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X-Cell Tool and Mold expands capabilities, collaborates with Penn State students

X-Cell Tool and Mold Inc., an Erie, PA-based custom manufacturer of tight-tolerance molds for the connector and medical industries, has expanded its capabilities and increased the number of employees over the past year. In February, 2010, X-Cell hired Mark DeHaven as the company’s VP of sales and marketing.

Clare Goldsberry

February 25, 2011

6 Min Read
X-Cell Tool and Mold expands capabilities, collaborates with Penn State students


“We’ve gone from 45% of our business in medical to 90% medical,” comments Ron Novel, president and owner of X-Cell Tool and Mold Inc. “Our connector work is still our background, but our forté has become close-tolerance conventional, MIM, and LSR molds for medical components.”

While X-Cell is ISO 9001:2008 certified, the company is currently working on obtaining its ISO 13485 medical certification, which it plans to get sometime this summer.

X-Cell’s specialties include building molds for Metal Injection Molding (MIM) and tooling for reel-to-reel continuous strip molding primarily for the connector and medical markets. The expertise that X-Cell Tool and Mold gained in the connector market has provided the basis for the company’s expansion into tight-tolerance medical molds. In addition, X-Cell has significant experience in reverse engineering to manufacture and rework/repair existing components
   
The company recently added a Deckel Maho DML SI laser engraver, which gives X-Cell the ability to engrave details on components, and adds the ability to add very small vents required for the LSR molds that the company has started building.
   
“We brought LSR mold building to our Erie facility after adding a sister tool company in Largo, FL, called X-Cell South,” explains Mark DeHaven. “The people at our sister company have 25 years' experience and have designed and manufactured over 180 LSR molds. We brought that technology into the company not because it’s the latest and greatest, but because the MIM tooling that we’ve done for the last 15 years requires the same expertise in tight-tolerance molds as LSR tooling, including zero flash. The thinking and the experience required for LSR molds transfers well from that of building tooling for MIM.” 

Currently, X-Cell is working with a hot runner company that’s on the verge of building a new cold deck system for LSR molding that X-Cell will use for some of its LSR molds.

To support the growing business, X-Cell purchased a new Sodick AG 60L EDM machine, a Daewoo DMV 30 milling machine, and a 3R System Work Master Robot. “All were added in the last four months to help us meet increased demand for molds,” says Novel.

"The 3R System Work Master Robot will support our move to 'lights-out' operation in our EDM department. This will increase our efficiency and unattended time to help be better equipped for our future. With today’s competitive world, especially in medical field, you have to update and be ahead of the latest technology to be a survivor in the marketplace,” says DeHaven.

    X-Cell also has added a Nissei 80-ton horizontal press. This brings the total to three presses—including a Nissei 77-ton vertical press and a 122-ton horizontal press with a Yushin picker—that the company uses for mold qualification, tryouts, and pre-production processing validation runs. "For larger mold qualification requirements we have partnered with a local molding company to support our customers’ requirements. We can also facilitate full turnkey systems to qualify on a total system approach," says DeHaven.
           
While mold design and mold making are the core of X-Cell’s business, many of its customers began requiring X-Cell to perform mold tryouts and qualifications. “We found in the last six months in particular some of the medical companies want us to qualify the first run,” says DeHaven.   

X-Cell Tool and Mold currently operates in a 10,000-ft2 facility and has 25 employees.  “We just hired five full-time experienced tool makers with an average of 25 years-plus in moldmaking, with backgrounds in both medical and close-tolerance connector work,” Jack Jaeger, program manager, says. "We have recently started 24-hour operation to accommodate the increased work. In addition, we have our own polishing department that can polish up to A-1 finish."

To help promote the industry and encourage young people to get into plastics manufacturing, X-Cell works closely with Penn State Erie’s Plastics Technology Center. X-Cell recently worked with a group of students to design two LSR molds. These molds were then manufactured at X-Cell Tool and Mold and donated to the Penn State Erie Behrend Plastics Technical Center. 

John Beaumont, program chair, Plastics Engineering Technology at the Behrend Plastics Technical Center, says, “X-Cell Tool and Mold has proven to be an outstanding supporter of the Plastics Engineering Technology program through not only the donation of mold building, but also by allowing students in the Penn State Erie Plastics Engineering Technology program to job shadow with X-Cell mold designers and engineers. The job shadowing will give our honors students the opportunity to see firsthand how a mold builder operates. X-Cell, and the molds they built, were instrumental in three undergraduate research projects. These projects resulted in three different papers that will be presented at the ANTEC conference in May of 2011.”

Novel notes that with Erie being a “hotbed in the plastics industry in the design and manufacture or injection molds,” the plastics program at the Penn State Erie campus has contributed a lot to the industry in the region. “We have all benefited in many ways from the developments and support that the Penn State Erie Plastics Technology Center has offered to the industry and to the community. The addition of a specialty in LSR to the Plastics Engineering Program is a good example of one of the many opportunities that the Plastics Technology Center brings to Erie and shows the commitment that they have to our industry,” says Novel. “We found it only fitting that we give back to the community and to Penn State as a small token of our appreciation for the opportunities that we were given and continue to receive.”

Novel notes that the mold manufacturing industry has changed dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years. “Increased competition from overseas has forced us all to reinvent ourselves or face the reality of having to close our doors. The technology and innovation available today in the equipment that is used in the manufacturing of tooling has helped to dramatically reduce manufacturing time and costs. Our competitors overseas recognized this before many of us did and took full advantage of it.”

While the Erie region felt the brunt of the downturn with many companies going out of business, X-Cell has been fortunate. “We’ve embraced new technologies over the years and we have been very fortunate to have customers who have not only supported our efforts but continue to encourage us to develop new and better manufacturing methods and to utilize new technologies in the development of their tooling,” says Novel. “Our drive to succeed combined with the unparalleled support of our customers has allowed the opportunity to grow our business and investigate new opportunities.” —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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