Looking for a niche? Mercury Tool & Mold Inc. found one, producing highly engineered rapid tools for production parts. Kevin Moran, president of this Milford, CT-based mold engineering, moldmaking, and molding firm relies heavily on a high-speed machining center and a few small molding machines to do the job.
Mercury has invested $450,000 over the last six months, adding two Shinwa Seiki 75-ton injection molding presses, a company-wide computer network, and a Deckle Maho machining center.
Moran's primary customers are medical OEMs that often prefer hard prototype tooling due to the number of parts needed for testing and approvals. The company also serves the electronics and consumer product markets with prototype tooling, preproduction runs, and production molding.
In this high-speed, specialty environment, the Deckle Maho machining center is complemented by three seats of Cimatron CAD/CAM. The machining center has an 18,000-rpm spindle, which allows Mercury to cut both aluminum and electrodes extremely fast and accurately, Moran explains.
"This is one step up from urethane tools where you can only get 100 parts," Moran says, adding that his customers produce several thousand parts for first-generation components before moving on and building another tool for the next generation.
Mercury recently completed a mold for a medical part that contains numerous ribs. From design to completion the job took just three weeks. "This is an actual tool," stresses Moran. "They're getting a part very similar to a production-quality part in that the dimensions will be there, it will have fit and function, there's no flash, and we molded it in a custom color."
The customer didn't consider Mercury a prototype house, says Moran, but it needed production-quality parts in a prototype tool. "They're now on the second generation and recently purchased another tool for the program," he says.
Moran says that his decision to make the investment in high-speed technology to produce rapid prototype tooling is the result of pressure applied by offshore competitors. "We can't compete with China on labor-intensive production mold work, but the engineering and product development is staying here," he says. "We feel that's the way to go."
Mercury Tool & Mold Inc.