Sometimes old dogs do learn new tricks, and start new businesses to make those tricks pay off. John Linder, who turns 59-year-old this week, has had a long career in mold design and manufacturing, and injection molding for a number of different companies over the years including Plastech Corp. and Chemtech Plastics Inc. On March 11, Linder ([email protected]), along with a partner, opened Inject Engineering LLC, located in Rockford, IL.
Linder’s philosophy has always been that molds need to be built from the molder’s perspective and he has made this the guiding business philosophy of Inject Engineering. “What we’re doing is the engineering, and we’re engineering molds from the molder’s perspective rather than the moldmaker’s perspective—designing for optimum molding performance,” he explained. “Our approach to designing will be different than anyone’s in the industry.”
Using the customer’s 3D model and 2D drawings, Inject Engineering runs a mold filling analysis and material flow simulations, identifies the proper gating and venting, locates cooling lines, and performs some "what-if" scenarios to ensure optimum molding performance. By using computer analysis to optimize the mold for the molding process, he can predict the widest possible processing window so the mold can be designed to that. Linder also notes any discrepancies in the product’s design that might inhibit its manufacturability, collaborates with the customer to make changes.
“Engineering the mold up front—including having accurate predictions for shrinkage and warpage tendencies prior to starting the design process—saves time spent debugging and fixing mold and part geometry problems after the mold is built,” said Linder.
Once the mold has been engineered for optimum molding processing, Linder sends all the computer simulation information along with the narrative, the Bill of Materials, mold component specifications and a 3D model of the part from which the mold will be built, in a power point presentation to a large mold-design firm in Shenzhen, China, with which he has worked in the past.
“They send us back the model of the 3D mold that they have designed,” Linder said. “Our goal is to have a preliminary mold design completed within 48-72 hours.”
Upon completion of the mold design, Inject Engineering conducts a design review process which is based on a tooling FMEA. “We look for any possible failure modes and ensure that they are designed out of the tool,” Linder said. “If we see a problem we make changes and send those back to the designer. Once we are sure the mold meets our critical design standards, we submit the design to the client for approval.”
Linder emphasized that Inject Engineering is not designing in China to build in China, which is the typical scenario. “We’re designing tools to have them built here in the United States by U.S. mold companies,” he said. “There are some unique challenges to doing this because Chinese designers are used to designing molds to be built and sometimes even run in China. We’ll create the catalog of components and specifications for each mold, and ensure that those are adhered to.”
While Linder admits that his is a unique business model, he has long recognized a need for this type of comprehensive, up-front engineering service. Many times shops don’t have the personnel or the technical ability to fully engineer injection molds prior to manufacturing them,” Linder told PlasticsToday. “That’s where Inject Engineering comes in.
“Over the years, I’ve seen a real void in the number of available mold designers, which means that mold design becomes a bottleneck, particularly in smaller shops,” said Linder. “Mold shop owners tend to be machinery junkies. They buy the latest and greatest high-speed machining centers and robots that are capable of getting out a lot more tools than they can design. It’s like having a governor on a high-horse engine. That design capacity just doesn’t exist. The result is they can’t get the molds designed fast enough to get the project launched quickly.”
With the mold engineering having been completed by Inject Engineering, the mold manufacturer can focus on just building the mold. “With lead time becoming a critical factor in today’s manufacturing environment, we can have the mold design back to the U.S. moldmaker quickly and ready to begin cutting steel,” Linder said.
Linder noted that the advantage of his method is that if the engineering is done properly, “the mold designers can be worker bees.” Inject Engineering has the capacity to put out a large volume of mold design work because there’s a huge pool of young talent at the design firm in China. “The mold design company we deal with has 150 designers, many of who are assigned to work on our projects, and the old guys there are 35 years old,” Linder quipped. “We engineer it here and let the worker bees do the design work, and they work around the clock.”
Even though the Chinese mold design firm is an integral part of Linder’s business model, his plans are to Inject Engineering into a full-service technical center complete with a training program for mold designers, mold maintenance and repair, and mold qualification and validation services,” he stated.
Linder also sees Inject Engineering’s services as a way to keep mold building in the U.S. His customers, which include Tier One suppliers, OEMs, and molding companies, will have their molds built by U.S. moldmakers, and Linder hopes to partner with local mold companies to complement his efforts. “I’ve already been asked to find good mold shops in the area,” he said. “This is a unique model. A paradigm shift, that can benefit all of us, particularly smaller mold companies that have minimal design staff or depend upon outside firms when they get multiple tool packages with short lead times.”