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CAE for plastics, Part 1: Getting up to speed

Two renderings of the 3-D solid model.

From seasoned users to neophytes, the time is right to take a good look at CAE for plastics.  This evolving technology is changing the face of molded part design and processing, and it could be the competitive edge you need.

Computer-aided engineering, or CAE, consists of a broad range of design-related software, from structural finite-element analysis to computational fluid dynamics. When it comes to IM plastics design, however, CAE means moldfilling simulation and its inherent adjuncts—analyses for warpage, cooling, part optimization, and gating strategies. It would be hard to find anyone involved in plastics today who didn’t know about CAE tools. However, it is relatively easy to find someone who has never used them.

Whether or not you fall into this latter category, the time has come either to take a first look or to reacquaint yourself with CAE for plastics. Why? For one thing, those involved in molding in the U.S. need to examine every potential cost- and time-saving tool that may help them stay competitive. Secondly, today’s software has evolved beyond the basics to levels that deserve another glance, including the ability to optimize parts and eliminate prototypes. Finally, this tool offers to add processing knowledge at the design phase, a combination proven to reduce costs and time-to-market.

There are several steps involved in CAE for plastics, from importing a solid model to reading different types of results. Eclipse Product Development Corp., responsible for the product design and solid model geometry of a business card holder, documented the steps in the following series of images.
A meshed model of the card holder as imported into Moldflow Plastics Insight (MPI).

The first step in moldfilling simulation is to select the injection location. Here, the location is indicated by the yellow arrowhead at the center of the part. Users next choose the type and sequence of analyses, and then select a material from the database.

During the fourth step in an analysis, users specify process parameters such as mold temperature, melt temperature, injection time, and so forth.

This is a fill time result, one of the most common results viewed in MPI, which allows users to visualize the path of the polymer melt flow front as it progresses through the part cavity.

Another result is a pressure distribution at the transition between first- and second-stage injection.

To begin this three-part series, IMM spoke with two CAE users who recently implemented the technology at their respective companies. Both Bill Thorne, an application engineer with Teknor Apex, and Steve Witkus, a design engineer at Gillette, are using Moldflow Plastics Insight. Interestingly, both graduated with degrees in plastics engineering, Thorne from UMass Lowell, and Witkus from both UMass Amherst and Lowell. It was in college that each was first introduced to moldfilling simulation software.

Aesthetics and Filling
At Gillette, the primary focus is on eye-catching consumer products. That’s one reason why, according to Witkus, 50 percent of the product line is two-color molded. “We typically use an elastomer overmolded onto a rigid substrate,” he says.

Before some designs are finalized, Witkus performs a filling simulation. “When designers are in the concept phase, it saves both time and tooling costs to find out which areas may be difficult to fill. For example, some of the overmolded sections can be only .005 inch thick. At this stage, we can do a lot with part design to correct processing issues that surface during initial filling simulations.”

To perform an overmolding simulation, Witkus models the rigid substrate as a mold insert, and then gives it the thermal conductivity of plastic. Validation work has shown that the software results correlate well with actual results.

For those who are just getting started with CAE, Witkus recommends making up simple parts with known filling patterns. “Then start to gate them from different locations. Go through the exercise of building a model and meshing it and understanding the fill and pressure patterns. This way, you can validate some of these things and then manipulate the software more accurately.”

Wide-ranging Applications
Bill Thorne works with customers as diverse as Delphi Automotive and Motorola, switching between automotive and consumer goods in his position as application engineer for material supplier Teknor Apex. He recently implemented CAE software to handle this broad range and to remain competitive with major resin suppliers, who often perform simulations for customers.

“It is a misconception to think that OEM designers are performing moldfilling simulations,” he explains. “Those designers focus on components, not on tools. It is most often the toolmaker or molder who puts in runner systems and gates and sizes for shrinkage. If these considerations were part of the initial design, production problems would nearly disappear.”

Thorne recently worked with a major household appliance OEM to show it the benefit of doing prototyping with a computer. “Because of my background in plastics, I was able to take an existing part for a vacuum cleaner and give it a more balanced fill pattern. I also changed the gating style from a center hot drop to a cashew gate for better balance. Software results showed that this would reduce warpage.”

His customer cut tools based on his recommendations, and the parts produced were straight, without any warp or bowing. “They said this was the first time they had straight parts from a new tool with no modifications required. Using the software and this real-life success, two or three mold trials aren’t needed any longer.” As proof, Thorne just designed two new tools for this customer with two new gating styles, and it’s going with the software results rather than building prototype tools.

To show the benefits of CAE to another customer, Thorne used the software to troubleshoot a problematic two-cavity mold that produced a small, thin part .040 inch thick. The mold had been designed without the help of CAE.

Parts from one cavity varied by .004 inch, or half the thickness of a human hair. One of the runner systems was .200 inch thick. In order to balance the runners, the other one needed to be designed at .650 inch thick. “The only way we would have known it,” says Thorne, “is by running a moldfilling simulation. There was no way to balance this tool using the current runner system. Simulation results showed that wall thickness changes were the only way to balance the tool.” Thorne’s customers had to recut the tool, and decided to build the next mold after running a simulation.

Moldflow Corp. recently published a technical paper titled, “Implementing Computer-Aided Engineering in the Plastic Part Design-to-Manufacturing Process.” Not only does the paper describe recent technical advances in CAE for plastics, but it also catalogs the benefits of using these tools at each stage of the design-to-manufacturing process.

For instance, during product design and development, the paper points out that part quality can be improved. It explains how simulation results provide insight on reducing warpage and stress while improving tolerances and molded part properties.

Another potential benefit is the elimination of prototype tooling. Prototyping on the computer rather than using physical tools saves time and cost while identifying and correcting processing/quality/cost issues before production tooling is built.

Moldflow estimates that half of all iterations that take place during production tooling development can be avoided by using CAE simulations. Results help to get the tool right the first time, eliminating the need for modification and its resulting delay. Tools can also be optimized for cycle time, cavitation, and tonnage requirements for more economical part production.

Parts that undergo the CAE process tend to have higher quality with fewer or no secondary operations required. Scrap rates are reduced because parts are designed for manufacturability with a wider processing window.

