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It appears that re-shoring of moldmaking projects is now a reality, and as North American moldmakers become busier, so do their suppliers. Looking for differentiation is still key as they try new value-add products.

Clare Goldsberry

July 13, 2010

8 Min Read
Mold component suppliers optimistic about North American turnaround

It appears that re-shoring of moldmaking projects is now a reality, and as North American moldmakers become busier, so do their suppliers. Looking for differentiation is still key as they try new value-add products.

Molds are made up of hundreds of components, many of them custom-made by the moldmaker, but more often than not nowadays, the components can be purchased off-the-shelf. Mold component suppliers also have become problem solvers for today’s complex mold designs, providing the means to adopt newer molding technologies such as two-shot (two-material) molding; overmolding; insert molding; rotating or Spin Stack molding; and inmold labeling, decorating, and even assembly.

Time is of the essence in moldbuilding, and being able to purchase these ready-made components can help mold manufacturers get parts quickly and reduce mold build time.

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Q: What event or condition is having the biggest effect on your sector of the plastics industry in 2010, and which one do you think will be the most important in 2011?
Starkey: For moldmaking in the U.S., it’s been a difficult 10 years. Of course, a big factor is Asian mold imports along with manufacturing of entire finished product overseas. But now, overseas costs have risen, domestic efficiencies have been gained, and mold buyers are further taking into account the lifetime cost of ownership of a mold, as well as its performance and efficiency. More and more we’re hearing about mold buyers who are doing the math, and as a result working with a local moldmaker. This appears to be the beginning of a mindset that will be growing in the years ahead. Between that and the overall economy improving, moldmakers have been busier and many report a backlog that has them feeling positive about the months ahead.

Harold: The largest single event that has impacted the mold components business in 2010 is the rapid turnaround of the automotive industry. With OEMs planning to introduce many new car and truck models, and working toward the new miles-per-gallon criteria that will be imposed on them in a few short years, we are seeing more molds being built.

We also seem to be witnessing a decrease in the number of molds being built in Asia as U.S. moldmakers and molders have lived through the downside impact of offshore sourcing (time delay, quality issues, rework, etc.), and now realize that U.S.-manufactured molds are truly cost and time competitive. In addition, with more vehicles being sold in 2010 vs. 2009, we are seeing the molders/processors needing to perform additional maintenance and repair on existing molds as production activity has increased, thus increasing the need for mold components.

For 2011, we expect the auto industry to have an additional positive impact on mold components, along with the medical industry, aerospace, and packaging. If unemployment decreases and disposable income increases in 2011, we would expect to see positive impact in almost all consumer product categories, too.

Hicks: Hopefully the re-emerging auto sector can sustain, as it’s traditionally the biggest percentage of the plastics industry.

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Mold Plaques from DMS, while not components, have been a hit with moldmakers.

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New products in 2009 from PCS include HP Nylon Water Fittings, made from 35% GF nylon, that save 50% over the cost of brass water fittings.


Q: What was your company’s top technology development in 2009? What will it be this year? Is there a technology in your sector that processors are overlooking?
Starkey: Expansion of our collapsible cores to include a mechanical solution that is serviceable while the mold is in the press is most notable, along with new mechanisms for controlling mold plate sequencing. Molders and moldmakers are looking for more modular standard components, rather than tools having custom manufactured parts. Serviceability is also a topic that is coming up more often, so we’re looking to have components that are interchangeable while the mold is in the press.

Still, we see most moldbuilders and molders exchanging prints and CDs in an inefficient manner, when since 2005 we’ve offered at no charge a secure online storage site for part drawings, tool drawings, BOMs, etc. And every CounterView contains a unique serial number identification, which means you can have a mold in front of you and access the tool’s information from your PC or smart phone.

Harold: PCS had several mold component technologies in 2009. NanoMoldCoating was first introduced in 2008 and since then, the HC and HCF second-generation products were introduced in 2009. These mold coatings, which employ cutting-edge nanotechnology, dramatically increase the release properties during part ejection.

NanoCeramicMoldGrease applies the science of nanotechnology to mold grease, creating a lubricant that has a super-low coefficient of friction and superior adhesion properties, while still being able to withstand operating temperatures from -40°F to 800°F.

