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September 1, 2003

8 Min Read
MGS, Part II: Multishot molding and machinery

There’s more than just molds happening at MGS—there’s a molding center that serves as a sampling room and some creative multimicromolding technology as well.

MGS Advanced Technologies custom builds lean, self-monitoring automation systems for product handling, assembly, and packaging.

John J. Hahn examines his latest creation, a portable injection unit featuring a proprietary screw-in-plunger design that delivers micromolding-type shot control. It turns a micromolding press into a multimicromolding press.

As John J. Hahn puts it, “Most salespeople knock on someone’s door and ask, ‘What can we do for you?’ We want to show up with a truly innovative product in our hands and say, ‘We can do something like this for you. Interested?’”

Hahn is VP of engineering at $118 million MGS Mfg. Group (Germantown, WI), a soup-to-nuts engineering and manufacturing services supplier. MGS specializes in multishot technologies, serving “every legal market,” as one company source puts it. In June, we toured the group’s moldmaking operations in Germantown (see “MGS, Part I: Multishot Moldmaking Marksmen,” June 2003 IMM, pp. 72-76).

As we’ll see this month, MGS has much more on its soup-to-nuts menu than just moldmaking. It has an abundance of manufacturing resources, enabling it to quote value-added solutions, rather than just parts.

“Owning our customers’ problems is the seat of our innovation,” says John Berg, marketing director. “We ask our customers, ‘What are the specific goals of this project?’ We add value through proaction when we can fully participate in the dynamics of the evolving program.”

Decoupled Development

Statistical Plastics Corp. (SPC) is like a sampling lab on steroids. The MGS group uses its SPC subsidiary to perform complete mold and part qualification services, including problem mold analysis and prototype sampling. Engineered pilot runs and market-entry quantities also are provided.

Through its consultation services, SPC can determine critical dimensions and do capability studies, first article inspection, and statistical analysis. Process studies and evaluations are done there, as are new process development and process capability analysis. Material suppliers often send their latest ETP grades to SPC for real-world testing.

QS 9000- and ISO 9002-certified, SPC operates 24/7 and runs 100 percent decoupled. SPC’s molding machines (ranging from 28 to 720 tons) are equipped with Insight systems from RJG for cavity pressure sensing. SPC is currently evaluating an emerging technology from Priamus Systems that provides cavity sensing in conjunction with autobalancing of hot runner-controlled cavities for optimized closed loop control.

.“Don’t call Statistical Plastics Corp. a sampling room,” says an MGS source. “We’ll support a customer’s assembly line right out of here. SPC can even run overflow parts for customers.”

SPC also has a noncontact comparative laser analysis part inspection system. The system meshes 3-D CAD files with a point cloud file that is generated by a laser scan of the physical part being analyzed. The result consists of more than a million data points every few thousandths of an inch.

It develops colorful process snapshots that look somewhat like an FEA image, showing deviations between the 3-D model and the part. The graphics eliminate time-consuming evaluations of numerical data.


TecStar is the group’s main custom molding wing. Its original 80,000-sq-ft plant opened in Germantown in 1997. Last year its floor space was more than doubled. That helped make room for a Class 100,000-capable cleanroom exclusively dedicated to decorating secondaries.

A 30,000-sq-ft TecStar satellite plant was opened in Illinois in 2000. Today it houses 14 multishot-capable manufacturing cells. It also does industrial blowmolding. TecStar WI runs more than 70 multishot-capable presses, mostly space-saving, twin-platen Krauss-Maffeis, all equipped with RJG Insights. SmartFlow manifolding is another standard, as are Matsui material handling systems—for the most part, anyway. The group builds its own dryers and vacuum units for its small-tonnage presses. Plans call for putting in silos and a centralized material handling system soon.

There are artificially intelligent manufacturing cells everywhere, all custom built in-house. One has a Fanuc seeing-eye LR Mate robot that identifies insert presence and position. Another two-machine multishot cell has a Wittmann robot. Wittmanns are pretty much the standard for parts removal. The company has even built a Wittmann robot training station for newcomers.

The cleanroom recently installed at TecStar WI is for neither molding nor assembly. It houses decorating capacity. Parts are directly fed into this area from presses behind the rear wall.

At TecStar, this training station was built to gain better familiarization with Wittmann parts removal robots without having to use a “live” molding cell.