Contact information
Eclipse Product Development Corp.
Nashua, NH; (603) 598-4242
www.eclipsepd.com

Moldflow Corp., Wayland, MA
(508) 358-5848; www.moldflow.com

Design All Stars: Wearable monitor gathers data outside


  • Project: SenseWear Armband body monitor   
  • Concept: Unit worn on upper arm, more comfortable than a wristwatch   
  • Designers: BodyMedia and K Development   
  • Weight: 3 oz   
  • Appearance: High-tech look, more fitness-oriented than medical   
  • Materials: ABS, PC, TPU (elastomer)
  • A revolutionary new way to collect data from a patient wins accolades from the IDSA for its comfort, visual appeal, and portability.

    One of the goals of lab research is to gather real-world data. Unfortunately, lab equipment that monitors sleep patterns or energy expenditure often requires that subjects be hooked up to less-than-portable devices. Designers at BodyMedia have overcome these limitations with the SenseWear Armband, a wearable monitor that supplements and can augment the findings of monitoring equipment currently found in hospitals or research labs.

    “This product is the first of its kind to let researchers do tests outside the lab with multiple sensors,” says Chris Kasabach, VP, Industrial & Mechanical Design for BodyMedia. He explains that this is the first multiparameter body monitor for collecting clinically accurate data on energy expenditure (caloric burn), sleep quality, and activity levels in a free-living environment.

    “Our requirements internally—that it be easier to put on and more comfortable than a watch—were met in the final design,” says Kasabach. Apparently, the armband met requirements for excellence as well, garnering a gold award in the 2002 IDEA competition, sponsored by the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) and BusinessWeek magazine.

    It also meets IMM’s standards for a Design All Star. Not only is the product based on industrial design and IM plastics—polycarbonate, ABS, and TPU—but it was also produced in collaboration with K Development (Erie, PA), a plastics product design and development company. Molded by Nypro Carolina (Burlington, NC), the three main housing parts are contoured to feel comfortable on the user’s upper arm. In addition, the design aims for a low profile so that the unit can be worn undetected under clothing. In fact, it looks more like a fitness product than a medical one.

    Designed to be worn for up to five days continuously, the armband consists of three main plastic parts that make up the housing as well as electromechanical contents. GSR and temperature sensors are insert molded into the housing parts.

    Keeping Tabs
    One of the IDSA jurors, Louise St. Pierre, explained after the competition why the SenseWear armband won such acclaim. “This product is intelligent, not only in what it does, but also in how it has been designed. As developments of technology have advanced in recent years, it is increasingly rare that one finds a revolutionary application. This is one of those.”

    What jurors found revolutionary is the way that the monitor allows researchers to collect patient data continuously over a period of five days. Says BodyMedia’s CEO Astro Teller, “SenseWear produces physiological records of the wearer, allowing researchers to peer continuously and accurately into the subjects’ lives over an extended time. Because it works outside the lab, researchers can view problems such as insomnia, obesity, and weight gain in the context of lifestyle patterns and make insights previously impossible in conventional labs.”

    In addition to data gathering for sleep disorders and weight management, the armband is used for performance fitness purposes. For instance, a number of pro athletes wore them for insight into athletic performance. “In the future,” Teller says, “we’ll also look at other variables. The product can stay the same, but the data collected can be changed. The sensors are there already; it is just a question of having the computer science know-how to draw new conclusions.”

    There are two ways to download data from the armband—a wireless connection or a cradle connected to PC, not unlike a PDA. Users just put the armband into the cradle and upload to BodyMedia’s PC-based Innerview software for viewing.

    Design Details
    Materials were integral to meeting needs for hypoallergenic use, comfort, durability, and reduced size. They included surgical grade, hypoallergenic stainless steel for sensors; FDA-approved copolyester for labels that touch the skin; UV-stabilized thermoplastic urethane for flexible “wings”; ABS; polycarbonate; and a custom developed, latex-free nylon/polyester blend for the adjustable strap.

    The flexible wings were overmolded to the monitor top, and the TPU material flows between the pieces to form an integral gasket. All external sensors were insert molded into the bottom. The hourglass-shaped label covers the assembly screws, creating a smooth interface to the skin. These design elements made SenseWear water resistant and easy to clean.

    Plastics were essential in meeting appearance requirements that the device look more like a fitness product than a medical one.

    Comfort was also a top priority. The issues of heat buildup, skin sensitivity, pinching, weight, and size were carefully considered to minimize allergic reactions, skin occlusion, and discomfort during continuous wear.

    SenseWear also contains a large button for time-stamping important events. It was designed as an oversized feature so wearers could press it without seeing it. Audio and visual feedback was supplemented with tactile feedback in the event the wearer wants privacy. For example, the researcher can program an “alert” in SenseWear to tell the subject to take medication or wake up. In privacy mode, SenseWear will emit a short, undulating vibration instead of an audible alert.

    Team Dynamics
    Jason Williams, principal at K Development, worked integrally with mechanical engineers at BodyMedia to help create the product housing. “We were trying to shrink the envelope as much as possible, so that the final product size could be minimized. We worked closely with BodyMedia’s hardware team to reduce the size of the mechanicals and optimize component configurations, and then worked to shape the plastic parts around them.”

    Together, the housing consists of three main plastic parts, each with a nominal wall thickness of 1.5 mm. Four screws attach the parts together on the side that touches the skin, but these are covered up with the copolyester label for comfort. “We were able to integrate parts,” says Williams, “by designing the overmolded TPU wings with an integral gasket.”

    “SenseWear was designed to move with the body,” says Kasabach. “The gentle curves, stretch materials, smooth texture, and soft colors make the product feel more like a fitness monitor. The skin-touching sensor side was designed not to feel like the bottom of the product, but like the inside. Sensors are shaped to match the contours of the housing.”

    Contact information
    BodyMedia Inc., Pittsburgh, PA
    Chris Kasabach
    (412) 288-9901, ext. 1217
    www.bodymedia.com
    [email protected]

    K Development Inc., Erie, PA
    Jason Williams; (814) 866-0644
    www.kdevelopment.com
    [email protected]

    By Design: Polystyrene part design

    In this bimonthly column, Glenn Beall of Glenn Beall Plastics Ltd. (Libertyville, IL) shares his special perspective on issues important to design engineers and the molding industry.

    The first polystyrene (PS) was a natural material distilled from tree resin by the French chemist, Bonastre, in 1831. Another French chemist, Berthelot, is credited with producing the first man-made PS based on the synthesis of ethylbenzene in 1869. No commercial uses were found for this material until production started in England in the early 1930s. In 1937, Dow Chemical Co. introduced PS to the North American market, and today PS is a major injection molding material. Approximately 8 percent of the plastic produced in the U.S. is PS—the fourth largest in volume.

