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January 1, 2006

14 Min Read
Short Shots

Some 800 people showed up on a cold Wednesday night last November in the Detroit suburb of Livonia to attend the 35th annual Innovation Awards Gala, hosted by the SPE Automotive Div. It’s at this highly produced, brightly lit event each year that automotive designers, molders, and carmakers are praised and awarded for their design and molding acumen.

Parts included a Toyota water-jacket spacer, a Chrysler intake manifold, an Audi electric parking brake, and a GM HVAC film valve. Winners are chosen for each of several categories, and then a Grand Award winner is picked—the best of them all. The Grand Award in November went to the composite in-bed trunk on the 2006 Honda Ridgeline (it’s the one in the TV commercial where the guy takes out a fish and throws it to the bear). Unfortunately, the in-bed trunk isn’t molded, so we shan’t dally on it.

Among the most interesting molded parts was the bonded, hybrid metal-plastic front-end carrier for the 2005 VW Polo (see photo). It was the winner in the process/assembly/enabling-technology category. It consists of a part molded from glass-filled PP and then bonded to a metal frame via a special two-component acrylic adhesive. It provides a structural bond without surface pretreatment. The mold for the part was made by Simoldes, based in Portugal.

Also of note: The Hall of Fame Award, given to an application that’s been in continuous use for at least 10 years, went to the molded intake manifold on the 1972 Porsche 911, one of which was parked at the gala. Nice.

Look for more stories on other parts from the competition in future issues of IMM.—JS

For its fiscal Q3 2005, BASF’s sales were up 11% to $12.5 billion and income from operations rose 13% to more than $1.6 billion over the same period in 2004. For the first nine months of its fiscal 2005, BASF’s income rose by 26% to $5.4 billion. The company says the sales growth was primarily due to “necessary and, in some cases, overdue price increases” in all of its chemical businesses. For Q4 2005, BASF expects earnings to be less than those of Q4 2004, and mentions $142 million from production losses linked to hurricanes in the U.S. It says the North American economy was robust in Q3 despite the storms and that it aims to increase its operation earnings here by $200 million/year by the end of 2007 by increasing marketing efficiency and reducing the complexity of its business.—RN

OK, “all all-electric” may sound a tad redundant, but how else would you describe an all-electric Alldrive multimolding machine with two 3.7-oz all-electric shooters? The headline also pretty well describes most of the other machines on show at an Arburg open house that IMM and about 210 molders recently attended at its HQ in Newington, CT.

“Two-component presses have become a big part of our all-electric machine program,” says Arburg’s Friedrich Kanz, as we watch it run. “We have a number of orders in our books and are already producing 55-, 88-, and 110-ton Alldrive all-electrics, as well as this 176-ton 570 A model, which we’ve sold to The Tech Group in Scottsdale, AZ.”

Equipped with a fully integrated Arburg all-electric Multilift indexing/parts-removal system, the press quietly molded small PP (.32 oz)/TPE (.15 oz) endcaps in a four-cavity mold running in 35-second cycles. It was the global debut of this machine.

Nearby, another Alldrive all-electric, designated 420 A 1000-400, left attendees breathless as it ran .3-oz PP cups in a two-cavity, Swiss-made, Otto Hofstetter mold in 2.2-second cycles. Believe it or not, Kanz said it was one of his standard all-electrics and not one “tuned” for high-speed molding.

If that weren’t enough, a 55-ton, 3-oz Allrounder ran .03-oz PP pipette tips on a 32-cavity mold in 6-second cycles. Attendees also were electrified by Arburg’s all-electric LSR molding system. An 88-ton, 3.7-oz Allrounder Alldrive fed by a pump from 2KM North America and running a 16-cavity tool molded .028-oz plug connectors in a Wacker Silicones LSR in 25-second cycles.

Sure, there were other Arburgs on show, everything from a 170 U model micromolding MIM parts to a 220-ton fully accumulator-assisted press. There also were informative technical presentations from Arburg folks and others, including one on inmold assembly from TRW Advanced Plastics (Westminster, MA) and another from Wacker on LSR multimolding. Arburg’s Marcus Hardt held a seminar on Arburg’s real-time ACS production monitoring system, which is now Windows-based, uses Java script, and is Internet-workable. And the food was great, too.

But, without a doubt, Arburg opened its doors to show off its all-electric Allrounders, which, as Kanz reminds us, needn’t always be all all-electric. “Customers can still choose what type of machine they want with our Alldrive Series. Auxiliary axes, such as ejectors, cores, unscrewing elements, and nozzle movements, can be driven either electrically or hydraulically.”—CK

Parent SMS Group says it will close the Meinerzhagen, Germany factory of Battenfeld Injection Molding Technology, which has been making the company’s larger molding machines. This effectively takes Battenfeld out of the market as a supplier of presses of 1000 tons or more. Battenfeld’s facility in Kottingbrunn, Austria, which had already become HQ for Battenfeld injection machinery, will manufacture molding machines up to 1000 tons.

