cooling as close as possible to a cavity.

 

With regards to 5-axis machining, Muldoon answered his own question, when he asked the audience, rhetorically, “What has changed in the mold making industry over the last 10 years,” before saying: “The machines are definitely getting better.”

 

The simplest but perhaps least obvious benefit of 5-axis machining? The ability to work on five sides of a component at once, eliminating the need to flip around work pieces, reaffixing and realigning as you go. NyproMold likes the technology enough that it now has five 5-axis units to work with, with one dedicated to producing graphite electrodes for EDM.

 

The company spent over one year tuning that machine, getting tolerances to within ±. 0002 inch. The precision means the machine can run unattended  for 130 hours/week.

 

Finally, taking the cue from several top customers that deployed the machines in their quality labs, NyproMold invested in a CT scanner, which it applies in its mold validation process, among other uses.

 

Non destructive and without the need for fixtures, the device takes 1,200 x-rays of the tool while it rotates, assembling a 3D point cloud in about an hour. CAD models of the part are then overlaid unto the 3D point cloud, instantaneously showing variations between the requested design and the finished tool cavity.

Beyond that, NyproMold is able to use the scanner to understand part assembly, showing all the internal components and layout of a product without having to tear it apart. Under the same concept, the CT scanner can reverse engineer a part if the original CAD file has been lost.

 

This technology has proven so useful, NyproMold actually started a separate scanning business called 3D Pro Scan. “You can take and use this as an upfront inspection service,” Muldoon said, “and change first article inspection into a validation.”

 

This adoption of technology, like love, as the saying goes, means NyproMold never [or at least rarely] has to say ‘Sorry’ to its customers.

 

“Our goal is to really shrink down the number of deviations you have to ask for,” Muldoon said. The result is expanding business. 

How do you consume, utilize media?

By: Tony Deligio 16. April 2014

Those are some nutshell takeaways from Gardner Research’s fourth annual “Media Usage in Manufacturing” survey of industrial professionals, which released its full results today.
 

Gardner Research, the market intelligence division of Gardner Business Media, Inc., which publishes Plastics Technology, conducted the survey from November 20 to December 20 of last year, drawing 3,494 respondents composed primarily of executives, managers, and engineers at companies engaged in durable goods manufacturing.
 

The survey assesses business-to-business industrial marketing and media usage, touching on specific topics like: buying-cycle behavior, search, mobile, media usage, social media and vendor selection.
 

In terms of the age range of respondents, 60% were 50 and over, 23% were 41-50, 11% were 31-40, and 6% were 21-30. By job responsibility, 24% were in corporate management, 22% in manufacturing/process engineering, and 17% were in manufacturing/process management.
 

Key buying cycle behavior findings included the fact that more than 70% of manufacturing buyers look for products or services at least once a week. When it comes time to buy, 68% of manufacturing purchases are influenced by at least three people, and those people are very likely to utilize search engines.  
 

When winnowing through search results, 86.3% reported first choosing companies/sources they recognize, reinforcing the importance of brand recognition. Armed with known-brands, respondents were asked “what types of results are you most likely to select” from a search query, and the No. 1 answer was technical articles (49%), followed by a vendor website (30%), and related ad (8%).
 

Ultimately, however, all these decisions are informed by an array of content sources, with manufacturing professionals surveyed noting that they use at least five types of media to find information.
 

In addition to “Media Usage in Manufacturing,” Gardner Research produces annual Capital Spending Surveys and the monthly Gardner Business Index. For a complete list of Gardner Research Market Reports, visit: gardnerweb.com/research.

Engel to launch Asia-specific subsidiary at Chinaplas

By: Tony Deligio 16. April 2014

Wintec Engel Machinery Co. Ltd. is based in Changzhou and described by Engel as a 100%-owned subsidiary that will start machine production from a brand-new production plant this summer. Operated separately from Engel’s existing Asian business, including machine manufacture in Korea and Shanghai, Wintec will offer what Engel calls "relatively standardized machines with a limited range of options."
 

Contacted for details, Engel’s Group Marketing Director Gerd Liebig said the company would address Wintec during Engel’s press conference at next week’s Chinaplas, saying only that the new subsidiary is "100% owned by Engel and will focus on the Asian market."

 

Almost three decades in China
Engel’s presence in the broader Chinese market goes back to 1986, when it formed a trading company in Hong Kong. By May 2005, it had broken ground on a large-press manufacturing site outside Shanghai, and by the spring of 2012, it had more than doubled that 18,000 m2 facility, boosting its annual machine capacity to 250 presses with tonnage ranges from 350 to 3200.

 

In recent years, Engel has stressed that the Chinese appetite for injection molding machines is weakening, with years of 50,000-plus machines delivered likely to give way to a figure closer to 40,000.
 

In that scenario, the company billed itself as fulfilling the growing demand for higher-end machines, a segment it saw as still expanding, while the commodity press market would shrink.
 

With Wintec, it appears to be aiming for a sweet spot within the press-buying market of shops that want higher performance but not higher cost. Engel called China the core market for Wintec, but said machines made there could be exported throughout Asia, including Korea, Taiwan, and India.
 

In a release, Peter Auinger, who assumes management of Wintec, leaving his post for Engel in Mexico, said the new business will achieve a competitive price and short delivery time by reducing press modularity and options.

