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April 1, 2001

3 Min Read
A synergy: One plus one makes three


"We may not be the biggest, but we're the best," says Quest Technology/Form Physics' ceo, Stanley Zalkind (left). Next to him are Jeffrey L. Reed, vp operations; Johnnie Moon, production manager; Arthur Foster, toolmaker; and Ian Clark, president.

Quest Technology LP, a ceramics custom molder, is located at 6750 Nancy Ridge Dr. in San Diego, CA. Form Physics Corp., a custom molder of metals, has the same address. It's the same thing online. Punch up either company's URL—you get both of them on the same homepage. They share space on the bottom line, too. Both molders expect to double their growth this year for the third year in a row, dollar sales are dead even, and profits for both are in the same ballpark. 

Though they're also owned and managed by the same team, Quest Technology and Form Physics are different in at least one way. They have different phone numbers. Yet customers never hear a voicemail greeting when they call either molder. The management team opens customers up to the same one-on-one, up-close-and-personal kind of communications they employ with their shared personnel. Their 33 employees are cross-trained in CIM and MIM. 

Stanley Zalkind, president and ceo of Quest Technology; Ian Clark, president of Form Physics; and Jeffrey L. Reed, vp of operations, say they have put their combined experience of nearly 50 years in plastics and powder injection molding into ironing out all the wrinkles in the PIM process. With more than 100 tools, they mold millions of close-tolerance, complex-geometry, high-margin parts for the IT, E/E , medical, and orthodontics markets. They say their system lets them mold to specs that are off the charts, while keeping internal scrap rates in the sub-1 percent range. 

CIM, MIM: What's the difference?

IMM put this question to the joint brain trust of Quest Technology and Form Physics—a CIM molder and a MIM molder that share the same piece of real estate. They say processing the two materials is virtually the same. The main differences are in binders and sintering.

Compounding is carried out in different mix areas of the plant. Some of their injection molding machines are MIM- or CIM-dedicated. All of the furnaces are. Ceramic parts shrink more than metal parts. Overall, they say CIM is more of a niche. The total market for CIM is much smaller than for MIM, and is being addressed by a fewer number of large companies, most of which do captive work. 

People Make It Work
It's no one thing in PIM, they explain. It's how all of the different things tie together. It's not easy on their people, paying equal attention to keeping every step of the process under unforgiving control, but that's the system. They have learned, for example, that if a part isn't right once it leaves the mold, you can't change it. They avoid secondaries like the plague. They also make their own feedstocks and molds; run them on seven precisely controlled closed loop presses (15 to 55 tons); brown parts in their own high-speed, third-generation solvent debinders; and sinter them to net shape with 99 percent density in custom-built furnaces. 

Open communication helps management make sure employees like what they're doing and ensures that customers like what they're getting. People make the system work, and management has learned that employees pay closer attention when they like their jobs. 

Neither company has ever had a layoff, and no one has left in the past two years. Some who have tried to replicate the Quest Technology/Form Physics PIM system elsewhere reportedly have failed. They may have walked away with one or two system threads, but the brain trust shares with no one how it all ties together. 

Contact information
Quest Technology LP/
 Form Physics Corp.
San Diego, CA
Stanley Zalkind
Phone: (858) 558-1996
Fax: (858) 558-4713
Web: www.questceramics.com

Ian Clark
Phone: (858) 558-2189
Fax: (858) 558-4713
Web: www.formphysics.com

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