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Strategies for breaking into a new technology

Phillips has purchased several presses, robots, and feed systems for its magnesium injection molding business. Among them is the first production Husky TXM machine. Next to the Husky press is Ed Estergaard, group vp, metals.

Molders who want to capitalize on the opportunities offered by PIM and TXM may be inspired by the relatively recent successes at Phillips Plastics' Origen Center. After giving birth to the company's Metal Injection Molding business unit, which moved out of Origen to its own facilities nearby, the Center is now housing the Magnesium Injection Molding group (see related story in this issue, "TXM Takes on a Tough Part"). 

Phillips created The Origen Center as an incubator for new businesses as well as a training facility. To take advantage of new technologies, the molding giant has developed a specific strategy. Ed Estergaard, group vp, metals, recently gave IMM the following overview of the company's incubation philosophy. 

1. Establish the process. Origen businesses start by developing best practices for all aspects of operations. A large manufacturing space allows for a variety of presses, which are tested on developmental parts to determine optimum processing conditions. For example, Origen's current TXM business is testing a part with a flow length that is 120 times its thickness. "The rule of thumb says that the limit is 100 times, but we are testing this on a 500-metric-ton Husky TXM press, its first production machine, and it can be done," Estergaard says. In fact, when Phillips put the combination magnesium and plastic part through a drop test, the company found that it stayed intact, even when dropped from a height of 70 ft onto concrete. 

The screw in a TXM machine experiences high temperatures and must be extremely wear resistant. This has prompted Phillips to test various screw materials, including a special wear-resistant screw on this 245-ton JSW.

2. Find the best systems. The MIM and TXM businesses brought in different presses, robots, and feed systems to evaluate which equipment was optimum. When it came time for the MIM group to move to its own facilities, the company knew exactly what to purchase based on these evaluations. Currently, the TXM group is evaluating the Husky press and a 245-ton JSW with a special wear-resistant screw. "One of the most fragile and highest-cost components of a TXM machine is the screw. It sees the highest temperatures and must resist constant wear, so we are testing different screw materials for durability and long wear," Estergaard explains. 

3. Develop a strong staff. When starting a business in a new technology arena, it is imperative that the staff be comprised of knowledgeable and flexible people, according to Estergaard. "We firmly believe that our success depends on our human resources," he says. "It takes a certain type of person to help develop a new business, and we've selected those who thrive on challenges, are able to adapt to change readily, and whose backgrounds give us additional resources. In addition, we promote innovation." 

Contact information
Phillips Plastics Corp.,
 Opportunity Development
Hudson, WI
Kelly Stichter
Phone: (715) 386-4320
Fax: (715) 386-4326
E-mail: [email protected]
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