 

2-platen press supplier?
There are existing companies in the Chinese and Taiwanese markets that use the Wintec name, including a machine tool manufacturer and a supplier of mold components, but at this time, they appear to be unrelated to this venture. Engel has not said whether or not it is partnering with another company to start the new business.
 

Wintec Engel will have its own booth at Chinaplas, and while the company declined to divulge its initial product offerings, its exhibitor listing seemed to reinforce that targeting of large commodity products, noting the company supplies 2-platen injection molding machines. 

Injection molded metals have their say at medical event

By: Tony Deligio 15. April 2014

Engel hosted a West Coast Medical Day event last week at its Corona, Calif. technical center, and while plastics dominated the agenda, the Austrian injection molding machine and automation supplier invited speakers from a metal molding customer and a new technology partner who gave attendees a glimpse into another side of injection molding.
 

Liquidmetal Technologies, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., only has two licensees for its amorphous metals, but the fact that one of them is Apple has garnered the company a great deal of attention. Paul Hauck, VP worldwide sales and support for Liquidmetal is new to his position (five weeks in when he presented in Corona), but not the industry, bringing 27 years of experience in metal injection molding.
 

As it pushes to broaden commercialization of its moldable alloy, which was initially discovered by NASA during research in the 1960s, Liquidmetal has sought partners, reaching an agreement with Engel in 2010 to supply machines especially outfitted to mold Liquidmetal, and a deal in 2011 with Materion Corp., to produce the specialty alloy.
 

Hauck laid out Liquidmetal’s intellectual property position—the company has 58 U.S. patents with more than 50 pending—and then got into the unique characteristics of the material and its process, infusing his presentation with knowing commentary of the limits and strengths of traditional metal injection molding.
 

At various points, Hauck compared the precision of Liquidmetal against die casting, MIM, investment casting, and machining, saying the molded alloy could hold tolerances within ±.1, putting it on par with machining and ahead of the others. “Liquidmetal shines in areas with very high part complexity,” Hauck said.
 

One slide compared the strength (in MPa), hardness, strength-to-weight ratio, and elasticity of Liquidmetal Alloy versus magnesium, aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel, with its alloy—a mix of zirconium, nickel, beryllium, calcium, and titanium— besting those metals, often by quite a bit. Hauck noted that the individual components of the alloy have very high melting temperatures, but combined together in the alloy, they melt at 720 C with a density of 6g/cm3.
 

A key differentiator from traditional MIM: Liquidmetal molding produces near net shape parts (shrinkage of only .2%), where MIM components can shrink as much as 20% and require the secondary processes of debinding and sintering. Post-molding Hauk said all a Liquidmetal part requires is degating.
 

In terms of the molding machine, Hauck showed a Schwertberg-made Engel eMotion, that instead of a traditional reciprocating screw injection system, features an induction heating system, which draws a vacuum and warms to 700 C, with a plunger to feed the melt. The material, which comes in ingots versus the powder/binder mix of MIM, is automatically fed via a modified loading section.
 

Liquidmetal is currently undertaking ISO 10993 parts 4, 5, 10, and 11 biocompatibility testing, a necessary step for greater medical adoption, and Hauck noted that the preliminary results “were very good.” Finished Liquidmetal parts are corrosion resistant and non-magnetic, with a very fine surface finish. “If you have a polished tool,” Hauck said, “you’re going to have a polished part.”
 

Hauck said the machines can create parts as heavy as 80g, with a maximum shot size of 100g. If individual parts weigh 5g or less, tools of 32 or 64 cavities are possible. From a design standpoint, Hauck said components should have radii, and given that shrink rate of .2%, some draft is required. Wall thickness can range from 1 to 4 mm, but Hauck cautioned that if designs go thicker, the finished components risk crystallization in the thicker sections, negating the inherent strength of the amorphous structure. It is that feature which makes Liquidmetal particularly compelling.
 

“Liquidmetal has the name ‘metallic glass’,” Hauck said, “but that’s deceiving. Technically it is true but the finished material is still quite flexible.” To prove this, Hauck showed videos of Liquidmetal test plaques being flexed mechanically but returning to their original shape, while other metals were permanently deformed.

 

Oregon-based MIM molder expands sales into China
Hauck’s presentation was followed by former MIM colleague, John O’Donnell, medical market manager and senior applications engineer at Kinetics Climax, an Oregon based metal injection molding company that has standardized on Engel presses since its inception in the 1980s as Injection Molded Metal Products.
 

Today, Kinetics has 400 employees operating 25 hybrid and hydraulic injection molding machines 24/7 to produce 60 million parts annually.
 

That output, and the current repeatability of the MIM process, reflect the technology’s maturation from its birth in the 1970s. “Even though MIM is a 35-year-old technology,” O’Donnell said, “it’s really just starting to grow because it’s taken about half that time to perfect it and make it the robust process it is today.”
 

For his part, Hauck estimated that MIM is growing anywhere from 15-30% per year and now constitutes a $5 billion industry.
 

That growth is felt acutely at Kinetics, which O’Donnell noted is “bursting at the seams” and weighing an expansion. From a sales standpoint, it has already increased its reach, recently opening a sales office in Shanghai from which its able to sell Chinese customers MIM parts molded in the U.S.
 

Whether it’s MIM, Liquidmetal, machining or something else, Hauck noted that savvy engineers will listen to the part’s design to find the right process for its fabrication. “With any given part,” Hauck said, “it seems like it always wants to find its way back to the right process. [Liquidmetal] is not trying to chase applications that are the wrong fit.” 




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