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The best of IMM eShots 2012: A selection

From reshoring, to automation, resin cost controls, additive manufacturing, and scientific molding, Injection Molding Magazine's eShots had its finger on the pulse of the injection molding industry in 2012. We've pulled together a highly selective sampling of some of the most popular articles during the year.

If you follow the "Related Articles" links in the box on each article page, you'll find much, much more you may have missed the first time around, or might just find worthwhile reading again. These articles serve as a starting point to remind us all how much ground we covered in 2012 keeping you up to date on how to compete as an injection molder in today's ultra-competitive world.

Scientific Molding

Scientific Molding: What gets in the way?
We had a robust conversation about scientific molding in 2012, and here are two of the articles getting to the heart of the matter. "Don't let pushback knock you off the path to scientific molding" and "Why Scientific Molding?" You can read much more about process by Robert Gatshall and Bill Tobin by following the "Related Articles" links in the box at the top right of the page.

My Scientific Molding soapbox, please

If you want to try Scientific Molding it should be stated that it is not a cult, a buzzword, or some mysterious method. It is a documented process that generates data and results with the molds, which are in fact the factory, so why not document what actually happens in that factory. There are many papers and folks out there who teach this subject matter in many different forms (as I do), and many articles that explain things, which you only have to read.

Reshoring became a big topic. Is it real? Does it make sense?

Conversations with a reshoring agnostic: Why reshoring isn't the answer for everyone
While the reshoring advocates see a trend of companies moving work back to the U.S., John Biagioni, VP of Supply Chain & Operations for Dynisco, says, “Not so fast!” In fact, Biagioni tells people, “Do the math.”

Nypro hopes humanoid robots kickstart reshoring

One of America's largest injection molders thinks a humanoid robot may be one of the keys to advancing a reshoring of manufacturing jobs to the United States. Nypro recently tested a newly developed Rethink robot and is taking delivery next month of one of the first $22,000 units to roll off the assembly line in New Hampshire.

Plastics cut costs, boost quality of hot new humanoid robot
Rethink Robotics (Boston, MA) is making extensive use of plastics in its new humanoid robot called "Baxter" to reduce costs and improve quality. Six different plastics processors, all based in the United States, are doing all of the molding and thermoforming for the project and providing all of the tooling.

Why reshoring?

I was at a client's subcontractor in Mexico. The room was the size of a basketball court. There were probably 10 huge rotating tables each with a dozen workers sitting at the various stations: cutting tubing to length, solvent-welding tubes to connectors, coiling the product, etc. You could get a contact high off the hexane in the air. I'd been told the job had been relocated from the States to take advantage of low wages.

How do you get to production in the fastest, most cost-efficient manner?

Benefits of a prototype mold for establishing production mold parameters

Vince Lomax, VP of Tech Mold Inc., a Tempe, AZ–based manufacturer of high-volume, multicavity molds and high-speed manufacturing cells, explains in an interview with PlasticsToday the advantages of prototype mold or "bridge" tooling to the medical device OEMs.

Key principles of effective product cost management

The benefits of a systematic product cost management (PCM) program are significant, yet many manufacturers struggle to implement these initiatives effectively. This article discusses some key principles to guide and execute an effective PCM program for maximum impact.

What will your design cost to produce?

In the never-ending battle for market-leadership, design engineers play a larger role than they may realize in determining a company's success. But, it's not just about which company has the best products; it's also about which company does a better job of controlling its product costs.

Case Study: Two-shot mold reduces cost, improves quality
It wasn’t too many years ago that moldmakers and their customers worked in different silos. The customer would throw the RFQ over the wall to the moldmaker, who in turn would quote the mold as designed and throw back a price for the mold. The customer would provide a purchase order and the job would begin.

Aluminum vs. steel tooling: Which material is right, and how to design and maintain?

With OEMs hammering their mold suppliers for ways to reduce cycle times, aluminum tooling offers one answer. With its ability to transfer heat from the mold much faster, many OEMs are choosing aluminum. Another benefit is faster machining times, which can reduce the mold-build time by 10-15% in some instances, according to Darcy King, president of Unique Tool & Gauge Inc. (Windsor, ON).

An ongoing supply-chain problem remains a real issue

Moldmakers still fighting to get paid

Mold manufacturing companies have long fought battles to get paid for the molds they build for OEMs. The primary problem is that in most cases, the mold supplier releases possession of the mold either to the OEM or the molder, who will perform the tryouts and mold the parts. Mold lien laws that benefit the mold manufacturer have been put into place in a few states, and in Michigan and Ohio, where the problems are often the worst because of the automotive industry, these laws have been beefed up.

Additive Manufacturing is an increasingly significant issue for molders to address. Here's one story about a molder's identity in the face of change.

Changing focus requires strategic management decisions

VistaTek (Vista Technologies LLC) established its presence in the rapid prototyping business, now termed additive manufacturing (AM), in 1996 and became one of the better known companies in AM services. The company gradually evolved into a full-service supplier that also provided prototype and production molds and injection molding. While that division of the company grew over the years, so did VistaTek’s moldmaking and injection molding business. In fact, the company’s mold manufacturing and molding business experienced some rapid growth recently—quadrupling in size over the past two years.

Resin costs were down for the much of 2012, but no one expects that to last forever. How can you better manage such a significant portion of your cost? Our Profitable Plastics series addressed this question.

Profitable Plastics: Profit is the Thing

In general, businesses with commodity price risk (e.g. oil companies, transportation companies ... and resins processors) manage that risk to achieve different objectives - cost certainty, budget or forecast targets, job and business security, competitive advantage, customer loyalty, etc. IMHO, the primary purpose of managing commodity price risk should be to secure and improve profit margins. Profits keep the doors open and people employed. Resins processing may be tons of fun, but profit is the thing.

And, of course, structural challenges abound. Here are four begging for solutions:

Four long-term issues that could sink U.S. manufacturing

U.S. manufacturing is growing stronger but that expansion is in spite of four direct challenges to continued relevance in the global market: growing inadequacy of its infrastructure; a lack of qualified factory workers; a tax and regulatory regime that generally does not provide incentives for expansion projects; and the lack of a long-term national industrial policy.

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