Red Star’s vertical integration goes to new heights

19. November 2013

When a molder and mold maker adds machinery manufacturing to its repertoire, it brings new meaning to the oft-misused phrase “full-service supplier.” For Larwill, Indiana based Red Star Contract Manufacturing, the description is apt, especially as it seeks to ramp up its machine-building business.


It is attractive to our customers that we can build the molds for the project, manufacture the inserts needed for the job, and then mold their products on equipment we built especially for their project,” Red Star President Scott Werstler explained to Plastics Technology.


Red Star, which provides injection molding for medical customers in addition to machine manufacture, announced a new partnership with Warsaw Machinery Inc. (Warsaw, Ind.) to increase its capacity to build presses.


“[Warsaw] has experience in building injection molding machines from prior employment,” Werstler noted, adding that the company also has the ability to machine many of the components in house and do so in volume so that Red Star “can keep cost down and save on shipping.”


In 1998, the machines that Red Star markets today were actually made by the former Pyramid Plastics. In 2009, Werstler founded Red Star to pursue medical manufacturing and help diversify business during the economic slowdown. In 2010, Red Star purchased the assets of Pyramid Plastics Group and continued to build the Pyramid machine line. Werstler estimates that the company has delivered between 115 and 120 machines.


Today, Red Star makes vertical clamp machines from 10 to 80 tons of clamp force, with shuttle and rotary table models available. Injection can occur vertically or on the parting line, depending on the clamp force. A key differentiator for the presses, according to Werstler, is the platen size in relation to press tonnage:


Our machines have a much larger platen size and larger injection unit capabilities compared to our competitors.  For instance, our 80 ton has the platen size of a 150-ton machine offered by other insert molding machine manufacturers, and we can put up to a 10-ounce injection unit on a 40-ton press if needed.


Machine building business grows
With the additional capacity via Warsaw, Werstler said 2014’s initial goal is to build 12 machines, although it will have the capability to manufacture more. Right now, business is split 80:20 between molding and machine building, but Werstler would like to see those numbers evenly divided by the end of next year.


Its molding business has five machines ranging from 5 to 40 tons. Two of those presses are vertical inject, while the remaining three utilize parting line injection. Serving the medical market, Red Star has a particular emphasis on biopsy needles. Earlier this year, the company added a tool room to build in-house tooling and molds for customers. In May, the company purchased the assets of a small custom needle grinder, giving it the means to manufacture its own inserts for the needle business.  How’s that for vertical integration?


“In today’s world of lean manufacturing and just-in-time delivery, there is a certain peace of mind in knowing that if something terrible were to happen at Red Star,” Werstler said “we can have a truck bring us a load of steel and 8 weeks later be running one of our machines, with molds we made, using inserts we produced.  There just aren’t too many companies out there that can make that claim.”

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