A 'marriage' for big parts and difficult moulds

January 16, 1999

One of the facilities of Rosa Plast, Spilimbergo, Italy.

The Rosa Group was begun more than 30 years ago to build injection moulds for medium-sized household appliances, radios, and TVs. It has grown steadily throughout the Triveneto region of Italy north of Venice. The group now consists of three companies: Rosa Moulds (mouldmaking), Rosa Plast (moulding), and Rosa Micro (assembled electrical devices), located in six separate production facilities. When construction is complete on the seventh and largest factory, the total work space will be almost 78,000 sq m. Of the more than 350 employees, 150 work in mouldmaking. Growth has been logical, in response to the needs of customers who, although intentionally few in number, are loyal.

A Meeting Was the Spark

Rosa Group began making moulds in 1966, shortly after Gianni Sandrin, its cofounder and current president, met the founder of Zanussi, Italy's largest home appliance manufacturer. Based on their discussions, Sandrin and his now-retired partner founded Rosa Moulds specifically to make moulds for appliances. It was only logical to locate near Zanussi, which has since become part of the worldwide Electrolux group and is among the world's leading appliance makers.

Making a wide variety of moulds is still the cornerstone of the business, says Sandrin. Rosa moulds for mid-sized appliances are now shipped worldwide, while also serving markets including computers, electronics, packaging, cosmetics, and automotive. "To make any product in plastics," Sandrin says emphatically, "regardless of size, complexity, material, or the process used to make it, you have to start with a mould that works." If the mould is right, he maintains, most so-called moulding problems simply will not exist. Rosa Group is now several independent but interactive businesses, each built on very close relationships with clients, moulds that work, and all propelled by a continuing current of new ideas.

Sandrin had 148 patents at last count, with more pending. Many are in the electrical and appliance fields. They have often been the catalyst that sparked creation of a new member of the Rosa Group. Rosa Micro was formed in 1977 to consolidate Sandrin's patents in design, moulding, and assembly of electrical plugs and connectors. Those patents were subsequently sold to Bassani Ticino, Italy's largest maker of plugs and electrical outlets. Rosa Micro continues to be a major supplier to Bticino, as it is generally known.

The entry into mouldmaking in 1960 also resulted from a meeting with the leader of a large industrial company. At that time, Sandrin created a company for engineering and manufacturing injection moulds. The new materials emerging in those days were creating a strong demand for good tooling, and there were very few people with experience in the field. In the six years before he started Rosa Moulds, Sandrin developed a number of techniques for manufacturing injection moulds, particularly those with complex surfaces.

Collaboration vs. Marriage

There are more than 35 CNC machines

and spark erosion centers in the

Rosa Group that can make moulds

up to 30 tons.

The birth of Rosa Moulds as a result of Sandrin's meetings with Zanussi shows that the company's collaborative business methods were there from the beginning. By very deliberate choice, Rosa has a limited number of customers, precisely so the relationships can be close. This is true of Rosa Moulds, Rosa Micro, and also Rosa Plast, the moulding company begun in 1979. Describing how Rosa and its client-collaborators develop strategies and products together, Sandrin uses a rather surprising word: marriage. And the man, who is almost constantly in motion, stops in his tracks and moves closer to make sure he is understood.

"I'm talking about a real marriage," says Sandrin. "That means taking your time, even when you are only looking at each other. There should be courtship--a long courtship. Learn to appreciate each other's qualities, strong and weak points, how you complement each other, and the things you don't particularly like. These things are not likely to change." He does what he says: Rosa Group is still married to--that is, doing business with--Zanussi/Electrolux more than 30 years later. The courtship and marriage procedures are clearly described in Rosa's self-developed Business Quality Handbook, which is taught to every employee, along with Rosa's zero-defects program. Together, they formed a base for each Rosa plant to become certified to its present ISO 9000, 9001, or 9004 standards.

Specialized and Diversified

Rosa has invested a lot into development of tubs for front-loading washing machines. Because Rosa's collaboration is so close with Zanussi/Electrolux, the moulded tubs were a codevelopment from the very beginning. Rosa's work is virtually inseparable from that of the Zanussi product developers. CAD files were regularly exchanged and Rosa Group alone logged more than a thousand hours of computer time in modeling and planning the product.

Rosa has more than 20 CAD/ CAM systems and the design specialists to work them. That number seems high relative to the size of the company. "But if you don't have them," says Rosa Plast plant manager Paolo Massanzana, "how can you truly collaborate on a design when the client needs it?" Most of the systems are from Cimatron. All are 3-D except two 2-D systems that are mostly used for training new designers. The high number of designers is part of a Rosa co-investment strategy. The company invests time, people, machinery, and money along with its client-collaborator during development--something that would be impossible without the confidence that accompanies a relationship as close as a marriage.