    Polystyrene is a senior citizen member of the plastics industry. It is intellectually stimulating to work with the recently introduced materials such as Ultem, liquid crystal polymers, or the new alloys and blends. But well-established materials have the advantage that only comes with experience. These older materials are fully developed, well understood, and provide fewer surprises than the new materials.

    The first polystyrenes were crystal clear, rigid, brittle, amorphous thermoplastics that became known as general purpose polystyrene (GPPS), or simply GPS. In volume, their published selling price is $.42/lb. With an average density of only 1.045 g/sq cm, the cost is $.0150/cu in. This is a low cost for a transparent material with a flexural modulus of 500,000 psi and a tensile strength of up to 8200 psi. However, this material’s Achilles’ heel is its low notched Izod impact strength of .25 to .45 ft-lb/in.

    The brittleness of GPS limited its early use. This deficiency was overcome in the late 1940s by the addition of rubber to produce high-impact polystyrene, or HIPS. Notched Izod impact strength increased to .9 to 4.1 ft-lb/in, but there was a price to be paid. HIPS costs $.46/lb and $.0165/cu in. Flexural modulus and tensile strength declined to 260,000 to 370,000 psi and 2325 to 6000 psi, respectively. Worst of all, HIPS lost GPS’s transparency and lustrous surface finish.

    Today, packaging accounts for approximately 30 percent of the PS used in the U.S. Consumer electronics and appliances, notably televisions, radios, air-conditioner housings, and cassettes, use 9 percent. Housewares and furniture use 8 percent and toys consume another 7 percent.

    Designing With PS
    In commercial use for 65 years, polystyrene’s stiffness, transparency, low cost, and especially its ease of processing make it a favorite for injection molding. It would be reasonable then, but a mistake, to assume that everyone knows how to design parts for good old PS. The impressive growth of the plastics industry results in new designers entering the field each year, and many of these newcomers have yet to have their first experience with PS. In this regard the following design guidelines will be helpful.

  • Wall thickness minimums can be as little as .010 inch for small parts and disposable packaging items. One supplier indicates an impressive flow-length-to-thickness ratio of 150:1.

    PS is a low-mold-shrinkage-factor, amorphous material. Theoretically there is no limit to the maximum thickness that can be produced. Thick-walled parts are, however, only practical when function is more important than cost, and when the mold is hot enough and the gate is large enough to allow continuous cavity packing during an extended cooling cycle.

    The preferred wall thickness for GPS and HIPS is a minimum of .030 inch and a maximum of .250 inch. Although not desirable, PS parts can tolerate wall thickness variation of up to 25 percent. As always, changes in thickness should be gradual.

  • Radiusing inside corners on GPS parts is critical, as this is a hard, brittle material. The minimum corner radius should be 25 percent of the part wall thickness. The higher elongation and impact strength of HIPS make it more tolerant of small inside radiuses. Maximum strength is achieved in both materials with a radius of 75 percent of the wall thickness.

    Outside corner radiuses should be equal to the inside radius plus the wall thickness. These proportions produce a uniform wall thickness around the corner. This, in turn, produces uniform cooling and mold shrinkage with a reduction in molded-in stress and warpage.

  • Molding draft angles and a smooth polish are mandatory with GPS due to this material’s hard, brittle surface as demolded. The inside surfaces of parts should have a draft angle of at least 1/2 degree  and preferably 1 degree per side. The low mold shrinkage of PS does not allow it to shrink very far away from the cavity during cooling. A 1 degree per side draft angle is recommended on outside surfaces. The softer nature of HIPS makes it more tolerant of minimum draft angles.
  • Projections such as stiffening ribs, bosses, gussets, and standing walls can have a thickness equal to 75 percent of the wall to which they are attached. Projections with greater thicknesses can result in sink marks and molded-in stress. In those instances where the avoidance of sink marks is mandatory, it is desirable to reduce the thickness of a projection to only 65 percent of the part’s wall thickness.
  • Depressions, or holes, are easy to produce in PS. This easy flowing, amorphous material is capable of producing good-looking, strong weldlines. GPS is more challenging in this regard, as the best of weldlines will deflect light as it passes through a transparent part.

    Draft angles are required along the depth of holes in order to facilitate easy part ejection. Irregularly shaped holes must avoid sharp inside corners that can produce molded-in stress.

  • Tolerances for GPS and HIPS are the same. A .125-inch-thick part that is 1 inch long can be held to a commercial length tolerance of ±.003 in/in. A fine tolerance would be ±.002 in/in.

    The low and uniform mold shrinkage of PS renders it a dimensionally stable material. While using materials of this type there is a natural tendency to take advantage of the situation and specify a fine instead of a commercial tolerance. This understandable urge must be resisted, as a fine tolerance can result in higher mold and molding costs. There are always exceptions to this rule, but the ideal tolerance is the largest tolerance that produces an acceptable part.

  • Market Snapshot: Building & Construction


    Roofing tiles made to look like cedar are molded of EPDM and TPO. Seneca Cedar Shakes from EcoStar are said to be durable and lightweight, and come with molded-in instructions and nail placement markings.

    If there’s been one bright spot in the gloomy economy, it’s the construction industry. In almost every major city, construction sites continue to be part of the landscape. While the rest of the country fell into a recession in 2001, developers racked up an estimated $481 billion in new-project starts, according to F.W. Dodge, a McGraw-Hill Cos. unit that tracks the construction industry.

    Yet it’s housing, and not commercial construction, that has carried the market (see graph, below). A glut of office and factory space nationwide resulting from the dot-com fallout and manufacturing downsizing slowed commercial construction, but housing is a different story. Housing represents about 45 percent of all new construction in the U.S., and F.W. Dodge predicts that housing starts for 2002 will hold steady.

    There are some trends that are obvious: Sales of luxury homes have dropped drastically, and sales of moderately priced homes are picking up. There is a projected upswing in health care facility construction (thank the aging population for that), and schools, particularly colleges and universities, have increased their budgets to accommodate an impending influx of Generation Y students.

    Plastics’ Role
    If building and construction once held few applications for plastics, that all changed over the past decade. Many construction applications are extruded products such as vinyl window and door framing, and plastic lumber for decorative trim and patio/decking applications. What haven’t changed are builders’ attitudes toward anything new in their field.