Heinrich Weiss, chairman of the SMS Group, lays it on the line, saying the large machine plant “has caused high losses for many years in a row,” and that all attempts to make it competitive did not succeed. He says concentrating on one production site and revising the product portfolio—-no details given—-will boost the company’s market position, and he emphasizes that the company “will become a synonym for innovative technology once again.”

The closure involves about 470 employees and Battenfeld will negotiate a severance agreement with the works council. Full closure is expected by the end of June 2006. A Battenfeld spokesperson says existing orders for large machines will be filled, and that service and support, including parts, will continue for all its large machines. Unofficially, some Battenfeld people have said that large machine production eventually will be resumed at the Austrian location, but for the near- to midterm, 1000-ton clamps will be the biggest.—RN

You certainly can’t accuse Delphi chairman and CEO Robert S. Miller of obfuscation. On Oct. 29 The Washington Post published on its website a 13-page (on IMM’s inkjet printer) verbatim transcript of a Q&A between the paper’s editors and Miller, not long after Delphi declared bankruptcy. No shrinking violet, Miller fielded questions on everything from outsourcing to labor relations to the viability of GM. You wouldn’t be blamed for missing the Q&A, and you might not have the time to digest it. With that, some excerpts of interest are to the right. If you want the whole thing, visit www.washingtonpost.com and type “Robert S. Miller” in the search field. Or, drop me an e-mail ([email protected]) and I’ll send it to you.—JS

• “Outsourcing. There are activities that can be done by outside contractors a lot more efficiently and cheaply than we can do with full-time people inside.”

• “All we know is that we will have to close the plant unless the all-in cost of the workforce to do the work at the plant is competitive with what other U.S.-based suppliers are paying their people.”

• “Everybody keeps saying, ‘This is the death of American manufacturing.’ Wrong answer. Why do you think Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, why are they all building assembly plants in this [country?]”

• “First, imagine a small part that is a very labor-intensive part. And you can stick 1000 of them in a box. That part is going to be made in a low-cost country.”

• “The other kind of part is--I should have brought one out of my office because I assembled one a month ago—a big manifold, a huge glob of plastic that sits on the top of the motor, and it’s got all kinds of electronic control modules, and fuel injectors, all kinds of stuff in it. Very sophisticated, high-tech, very bulky, and these specifications for each one are set just days in advance of when they are needed at the assembly plant. That part will be made in America.”

• “At the current wage and benefits, we are going to close every one of our U.S. facilities. So now we’re talking about what can we do to permit us to keep these plants open. That’s what we’re talking about. And not all of them will make it.”

• “Some purchasing agent at some auto company is lying awake nights, wondering, ‘Will I lose my job because I bet on Delphi when everybody knew they were in trouble?’ So, this comes back to the strike question. If we start talking strikes, kiss it goodbye. Then we’re in liquidation.”

Accumold Corp. (Ankeny, IA) has acquired an unspecified number of new micromolding machines and has customized them to produce parts just a few microns big for a variety of markets, including medical, automotive, and aerospace by using its proprietary processing and moldmaking technology, trademarked MicroMold.

The company also plans to break ground later this year on an expansion to its 38,000-ft2 facility and reports that it has acquired additional land for further expansions.

According to Roger Hargens, CEO and president of Accumold, the company’s growth is a result of an increase in jobs it’s brought onshore that once were molded in places like India, Thailand, and China.

“Our customers have found that we can deliver consistently higher-quality components faster and at a cost that is very competitive with overseas manufacturers,” he says.

Imagine single-piece molded filters with more than 1000 76-µm squares with an 18-36% open area that have walls just .006 inch thick. Miniature Tool & Die Inc. (Charlton, MA) did and reportedly can produce them to spec, shot after shot, for use in nylon and PP filtration products, such as those used in medical devices, microelectronics, industrial, and biomedical applications.

In fact, MTD’s Dennis Tully, VP of engineering, says this development makes possible entirely new types of products, such as those requiring filtration prior to dispensing though microchannels.

Donna Bibber, VP of sales and marketing, says that MTD has created an economical one-step alternative to more conventional insert molded mesh filters, which require multiple manufacturing steps.

“We have enjoyed the challenge of creating intricate geometries in plastic components that create quality improvements and value for our clients,” she says.—CK

Custom molder and manufacturer Vaupell announced that its new facility in Agawam, MA is in full operation. The facility, Vaupell Northeast Molding & Tooling, was designed using lean value solutions, and all personnel are currently being trained in lean manufacturing principles. Capabilities at the new facility include cleanroom molding and assembly, technical molding, scientific injection molding, secondary operations, moldmaking, precision machining, gauging and fixturing, and contract manufacturing of medical components. The cleanrooms are among the largest in the Northeast and certified to Class 7 and Class 8 operation.The Vaupell group of companies, a portfolio member of private equity firm HIG Capital, operates four other manufacturing plants, including Vaupell Northwest Molding & Tooling, which is the company’s headquarters facility in Seattle, WA, and serves primarily the aerospace industry with injection molding and thermoforming. Vaupell Rapid Solutions (Hudson, NH) does rapid prototyping; Vaupell Midwest Molding & Tooling (Constantine, MI) serves primarily the medical industry; and Vaupell Southwest Molding & Tooling (Sanger, TX) is a proprietary molding operation and licensed manufacturer of the plastic carriers for ATMs and drive-up customer service machines at banks.—CG

Six Sigma and lean thinking helped Husky eliminate bottlenecks in its plate line and reduce its lead time to just three days.

