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Tight tolerances in the shadow of the Silicon Valley

December 31, 1999

5 Min Read
Tight tolerances in the shadow of the Silicon Valley

Since the company opened its doors in 1973, Quashnick Tool Corp. in Lodi, CA has seen a lot of change in northern California. Customers and markets have matured and evolved, changing the way moldmakers and molders operate in this at-times volatile community.

But one thing has not changed—the need for highly accurate, well-crafted tools. Quashnick Tool has acquired a reputation for building complex, tight-toleranced tooling for the biomedical, computer, automotive, and consumer industries, centered in the Silicon Valley, which is north of the company.

Lodi, CA is a place better known for grapes and vineyards than for tooling and molding companies. But, for Quashnick, being located in this central California valley between Stockton and Sacramento is no barrier to success.

Building a Good Reputation
Quashnick’s forte is complexity—slides pulling slides, timing on a three-tiered slide, a slide working off a curve, and a variety of hot runner systems (Figure 1). During a recent visit, owner Terry Quashnick showed off one tool completed recently, a four-cavity mold with 24 slides that molds a 40 percent glass-filled polypropylene part with a living hinge.

Another tool in progress is an eight-cavity mold using a Husky hot runner system. Still another is a hot runner mold that makes a curved part with an arching core that has to pull on an angle with a shutoff on the curved core (Figure 2).

Quashnick notes that most of the complex molds the company builds have surface-mounted inserts to facilitate repairs, engineering changes, and maintenance. All tools are cut from prehardened steel and designed to withstand a vigorous production life cycle.

Molding and Technology
Because Quashnick’s molds are so slide-intensive, not just anyone can run them. “With slides you end up with a beefy mold when compared to the part,” says Duane Saville, gm of the company. As a result, Quashnick runs many of the molds it produces.

The company operates 10 Van Dorn injection molding presses ranging from 35 to 230 tons, and offers molding in two Class 100,000 portable cleanrooms. The company has combined moldmaking sophistication with molding expertise to build a profitable business niche for itself.

As an example, running a three-stage multiple slide-on-slide mold forming two 1-inch-deep crisscrossed holes with .030-inch diameters joining at a luer fitting is not unusual. A simple open and close mold is considered a leisure run.

Technology is an important component at Quashnick Tool, and the company continues to invest in machinery to make it more competitive in the markets it serves. Quashnick operates a wire EDM and a sinker EDM with a 16-station tool changer, both from Sodick. The company also has a CNC vertical milling machine. To maximize the equipment, Quashnick runs its machinery unattended 24 hours, freeing the moldmakers for other work.

Using EDM equipment to cut electrodes has allowed Quashnick to lower its graphite costs nearly 50 percent by requiring fewer electrodes. The wire EDM is used to cut ejector pins to size after the other mold components are finished. An integrated software system helps manage that process, notes Quashnick.

Evolution of Startups
Being just a couple hours’ drive from the Silicon Valley means that Quashnick has worked with a number of startups over the past two decades. Many have become large, successful OEMs, and Terry Quashnick can look back to the role his company played in helping them get to where they are.

But the Silicon Valley market is evolving, and the production-intensive work that got Quashnick started has become more development-focused.

“More and more, the Silicon Valley is becoming a development type of environment,” says Saville. “Some manufacturers are moving away, and the business is changing.”

When dealing with startups, Quashnick finds that most are looking for a moldmaking company to be responsible for much of the engineering during the product development stage. Often, it’s a long road from concept to a complete product ready for the marketplace. Along the way, there are engineering changes, testing, more changes, and more testing before approval is given to begin molding parts.

As an example, Saville points to a recent Oral-B product developed in the Valley for eventual production in Iowa. “With such a project, we usually get involved early on in the process and start building a one-cavity hardened prototype tool that later leads down the road to a high-production-type mold or environment,” Saville explains.

Indeed, the reward is the production, says Quashnick. “But that’s when the big [molding] companies come around and start courting them,” he adds. “That’s when business loyalty really counts. They know you’ve worked with them to bring the product along and you hope they remember that down the road.”

One startup, a company called Cepheid (Sunnyvale, CA), makes fully integrated test systems and microdiagnostics for DNA-based sample detection. Quashnick has been instrumental in helping the company develop the disposable devices needed to run the tests.

Ron Chang has known Quashnick for the past 12 years that he’s been an engineer in the Silicon Valley. Now, as an engineer with Cepheid, Chang praises Quashnick’s ability to help develop new products and produce complex, Class A molds that produce precision parts right out of the chute.

“Terry is very talented and his tools are beautiful,” says Chang. “Most people just see the part and never see the tool behind it. He’s really creative and comes up with new ways of doing things. Sometimes Terry can look at a part and predict what will happen without even running a mold-flow test on the computer model.”

Contact information
Quashnick Tool Corp.
Lodi, CA
Terry Quashnick
Phone: (209) 334-5283
Fax: (209) 334-9846
Web: www.quashnick.com
E-mail: [email protected]

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