HP Nylon Water Fittings can save up to 50% of the cost of brass fittings, and are made of industrial-grade, high-temperature 35% GF nylon, incorporating patent-pending self-sealing threads, and patent-pending hex-shaped inside diameters. The fittings drastically reduce water fitting maintenance costs while making removal of broken fittings quick and easy via the hex-shaped inside diameter.

We also have new products coming in 2010, but I am not yet able to talk about these.

Hicks: We had a few great new products in 2009, but most significant were our new HD heat thermal set graphic mold plaques and part identification magnets. Although not true mold components, they have fast become an important value-added component for molds by providing quality, instant information while giving a more professional overall appearance to the mold.

In 2010, our breakthrough production to date is the mold data storage system called the Rede Vault. While this, too, is not a true mold component, it is an electronic mold manual that travels with the mold. The information stored is password-protected, allowing for data to be constantly updated throughout the life of the mold, no matter where it’s being run.


Q: Are there particular end markets that are hot now or will be soon for your customers?
Starkey: Everyone’s talking about the medical market, but the barriers to entry are high. With our automotive customers increasingly busy, perhaps there is a positive trend in that market ahead.

Harold: Automotive (with its 2010 turnaround), medical, and packaging and closures seem to be very active end markets at this time. The need for hot runner systems that are cost effective, quality laden, with quick turnaround times seems to be gaining steam as molders/processors are extremely cost conscious and cycle-time driven. Molders and processors seem to be more willing to look at alternative hot runner suppliers in their quest to control costs, maintain quality, and decrease cycle times. Being pressured from all angles, processors seem to be more receptive to new products and brands that they may not be familiar with due to past purchasing habits. Along with new hot runner suppliers come new mold components, and service and repair/replacement parts.

Hicks: Automotive, with increases expected for aerospace and green energy. Many sectors do seem to be improving overall. Speaking of markets, many newer geographical areas are very receptive to North American tooling sources. They should be strongly considered.


Q: Which breakthroughs or major trends in your segment of the plastics business should processors watch closely?
Starkey: Multishot, inmold labeling, inmold assembly, tandem molds, etc. More expensive, more complex tooling that ultimately results in a lower-cost end product. Though it’s difficult to coordinate the integration of such an undertaking, those who do will profit.

Harold: Aluminum mold bases seem to be getting more consideration as a viable alternative to steel. Given the application and material being processed, aluminum molds can be just as reliable, less costly to build, easier to manufacture, and can decrease cycle times. In addition, product volumes seem to be decreasing as product life cycles seem to be shortening, making aluminum mold bases and the resulting impact on mold components a trend to watch. Nanotechnology will continue to proliferate and penetrate the molding industry. The ability to scientifically “manipulate molecules” to create desirable properties will lead to many new products, modified current products, and perhaps the extinction of some current products. With new “nano-produced resins” will come opportunities for new components to respond to the specific characteristics and properties of these new resins.

Hicks: With the volume of mold component suppliers combined with the overall industry potential, many component companies are looking at new products to maintain and hopefully increase their overall volume of business. Most of these products are innovative and should be considered.

However, not all the new ideas are better and/or cost effective. In the big picture, moldmakers are paid primarily to build quality molds, not mold components. It is always important for mold component sources to produce quality, affordable, and innovative mold components, and moldmakers/molders should always be receptive to explore new methods and products.


Q: What is your prediction for your industry segment’s growth in 2011? Better than 2010?
Starkey: We’ve seen that a single news flash in one part of the world can affect markets everywhere, so who knows? But if there is a stable overall economy, purse strings for product development may continue to loosen.

Harold: PCS Co. expects to see significant sales growth in 2010 vs. 2009, and we expect 2010 sales to exceed 2008. In 2011 we expect sales growth to continue as a result of product line expansion, market share growth, and geographic expansion.

Hicks: 2010 has been a much better year for most component suppliers. However, the first half of 2009 was weak. I feel that 2011 should be similar to 2010 if not better, provided that major companies continue to strongly consider using North American sources for their moldmaking and molding requirements. Obviously, offshoring will remain, and of course the threat of offshoring will remain, but our North American companies are proving that they are a strong, reliable, quality-oriented, trustworthy, and proven high-value tooling source. Hopefully, the demand will continue to improve. —Clare Goldsberry

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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