Multishot Shooters

In addition to being a multishot moldmaker, molder, and product development house, MGS also is an OEM. The group’s machinery manufacturing wing, MGS Advanced Technologies, designs, engineers, and builds Universal Multishot Systems (UMS)—modular, add-on injection units with hydraulic units and control panels. They’re designed to transform any conventional, single-barreled press into a multimolder and back again in less than an hour. The ability to use them on different-sized machines makes UMS portable injection units universal. (See “The Mother of Invention.”)

Rudimentary metalworking and injection screws are virtually the only things outsourced. Hydraulics and electrics are specified in-house. For one order the group built 18 units in only eight weeks.

Seven models are available, ranging from $40,000 to $175,000. An electric drive is also available. Models also are available for LSR and EPDM rubber injection.

Hahn developed a new smaller unit for micromolding-type shot control. It incorporates a hybrid two-in-one, screw-in-plunger design. Up to seven can be ganged up on a single press.

Retrofit Rotaries

Eighty percent of the molds on one K-M line at TecStar are equipped with proprietary rotary platens discussed in the June story. MGS designs and builds them in-house for its own use, for sale to other molders, and for sale to machinery OEMs.

Most feature flush-mounted designs, requiring no additional platen machining. They’re built for 180° back-and-forth rotation and easy installation. Fully modular, they are not a fixed part of the press. They can easily be removed for single-shot molding, if the multishot job runs out. That’s the basis for the group’s rotary platen patents.

The company also supplies its U2F Universal Two-Shot mold frames—unit-frame multishot tooling with interchangeable quick-change inserts. They’re designed for two-shot, production-intent prototyping.

In addition to all of this, MGS Advanced Technologies custom builds self-monitoring and fully automated product handling, assembly, and packaging auxiliaries for lean manufacturing cells.

The mother of invention

There’s a story worth telling behind the development of the UMS portable injection units, one defining the spirit of the MGS Mfg. Group.

Once upon a time, Moldmakers Inc. needed to sample and qualify a number of two-shot molds it was producing. SPC had some single-shot presses, but didn’t want to invest in two-shot machines.

So, John J. Hahn and MGS associate Steve Kolander went to an auction in Ohio in 1998, bought a couple of presses, and stripped them of their injection units. They built new frames for the add-on shooter, patched together some electronics, and created a prototype. Patents were issued in 2002.

MGS builds them from scratch today, using custom-designed SPI communications protocol controls with animated graphics and a touch-screen GUI sourced from a customer—Allen-Bradley.

Designed for easy installation, MGS UMS portable injection units, usually vertically mounted, have control capabilities that closely coordinate their operations with parts removal robots.

Resource Rich

The group’s full-service menu is expanding in other ways. For instance, it is investigating other process technologies like magnesium molding. MGS has built molds for use in the TXM Mg-molding process licensed by Thixomat Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI). It is also looking at nonmolding processes—continuous extrusion blowmolding, sequential extrusion, and multilayer coextrusion.

Meanwhile, MGS formed a new company called Albea Technologies LLP. Last year it entered into a joint venture with Albea Kunststoff Technik of Seelback, Germany—a 50:50 startup with no buy-ins to either firm. Albea has developed advanced inmold decorating systems, one of which uses decorated, electroluminescent sheets. The new company will kick off with two cells at SPC. Germany’s coming to Germantown.

Germantown is also heading offshore. MGS recently signed an agreement with a Brazilian company, Ferplast, to create TecStar South America. More satellite plants may be coming, offshore and on, and there’s still plenty of room for growth in Germantown.

“Customers want our engineering, turnaround, and technical support in their destination markets. But the question remains, where is the most cost-effective place to manufacture?” Hahn says.

“When you factor in automated manufacturing cells with automation built by us, the matter becomes shipping, not labor costs. We could build satellites close to OEMs and their destination markets to reduce shipping costs, but our molded components are not just plastic. You have to learn what a customer really needs in a part. Our customers put their faith in us. They say, ‘Here’s the PO, we’re here to make money together.’”

John Berg adds, “We look for every opportunity to increase our value to our customers. We anticipate manufacturing price reductions and work closely with the customer, our own vendors, and equipment suppliers to reduce cycle times, improve quality, and automate processes.

“One of the areas that’s hurting U.S. business is the tendency to sell desperate capacity, saying ‘Let me quote you what you just asked for,’ instead of saying, ‘Let me give you something of value.’ It’s not that hard to do when you’ve got something better.”

Contact information
MGS Mfg. Group
Germantown, WI
John Berg; (262) 255-5790

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