    Developing new products for the building and construction industry is tricky because builders are very risk averse, explains Robert Russell, general manager for SimRidge Technologies’ Tempe, AZ custom injection molding facility.

    Russell, formerly of GE Plastics, was heavily involved in that company’s “Plastic House” and says he spent a lot of time understanding the building and construction industry. That background has given him an edge on a new program that SimRidge recently took on: molding “cedar shake” roofing shingles from a proprietary polymer compound for EcoStar, a division of Carlisle Syntec Inc., based in Vernon Hills, IL.

    SimRidge purchased two large-tonnage presses—700 and 650 tons—in which to mold the Seneca brand roofing tiles. EcoStar, the company that developed the product, designed the Seneca Cedar Shake tiles to look like traditional cedar shakes. The tiles are molded of recycled materials that include rubber (EPDM) and plastic (TPO), which make the tiles durable and lightweight. They come in random widths of 6, 9, and 12 inches to create the traditional look of a wood shake roof, and nine colors to allow for creative architectural touches.

    More importantly, the Seneca Cedar Shake tiles are applied like shake and come with molded-in instructions and markings for appropriate nail placement—a critical factor in winning acceptance of the product from the builder community. The shingles are shipped in bundles just like cedar shake shingles, also enhancing the builders’ comfort level with the product.

    EcoStar also offers Majestic Slate, made from 100 percent recycled rubber and plastic, and like the Seneca product, it is available with a 50-year warranty, including a 100-mph wind warranty. The plastic/rubber roofing tiles offer long life, fire safety, and impact resistance. Additionally, there is less breakage than with actual slate or cedar shingles, and modifications to the tiles can be done onsite with a utility knife.

    New privately owned housing units, U.S., thousands of units
    (seasonally adjusted annual rate)
    Source: U.S. Census Bureau

    Windows Provide Light and Light Weight
    Another example of an injection molded building product in which the construction industry has, until recently, shown minimal interest is the acrylic block window. Although the concept has been around for more than a decade, the product is only now receiving the credibility it deserves. A new, improved design tradenamed Crystal View, manufactured by Builders Accessories Inc. (Phoenix, AZ), has given the construction industry a long-lasting, viable product that solves many of the problems of traditional glass blocks.

    Crystal View acrylic windows allow plenty of light to enter a room while preserving privacy. Traditionally, glass block windows were used to satisfy this need, but about 10 years ago a few companies began experimenting with acrylic blocks.

    Builders Accessories’ marketing director, Erick Felsch, says Crystal View acrylic block windows offer advantages that far exceed glass windows and even other acrylic block windows. These blocks are approximately 75 percent lighter than glass, which means that the windows can be easily supported in almost any standard framing infrastructure. For example, a 4-by-4-ft glass block window weighs approximately 250 lb, where a 4-by-4-ft Crystal View acrylic block window weighs only 50 lb.

    Additionally, instead of having to hire a separate laborer to lay the glass block one at a time, the Crystal View window comes prefabricated in a frame and ready to install just like a regular window. It’s also 35 percent more energy efficient because the acrylic conducts less energy than traditional glass block windows. The blocks incorporate an innovative “Breathing Method” technology molded in, which helps prevent cracking and possible seal failures due to temperature, humidity, and altitude changes. They’re available in traditional clear or colored wave pattern blocks, and a newly designed frosted version.


    Window blocks are also switching media, like these Crystal View acrylic windows. They’re 75 percent lighter than glass.

    The blocks are molded at Fiesta Plastics (Tempe, AZ) in a dedicated press and subassembled by liquid welding the two halves together. Builders Accessories then assembles the blocks into standard or custom window sizes, fits the window into a vinyl or aluminum frame, and seals the unit with silicone grout.

    What It Takes to Succeed
    SimRidge’s Russell says that there are three factors needed for the success of a product, something particularly true of products for the building and construction industry. First, there is the product itself. “Anything that smacks of ‘different’ from what [builders] have done for the past 100 years is a tough sell,” says Russell. That’s why EcoStar’s roofing products look like and act like traditional products.

    Kerston Russell, president of EcoStar, bought the rights to the product several years ago when the company that had them failed. He took the materials compound and designed the products to accommodate the building market. “I’m an architect by training, so the design of the product was more important to me than the actual compound of the material,” says Kerston Russell.

    Secondly, there is the process. “The building and construction industry is a low-margin business in which efficiency is critical to producing any product used in that business,” says SimRidge’s Robert Russell.

    Third, there is the channel. In the case of many new products, the strategy employed is one of push marketing, in which there is no recognized demand for the product. The product’s manufacturer must create demand in the marketplace. Robert Russell refers to this difficult strategy as “pushing a rope.”

    In the case of EcoStar, a small company invented the product. It was a great idea whose time had come. However, the process needed to be refined to make the product efficiently and establish a distribution channel, something the small company couldn’t do. However, a company like Carlisle Syntec could and did.

    “It’s been an uphill battle but it’s finally coming on,” says Kerston Russell. “We tried to make it so the builders don’t have to change how they put it down. We’ve just improved the product and its look. Ask them to change too much and they’ll fight you. Ask them to change a little bit, and they’ll embrace it.”

    Marketing: One molder’s way to differentiate itself

    Company-sponsored events that feed and educate a clientele can pay off handsomely, as Ven-Tel Plastics has found.
    Finding ways to differentiate themselves from the thousands of molders in the U.S. has become a real challenge for many custom molding firms. Yet, bottom line, differentiation is what the marketing game is all about, says Steven Meitzen, VP of sales and marketing for Ven-Tel Plastics Corp. (Largo, FL), a 20-year-old custom injection molder.

    On the third Friday of each month, Ven-Tel sponsors what it calls a “Lunch & Learn” program for customers and potential customers, held at Ven-Tel’s new 105,000-sq-ft facility. The program begins at 11:30 am and goes until 1 pm, with lunch catered by a local deli. After the program, attendees are invited to take a plant tour and ask more questions.

    Topics for the program are determined in large part by feedback from Ven-Tel’s sales reps as to what customers are interested in learning. “Topics have to be timely and the information has to be of value to attract people,” says Meitzen. “We focus on what will be of interest to the buyer.”

    Through a website, Meitzen gathers a database of potential customers. He purchases a list of Ven-Tel’s target market, and then identifies the best potentials.