Twin mould for a two-piece

washing machine tub can be

split for running on smaller

machines. With total part

weight of 4.3 kg and moulding

40 percent calcium-filled PP,

the twin has an 85-second cycle

time on a 1,300-ton press. The

total mould weighs 16 tons.

The investment in creating the large, complex moulds for the washing machine tubs is big. Depending on the design, each mould requires between 4,000 and 5,000 hours of machining and around six months to complete. However, it has been time well spent. Market demand for compact front-loading washing machines that support a dryer on top is growing rapidly in established markets, like North America, as well as in developing nations.

The two pieces of the

washing Machine tub

made in this mould.

Rosa Moulds has shipped moulds to appliance manufacturers in Asia, the Middle East, South and North America, and various European countries, and there are more in production. Its customer list includes Bosch, G.E., Siemens, Smeg, Frigidaire, Yu Chang, and more.

Besides making the moulds, Rosa Plast, which was created to mould medium to large appliance components, is moulding the tubs for several large appliance makers. A recent request from one of the largest American appliance manufacturers asked Rosa to commit to a 50 percent production increase beginning the following month. This, said Sandrin, shows how close contact works for both parties: Rosa's management was already aware of market growth and the client's strategy. Rosa's production planning had already been done. The request was no surprise. The result: a rapid positive response by fax--and a happy client. That, says Sandrin, is exactly how Rosa's Business Quality Program works--then he noted it was time to plan for that customer's next growth phase.

Up-to-date Technology

Rosa Group started with mouldmaking technology that was quite advanced for its day. It is keeping it that way. All files and designs are transmitted directly from CAD to CAM systems, and then on to the CNC machining centers on the shop floor. To eliminate data transmission errors and speed up the process, Rosa invested in a secure, large-bandwidth fiber-optic network several years ago. There are now more than 35 CNC machining centers, including spark erosion, on the shop floor. Because many moulds are complex with undercuts, cores, and slides, most machining stations have tool magazines for automatic changing with minimum loss of machining time. Many moulds include hot runners supplied by D-M-E, Husky, or Unitemp.

From Massanzana's viewpoint, a great benefit of Rosa's close client collaboration is that mould designs can optimize the tooling workstations. There are no designs that add needless tool movements, or that won't work and need redesign. For roughly a third of their production time, many of the workstations can function automatically, without supervision. Rosa has more than 35 CNC machining centers, including many spark erosion, from suppliers such as CB, Deckel, Ferrari, Rambaudi, Oerlikon, and Zayer. Rosa's policy, says Sandrin, is to select the machine that is best for the intended job.

Injection Moulding by Evolution

The injection moulding part of the Rosa Group, Rosa Plast, was officially started in 1979, but in fact it had evolved with the growth in mouldmaking and the resulting mould trials. When customers repeatedly asked Rosa to do some production for them, the solution became obvious. As always, the operation is dedicated to a few customers working in close collaboration.

The trial and proving of moulds still occupies much time on Rosa's 178 injection machines, but mould certification has been updated. The functioning of each mould, from a complex washing machine tub to the simplest component, is fully simulated before production using Moldflow software, and resimulated when changes are made in the design. This, according to Massanzana, means new moulds arrive at the press with suggested start-up parameters, ready to run. Even though they are usually producing good parts in a few cycles, thousands of mouldings will be made before a mould is certified for production.

This helps the technicians who run Rosa Plast's production machines. Moulds arrive with parameters, usually in a machine-ready data file. Rosa's 178 injection machines are dispersed among five locations based on the type of work being done in each plant. Rosa Micro, which is described primarily as an assembly operation for electrical and electronics products, has more than 30 machines moulding parts for the assemblies. Rosa's machines and robots come from manufacturers including Arburg, Engel, Italtech, Mir, Negri-Bossi, and Remu, and clamp forces range from 20 to 1,500 tons.

The policy is the same as for machining centers: all production technology is acquired to fit the job. Other available technology includes multicomponent and multicolour moulding, gas-assist, stack moulds, in-mould decorating, and more. Rosa offers assembly and decorating services that include sonic, vibration, and heat welding; screen, laser, and pad printing; hot stamping; and engraving. As this is published, a new plant will be increasing production space from 50,000 to 78,000 sq m to accommodate future growth.

Contact Information

Rosa Group

Mr. Antonio Aloisi, General Management

Corso Italia, 52



Tel: +39 0434 590555

Fax: +39 0434 920833

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