In just two weeks after the receipt of your order, Husky IMS (Bolton, ON) is now able to manufacture and ship its infinitely configurable, one- to eight-drop Pronto hot runner systems from its Milton, VT factory thanks to its enlightened use of a combination of Six Sigma and lean manufacturing principles. Pronto systems are available with nine manifold types, more than 120 different plate sizes, and reportedly cost up to 20% less than comparable systems.

Standard lean methodology wasn’t enough to speed things up, because there’s a nasty combination of changing order volumes and a huge amount of variety in product work content involving custom parts when you’re manufacturing hot runners. If this weren’t enough, the manufacturing equipment in Milton is shared between Pronto systems and other product families.

So, the black belts at Husky Milton brought in their Six Sigma skills in manufacturing martial arts. For example, they quantified and analyzed the amount of product variation involved and used this data to determine machine and work content at each step, volume demand, and the existing lead times. Mixed-model “product families” were developed from this data to make lean manufacturing work in such a complex environment.

Lean thinking further simplified matters by making it easier to identify and deal with bottlenecks, like plate manufacturing and jig boring, by using visual controls such as color coding and FIFO (first in, first out) lanes and by establishing standard work practices. Kaizen events (“improvement bursts,” as they’re called in Milton) further helped to lean out the process. Then Six Sigma tools again were used to quantify the improvements and establish process control metrics.

In addition to all the other benefits, the shorter lead times resulting from Husky’s “lean sigma” program also allow you to make design changes even later in the game . . . not that you ever have to, of course.—CK

Medisize, a specialist in development and production of single-use sterile medical devices, will contract manufacture the Doorzand Airdrive, said to be the first disposable preservation system for donor organs, at the Medisize cleanroom facility in the Netherlands. The Airdrive is designed to preserve, oxygenate, and safeguard donor organs over extended periods of time at low cost and with high mobility. Medisize will assist in end-stage development, source and assemble fluid pathways, mold and assemble components of the Airdrive disposable pump system, assemble electronic circuits, and complete final assembly, testing, and sterilization. Doorzand Medical Applications is an R&D specialist in surgical and gynecological devices. Medisize, part of the Gurit-Heberlein Group, provides contract development and manufacturing to companies in the pharma, medical, and diagnostics sectors at locations in the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic.—RN

Seamless CIM
A partnership agreement recently formed between Mattec Corp. (Loveland, OH), suppliers of the ProHelp EPM production/process monitoring system, and CMS Software Inc. (Toronto, ON), an ERP systems supplier, allows information to be easily shared between both company’s products. This reportedly makes both systems more powerful by eliminating redundant data entries, by reducing the chance of making errors, and by making more data more quickly available to users.—CK

Milacron raises the Barr
Cincinnati Milacron (Batavia, OH) is now the exclusive U.S. injection machine supplier selected to manufacture and sell the patented ET and high-performance VBET injection feedscrews from Barr Inc. They’re available on new Milacron machines or as aftermarket products from Barr, or from Milacron ServTek, which supplies injection units.—CK

Tria granulators from Motan
A new trading agreement makes granulators from Italy’s Tria SpA available in the U.S. through Motan (Plainwell, MI). Both companies will share sales and marketing responsibilities, as well as service and technical support here and in Asia and the UK.—CK

StackTeck begins anew
With the backing of an undisclosed financial group, the existing management of StackTeck Systems Inc. (Brampton, ON and Los Angeles, CA) has acquired the company from Castle Harlan, a New York-based investment group. One of the largest mold manufacturers in North America, StackTeck manufactures high-cavitation, precision injection molds and tooling for packaging and consumer disposables markets.—CK

The name’s Swiss Steel
Swiss Steel International NA is the new name for ThyssenKrupp Specialty Steels NA, following the sale last year of the German production mill Edelstahl-Witten-Krefeld GmbH and its international sales subsidiaries to Swiss Steel AG (Emmenbruecke, Switzerland).

That merger reportedly created one of the world’s largest steel production, distribution, and processing companies. The new group has 7500 employees worldwide, a total steel production capacity of 2.5 million metric tons, and annual sales of $4.1 billion. Swiss Steel International NA has U.S. operations in Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis; and in Toronto and Windsor, ON.—CK

Celanese to sell COC business
Celanese Corp. has signed a letter of intent with Daicel Chemical Industries Ltd. and Polyplastics Co. Ltd. to sell its cycloolefin copolymer (COC) business, now marketed by its subsidiary Ticona under the brand name Topas. Daicel and Polyplastics intend to form a joint venture in Germany that will contain all of the COC operations, and to hold interests of 55% and 45% respectively. The deal was expected to close by the end of 2005, pending approvals.—MM

So, you have a customer, or a potential customer, who wants to assess the capabilities of several competing molders. What does he look at to make a fair apples-to-apples comparison? Download a pdf of the Molder capabilities checklist.

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