    At one event, Branson Ultrasonics covered the topic of welding plastic components. At another, the subject was “How to buy tooling offshore without fear,” given by Walt McMullen of Four Corners Engineering. McMullen, formerly of Xerox Corp., has been instrumental in helping Ven-Tel launch the L&L programs.

    A talk given by an official from the State of Florida addressed a group of medical manufacturing OEMs about selling medical products to Cuba. “It’s a hot political issue here in Florida,” notes Meitzen, adding that it’s legal to sell medical products to Cuba.

    Ven-Tel specializes in small to medium-volume runs for medical, electrical, automotive, lawn and garden, marine, and aerospace components. It operates 39 presses, 10 to 550 tons. Three of its machines are at a local technical college being used for the plastics processing apprenticeship program.

    The Lunch & Learn programs provide an opportunity for customers and potential customers to get to know Ven-Tel and its personnel, and, adds Meitzen, “Once they meet you they want to know more about you.”

    The real payoff is getting new business. Meitzen says that the company has received requests for proposal from every program Ven-Tel has ever done and gained some multimillion dollar customers. “By being proactive with a program like this, whether you do it in your plant or the local Holiday Inn,” he advises, “it can separate you from the competition.”

    Contact information
    Ven-Tel Plastics Corp., Largo, FL
    Steven Meitzen; (727) 546-7470
    www.ventelplastics.com
    [email protected]

    Molders Economic Index: Recovery to remain on track into next year

    September’s early days brought a slew of reports that seem to indicate that the overall recovery in manufacturing continues at a slow pace but may last well into next year.

    This forecast is somewhat different from the prevailing view of our overall economy. Most economists predict a very choppy climate for the next few months and even emphasize the risk of a double-dip recession. Yet much of this analysis is colored by the extreme volatility on Wall Street. The core of the economy—consumer spending, as seen in car sales and housing—has remained solid and that is what should be of most concern to molders. Note here that sales by Ford, GM, and Chrysler jumped 20 percent this past August compared to August 2001.

    What makes us so certain that manufacturing will hold up and that injection molders will continue to see somewhat higher orders levels?

    Manufacturing has been expanding for seven solid months through August 2002. The strong last quarter—holiday sales and traditional inventory buildups—bodes well for North America’s molders. Export orders appear to be growing slightly, thanks to a reduced value of the dollar. Housing remains on track and may have become the last resort investment for many Americans as the stock market continues to torture portfolios.

    We are not talking about 1990s-style growth rates. But there will be growth at an annual rate of about 3.1 percent for the next six months for molders. It will not be straight, predictable growth, but rather cyclical and changing somewhat from month to month. We anticipate September to be a down month in terms of overall industrial output as well as output of molded products.

    August: Slower Manufacturing Growth
    Growth will remain choppy. August is a case in point. Manufacturing activity grew modestly for the seventh straight month in August, though at a much slower pace, the Institute for Supply Management (Tempe, AZ) said. Its index of business activity remained steady at 50.5 in August. (An index above 50 signifies growth in manufacturing, while a figure below that shows contraction.)

    “Manufacturing activity improved slightly during August,” said Norbert Ore, chairman of the Institute. ‘’Steel price concerns are less than they were last month. The decline of the U.S. dollar seems to have helped exports while slowing imports.”

    In June the trade deficit fell to $37.2 billion from $37.8 billion in May, thanks to a fourth consecutive month of rising exports, the Commerce Dept. reported. Exports of capital goods (machines, engines, semiconductors, and telecommunications equipment) rose, but imports rose as well, led by consumer goods like pharmaceuticals, toys, and sporting goods.

    What this tells the molding community again is that high-value-added parts such as components for telecommunications gear are major sellers, while commodity products such as toys and sporting goods are under sustained threat from imports.

    Early data for July and August suggest that the price level of imports has held steady: The rapid decline in the value of the dollar has had little effect so far on either imports or exports. Many economists say it typically takes 18 months or more for such currency changes to alter trade patterns. Another important measure in the Institute’s report showed that prices for manufactured goods are increasing, but at a slower rate.

    Eight of the 20 industries tracked by the Institute reported overall growth in August, Ore said. Among them were printing and publishing, leather, transportation and equipment, apparel, chemicals, food, industrial and commercial equipment and computers, and paper.

    Most of our sources among molders seem to agree with this report. Yet September may bring negative growth, some molders say, and many economists reluctantly agree. Uncertainty over the stock market as well as the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks will put a damper on consumer spending and will thus slow down orders to manufacturers.

    Inventories are building up some. The Commerce Dept. reported that firms added to their stocks of unsold goods in June for the second month in a row. Inventories rose .2 percent in both May and June, the first increase in 16 months. Many now say that the long period of massive inventory liquidation is ending, leading finally to higher orders.

    Solid Orders in July
    The jump in orders for major durable goods reported for July will keep molders busy for quite some time. Orders are a leading indicator, providing strong signals on how well manufacturing will perform three or four months later.

    In July orders jumped 8.7 percent. The economies of Canada and Mexico reported similarly high increases in new overall factory orders. As reported by the Commerce Dept., the increase was the largest since a 9.2 percent advance in October 2001.

    Orders for all transportation equipment soared 20.8 percent, more than erasing June’s drop of 5.8 percent. Orders for cars, trucks, and parts increased 7.5 percent, following a 3 percent decline. Orders for commercial planes and parts—a cyclical category—jumped 121.6 percent after a 46.6 percent decrease in June. Excluding transportation equipment, durable goods orders rose a solid 3.9 percent; and, excluding orders for goods used by the military, durables went up by a record 7.3 percent.

    Possibly the most significant nugget in the report deals with capital investment. Orders for computers jumped 13.9 percent in July, after falling 9.8 percent the month before. For communications equipment, orders rose 10.4 percent, following a 15.3 percent decline. Orders for industrial machinery rose by a record 11.8 percent in July, more than reversing an 8.3 percent decline in June.

    At this stage we do not yet know the machinery shipment and import data for plastics processing equipment for July or August, but reports from molders seem to confirm that many have returned to investing at least moderately in new processing equipment.

    What kind of orders can molders anticipate now? How predictable are these orders? We spoke in early September to key buyers at major retail chains such as Wal-Mart, Staples, and Home Depot. These stores buy a significant quantity of molded products, manufactured domestically and imported. And these stores react with amazing swiftness to changes in consumer behavior.

    The buyers told us that demand for all types of goods has been quite solid, but they are reluctant to place long-term orders as used to be the case for much of the 1990s. Rather, rush orders are placed as inventories are depleted. Altogether, orders have been higher.

