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September 9, 1999
2 Min Read
Captive molder Indtec (Sion, Switzerland) is a member of Group SFT SA, a SFr 100 million holding company. Ninety percent of the Group's activities are in the watchmaking industry. Indtec and its global SFT affiliates produce millions of watch movements each year, making Group SFT the fourth largest watch part producer in the world, behind Seiko, Citizen, and SMH (producers of the Swatch watch, among others). One of the parts Indtec molds is a POM pinion with an OD of only .8 mm. Each eight-cavity tool the part runs in is smaller than a person's fingernail (Figure 1).
Victor Bruzzo, director general of SFr 35 million Indtec and ceo of SFT Holdings, has a keen eye for good business opportunities. Bruzzo was instrumental in the recent launch of a proprietary line of sports watches (Figure 2). The exteriors were not a problem, but the interiors were.
For close to a decade Indtec had been using wire EDM to cut cavities. But, as Bruzzo painfully recalls, EDM posed a number of problems in this project:
m Difficult-to-control dimensional quality.
m It only creates one cavity at a time of a single design.
m Miniaturization was limited by the 30 mm limit of EDM wire.
m Some cavities cost up to SFr 2500 each (~US$1665).
Fortunately, Bruzzo met Hubert Lorenz, inventor of a new, inexpensive photolithographic micromoldmaking technology similar to what is used to make silicon wafers. Bruzzo, a microelectronic/micromechanical engineer himself, saw the tremendous potential in Lorenz's approach. He also wanted to gain immediate access to the technology as it evolved.
Bruzzo helped support Lorenz by buying a small share in the company he helped him to create, Mimotec SA. He leased space to Lorenz in the Indtec facility for him to fine-tune and commercialize his technology. Also, Bruzzo shared his priceless real-world business savvy.
Indtec runs 15 presses, mostly 60-tonners from Arburg, Battenfeld, and Netstal. Three now run eight-cavity Mimotec molds, the first anywhere in the world. In 6-second cycles, each mold produces eight million flawless pinions per week. Typical accidents like part jams and ejector pin breakage are the only problems Indtec has had with Mimotec molds. The versatile micromoldmaking technology has solved all of the problems Indtec suffered with conventional moldmaking systems. Mimotec's pricing is very competitive with EDM, according to Bruzzo.
The superior quality, productivity, and miniaturization capabilities of Mimotec micromolds have allowed Indtec to consider diversifying into new markets with growing demands for micromolded parts, like medical. Meanwhile, thanks to its small investment, Indtec is busy helping football (soccer) fans around this great big world keep time in style. (For more on Mimotec SA, see p. 79.)-Carl Kirkland
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