    Yet the unpredictability of the orders plays havoc with production schedules, forcing molders into sudden overtime while not having enough work during other periods.

    Strong Output Growth
    July was also a strong month in terms of actual molding output growth. Similarly, total output by the U.S. manufacturing, mining, and utilities industries posted an unexpected gain in July, boosted by increased car production, the Federal Reserve said. Industrial production rose .2 percent, after a revised gain of .7 percent in June. But excluding output of motor vehicles and parts, overall production was down .1 percent.

    The Fed also said that manufacturers operated at a slightly closer level to their full capacities in July. Capacity in use hit 76.1 percent from June’s 76.0 percent, the highest level since August 2001. Manufacturing production, which makes up the largest share of overall industrial production, showed a .1 percent increase.

    Agostino von Hassell of The Repton Group, New York, NY, prepares this index. Contact him at [email protected].

    Ballparking tool and part costs

    Editor’s note: Consultant Bill Tobin of WJT Assoc. is a regular contributor to IMM and provides here some method to the madness of cost estimating.

    All too often a molder gets a tsunami RFQ: a bundle of designs that require tool and part pricing. The molder wastes a few days and then submits his quotes. Weeks pass and nothing happens. In his followup, he finds all his “customer” did was solicit pricing to establish a budget.

    This is extremely irritating to a molder or moldbuilder. But the customers’ defense is always that they don’t know how pricing is done, and they need to establish their budgets. This game seems to have no end.

    Cost estimating runs the gamut of some very sophisticated models (one of which can be purchased through the IMM Book Club, www.immbookclub.com) to a squinty-eyed look at a design and some arm’s-length, wild-eyed guessing. Both come up with numbers. But wouldn’t it be easier if the customer generated his own budget?

    Cost models for part prices can be reduced to rules of thumb. These rules can be used without explanation as to their foundation and still generate valid numbers. The only caveat to using rules of thumb is that they are based on experience and generalizations. Generalizations by definition do not take into account regional market differences or differences due to the economic state of the industry. Their result is a sufficient, but not precise, number for a part or mold cost. Keep in mind, with people quoting nationally, prices will vary from this model. But, even with this caveat, for its intended purpose, it does the job.

    Part price is an exercise in determining the number of cavities and calculating machine and material cost. The mold cost can be calculated as a percentage of the lifetime cost of the parts. None of this is particularly complex using rules of thumb.

    A budgetary cost model can be reduced to a simple two-sided form. One side contains information on recommended cavitation, machine size component costing, the most current regional differences in machine costs, and other relevant information. The other side is a simple 13-line “fill in the blank” form used to ballpark costs (posted here in .pdf format). Enjoy.

     Budgetary cost estimating
  • All of the calculations on these sheets are based on rules of thumb. This method will give you a good estimate. It is not a guarantee of how an actual quote will come in.              
  • These rules of thumb tend to fall apart with molds in presses of less than 50 tons and more than 500 tons.              
  • Tooling delivery is very hard to predict because it is capacity driven. It depends on how many people/machines can be invested on one mold at a given time.              
  • The regional rates used to calculate machine costs vary, depending on the economy. In a slow economy there are very few regional differences. When the economy is booming the differences are more pronounced.
  • You may program this form yourself and give it to your customers or purchase it from the author for $10.00/diskette, including S&H. Contact Bill Tobin (information below) for a copy.
    Contact information
    WJT Assoc., Louisville, CO
    (303) 604-9592
    [email protected]

    The few, the proud, the process techs

    In the ongoing effort to remain competitive with low-labor-cost countries, one of the easiest ways for a molder to reduce labor costs is simply to reduce the number of people working in the facility. This trend is perhaps most evident on the shop floor, where the number of process technicians has dwindled in recent years. As automation is added to a plant, this reduction may make sense, but for molders simply trying to cut costs, the consequences can be dire.

    Titles and responsibilities for a mold or process tech vary, but the one feature of this job that doesn’t change is its vital contribution to the molding of good-quality parts. As the final production check, and charged with creating and monitoring highly repeatable, robust processes, the quality buck truly does stop with the process technician.

    Now, material and mold changes, management and supervision, quality inspection, and maintenance are just some of the tasks being added to process techs’ plates. And instead of managing all these responsibilities for three or four machines, in some cases they are asked to be the eyes and ears for 10 or more presses. Managers must somehow strike a balance between providing adequate quality control and keeping down the cost to manufacture.

    Reasonable Expectations
    Depending on the application and other factors like level of automation or complexity of process, what is reasonably expectable for a process technician to handle can vary from watching three machines to overseeing 10 or more. But according to Greg Homann, a senior process engineer for Lear Corp. Interior Systems Div. (Dearborn, MI) who has trained and hired process technicians, more often than not too much is asked of these individuals who are placed in situations that are destined for failure.

    “I think [management] expects too much out of the guys on the floor,” Homann says. “They’ll put them out there with unmaintained molding machines, poorly maintained tooling, or molds that are in desperate need of repair. They give them processes that really aren’t capable of any level of quality.”

    Brent Borgerson, a process engineering manager with Matrix Tooling & Plastic Products (Wood Dale, IL), began his molding career 30 years ago on the shop floor as a material handler and has seen varying levels of responsibility thrust upon process techs.

    “I’ve seen some places where the technicians are overworked because they’re stretched so thinly,” Borgerson says. “They seem totally frustrated, and they don’t have the time to do a quality job. Quality suffers and even safety can suffer if they’re too harried.”

    Creating a definitive job description for a process technician is difficult given the wide array of possible responsibilities, but the number of hats has an obvious effect on the quantity of machines and products they can reasonably manage.

    “Generally, I’ve seen between three and nine machines assigned to a process tech,” Borgerson explains, “and a lot of that depends on the degree of automation and the product mix.”

    Taking into account the numerous variables, Borgerson says a broad guideline would be seven machines per tech. For an application like a closure running nonstop with no color or mold changes, he says one mold tech could watch 10 machines. However, custom shops running multiple jobs are a different story.

    “If you get into custom molding where you’re constantly changing, where there are short-run jobs that only run 2 hours, four machines could be too much for a process tech.”

    Homann says the number of machines put in a process tech’s charge is often a reflection of the plant’s emphasis on quality.

    “What’s reasonably expected of [the techs] should be based on what they can accomplish,” Homann explains. “If you expect them just to get by and mold parts and ship them out the door, I guess you can get away with a little less. But if you’re looking for high levels of quality, then you have to make an investment, and that investment needs to be in your personnel.”

    For Homann, talented process techs are potentially capable of shouldering more of a plant’s load.

    “If you’ve got some really strong people on the floor who can accomplish a great deal, and they’ve got a lot of experience between them, then you probably don’t need as many [process techs],” Homann explains. “But if you’ve got people with one or two years’ experience and you’re looking at complex geometries, sophisticated resins, and advanced processes, then you’re going to need more.”

    Quality is Job Number One
    Whether pushing a few buttons to begin a product run on a couple of machines or handling maintenance, materials, and mold changes for 10 presses while supervising operators, Borgerson and Homann both agree that for high-quality parts, process techs are paramount.

    “They should rank right at the top,” Borgerson says of a technician’s input in the QC chain. “You can’t inspect quality into the part—you have to make a quality part to begin with.”

    “In reality, those who make adjustments to the machine are the only people in an organization who have the ability to control quality,” Homann says. “A lot of companies have quality inspectors, but if you mold a bad part, you can look at it for months, and it’s still going to be bad. It really falls on the mold tech or process technician.”

    Industry Watch

    While the gains remain minimal, new machinery and equipment sales data released by the Society of the Plastics Industry’s Committee on Equipment Statistics show upward trends for the first two quarters of 2002 in units and dollar value of injection molding machines shipped.

    Machinery statistics offer optimism

    In line with many leading economic indicators, the plastics machinery and equipment sector continues to show some gradual increases, reflecting a warmer, if only tepid, plastics processing spending environment. Displaying minimal gains and softening declines, the Society of the Plastics Industry’s (SPI) latest report from its Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) released data from the second quarter of 2002 that offer a positive, albeit muddled, outlook.

    Overall, from June 2001 through June of this year, manufacturers or importers of plastics machinery and equipment in the U.S. shipped $983 million worth of product. Combined data of the dollar value of shipments for injection, blowmolding, and auxiliary equipment actually displayed a 3.6 percent increase in Q2 2002 from the second quarter of last year. New orders in dollars surged 18.9 percent in the second quarter compared to the same period last year.

    In the injection molding sector, although year-on-year data reflect continued market skittishness, shipments over the last four quarters are trending up. From Q3 2001 through Q2 2002, 3126 injection molding machines were shipped, valued at $617.3 million. Overall, however, in a comparison of Q2 2001 to Q2 2002, molding machines in units fell 15.7 percent, and their dollar value dipped 1.8 percent. Yet shipments of injection molding machines have shown a cumulative increase over the last four quarters. Total units from Q3 2001 through Q2 2002 posted marks of 698, 808, 771, and 849.

    There is some indication of processors’ willingness to reinvest in their plants, and this guarded optimism was most evident in the auxiliary equipment statistics. For the last four quarters, Q3 2001 to Q2 2002, auxiliary shipments totaled $274 million, with the dollar value of the shipments rising 9.9 percent from Q2 2001 to Q2 2002.

    Automakers post record sales, but have suppliers profited?

    In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, automotive manufacturers attempted to keep American consumers’ engines from stalling by extending discounts and financing deals on new cars and trucks. Nearly a year later, with many discounts or variations of them still in place, the automotive OEMs’ effort continues to pay dividends, according to a report in The Detroit Free Press. For August, carmakers posted sales of 1.7 million vehicles, a 13.2 percent increase over the 1.45 million sold for the same month last year, and the most cars sold in any month this year. The sales surge was felt most strongly by the Big Three automakers, which were the first to initiate sales incentives immediately after the attacks. They enjoyed a 15 percent increase over a year ago, which nearly doubled what foreign-based manufacturers posted as a group.

    The record month has analysts optimistic that auto manufacturers will be able to reach the benchmark of 17 million vehicles for 2002 and potentially make the final tally the fourth-best year in history.

    Individually, DaimlerChrysler showed the most dramatic increase, watching its sales surge 23.6 percent, thanks in large part to a record month for its Jeep brand. GM’s sales rose 18.2 percent, prompting the automaker to raise its third quarter and full-year profit forecasts. Ford’s sales increased the least, 8.2 percent, but its top-selling model, the Explorer, enjoyed its best month ever with 51,021 models sold—an industry-record month for any SUV.

    These strong sales have put a sizable dent in automotive inventories, which bodes well for automotive molders. One such example is GM’s stable of 2002 models, which currently stands at 300,000—down one-third from the same time period last year.

    Foreign automakers were not left out of the buying bonanza. Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, which all operate domestic plants, posted increases of 13.2, 12.9, and 19.8 percent respectively. Korean automaker Hyundai, which recently opened an assembly plant in Alabama, sold 40,266 cars in August, for its 19th consecutive month of record sales.

    Presumably these superb sales would trickle down to the molders who supply automotive manufacturers with a sizable amount of parts and components, but a new study suggests otherwise. The Automotive Consulting Group Inc. (ACG), an Ann Arbor, MI-based management consulting firm, asserts that automotive suppliers’ profits have crashed over the last two years. According to ACG’s report, median automotive suppliers watched their profitability free-fall 54.4 percent, from 6.4 percent in 2000 all the way down to 2.9 percent in 2001.

    The study, involving 43 publicly traded automotive suppliers headquartered in the U.S., looks at all levels of suppliers, including manufacturers of components, subsystems, and even entire assemblies.

    The study also found that some suppliers, defined in the study as high performers, actually increased their margins by more than 75 percent, thanks in large part to their ability to manage costs. Looking at costs of goods sold (COGS) vs. OEM price reduction demands, the study found that high performers cut COGS year-over-year from 74 percent in 1992 to 66.6 percent in 2001. The median group of suppliers watched their COGS rise from 77.6 to 79.2 percent, while low-performing suppliers suffered increases from 79.7 to 85.9 percent.

    Hiro Mori, ACG’s lead analyst on the study, says the consequences are obvious for the low-performing suppliers’ ever-rising costs of goods in times where automotive manufacturers continue to squeeze the entire supply chain with steep price reductions.

    “The study is an indicator of things to come,” Mori explains. “Each year that we do the study, we find that several low performers from the previous year are either bankrupt or no longer in business.”

    Engel endures flooding

    When torrential rains swept through Austria on Aug. 8 and 12, machinery maker Engel watched waters engulf its main manufacturing plant in Schwertberg. Located in northern Austria, Engel’s Schwertberg plant was completely inundated by floodwaters from the Danube River, which destroyed much of the company’s manufacturing infrastructure, but spared its employees, who were on the company’s annual two-week holiday.


    Hit twice by floods in August, machine manufacturer Engel continues efforts to bring its Schwertberg, Austria plant online. These photos show the destruction and cleanup immediately after the flood.

    Despite the best efforts of local firemen, the Red Cross, the Austrian army, and Engel’s own employees to clean up the plant and salvage what they could, Peter Neumann, a spokesman for Engel’s board of management, says it’s difficult to accurately determine when the facility will once again be fully functional. But he thinks that when it comes online once again, it will be even better than before.

    “We cannot yet calculate the entire extent of the damage,” Neumann said in a statement, “but we shall not only repair the damage straight away, but also make this natural catastrophe an opportunity to rebuild and re-equip Engel for the future.”

    Indeed, dubbing its reconstruction effort the Engel Phoenix Project, the Austrian machine manufacturer hopes its plant can, like the mythical bird, rise from the ashes or, in this case, floodwaters. The company set aggressive goals to restart production but admitted delivery delays of eight to 10 weeks were to be expected. Engel had hoped, however, that its replacement parts center would be operational by the beginning of September, with its machine assembly process online by the middle of the month followed by full operations by the end of 2002.

    At its peak, the Schwertberg facility manufactured 2400 injection molding machines annually.

    New Canadian custom molder acquires plant

    Hoping to tap into the consumer and medical products markets via a new, custom facility, a single undisclosed investor has acquired RenWel Inc., a custom molder located in Goderich, ON. Borrowing the town’s name, the new facility will be called Goderich Plastics Inc. and employ 20 people held over from RenWel, although plans are in place to increase staff to 50 as soon as possible.

    Currently the 86,400-sq-ft plant operates nine presses ranging in size from 150 to 600 tons and features a centralized material handling system originating from four silos, as well as centralized compressed-air and chilling systems. Land and plant size will allow for an eventual doubling of the facility.

    Trepidation regarding any new investment is to be expected, but Goderich VP of sales and marketing Mike Lang admits that given the tumultuous state of the U.S. economy and its symbiotic relationship with Canada, there is an added level of anxiety, initially.

    “To be honest,” Lang admits, “the two economies are the traditional tail and the dog. No tail has out-survived a sick dog, so the two economies are really linked. An awful lot of what we ship to our customers ends up subsequently being decorated and ends up back in the U.S. as a consumer item. So if the consumers in the U.S. aren’t buying, our customer’s not decorating, and we’re not molding. It’s a very tight little circle.”

    Short shots

    Gearing up for the fast-approaching National Plastics Exhibition, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI, Washington DC), announced that the official show website, www.npe.org, now accepts preregistration for the June 23-27, 2003 show. The cost of onsite registration for NPE is $75, but preregistration costs are $25 from now through December, and $50 after that. In addition to registration, the NPE site features a list of exhibitors, a show video, a virtual tour, links to Chicago-related sites, and SPI contact information. The site also has plans for a housing selector to allow visitors to choose, confirm, and pay deposits on hotels.

    After receiving an affirmative vote from 22 moldmaking shops throughout Ohio, the American Mold Builders Assn. (AMBA) announced the formation of a new chapter in northern Ohio, making it the 12th AMBA chapter nationwide. The Chicago-based trade association now has 411 member companies representing approximately 9000 U.S. moldmaking employees.

    Danaher Corp. (Cleveland, OH) has entered into an agreement to purchase Thomson Industries Inc. (Port Washington, NY), combining that company’s linear motion control products with its own to create Danaher Linear Motion Systems. Through the sale of actuators, linear bearings and shafting, ballscrews, linear guides, gearheads, and other motion systems, Thomson generated 2001 revenues of $173 million. The purchase price was $165 million.

    Described as the world’s first pilot plant to create high-temperature membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) used in fuel cells, Celanese AG (Kronberg, Germany) opened a new facility in Kronberg dedicated to the development of that portion of fuel cell technology. Celanese describes MEAs, where hydrogen and oxygen react to generate electricity and heat, as the heart of fuel cells’ polymer electrolyte membranes. With potential applications ranging from powering a mobile phone to running a car or power plant, Celanese is banking on continued growth and subsequent demand in the fuel cell market.

    The Minco Group (Dayton, OH), representing All Service Plastic Molding Inc. and Minco Tool & Mold Inc., has announced a $1.5 million investment for additional capacity. The company purchased two new presses, a 720-ton machine from Mitsubishi and a 950-ton machine from Toshiba, as well as an additional 12,000 sq ft of production space. Minco believes the additional production capabilities will help generate 30 new jobs.

    Adding 30,000 sq ft for future capacity and to improve material flow now, Vesta Inc. (Franklin, WI) has completed an expansion to help it serve the medical device market. Liquid, transfer, and insert molding were also added.

    IMM’s Benchmarking Report

    The IMM Benchmarking Report is in its fifth year and this month provides data from the second quarter of 2002. We’ve developed a strong core group of molders who have volunteered this data, but we are constantly looking for more participants who want to take advantage of what the report has to offer. Its validity, vitality, and survival depend entirely on data from molders. If you enjoy and make regular use of this information, we encourage you to join the project today.

    For those new to the Benchmarking Report, the project is simple, and for those already familiar, we’ve made some changes you should be aware of. First, the accident incident rate is no longer one of our nine benchmarks. It’s now featured in our profile information, which characterizes the molders by press quantity, resin quantity processed, parts quantity, and revenue, among other measurements (see table, right). The average lead time has also been added to the profile data. Replacing the accident incident rate in the benchmarks is the average number of mold changes per machine, per week. The rest, you’ll find, is the same.

    As always, several molders have volunteered to share their benchmarking data with us each quarter. The information comes in two parts. First are profile data already mentioned; the information in the pies is the benchmarking data. We’re measuring nine benchmarks: machine utilization, productive downtime, training per employee, mold change time, scheduled ship date on time, scrap as produced, customer returns, employee turnover, and number of mold changes. Each month we present three of these nine benchmarks.

    If you want to participate, e-mail the address in the box below. Your anonymity is guaranteed. This service is free of charge.

    Contact information
    Injection Molding Magazine
    Denver, CO
    Kate Hunley
    (303) 321-2322
    Fax: (303) 321-3552
    [email protected]