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Final Cut

Best of Show?

Injection Molders and Thermoformers push for "Value-Added."

By Harry Urban

Three years ago, at the NPE Show, I spoke to an injection molding company executive who questioned the need for secondary processing in his operation. His rationale: Done right, injection molding eliminates the need for any additional processing such as milling, drilling, or bonding. Furthermore, economies of scale justify the high price of intricate mold making.
Indeed, today’s injection molders and molds are capable of delivering incredible detail and infinite variety. But at what cost?
Consider an automotive parts supplier caught up in the profit-squeezing world of the Big Three. Is it better to spend $250,000 extra on intricate mold design or $250,000 on a six-axis robot arm? The mold will be good for one part while the robot will have unlimited applications for years to come. For that matter, the robot is also likely to do a better job at delivering the extreme tolerances demanded by industry.
The giant NPE Show just ended — a spectacular display of all that’s new for plastic’s second century. In addition to the buzz created by traditional injection molding-related players and the upstart dot-coms, I heard a new expression: “value added.”
Several router/trimming/robotic equipment manufacturers with displays at NPE said they visited with a number of major injection molders and thermoformers. Also noted at the show was the integration of thermoformers with trimming machines. Apparently the interest in secondary processing has never been higher.
Paul Alongi, president of the thermoforming machinery company Maac Machinery, said the trend toward value-added machining and trimming is a matter of economics. “Plastics producers are finding that with secondary processing they are able to produce parts that are more consistent, more repeatable, more sophisticated and capable of holding tighter tolerances, especially in shorter production runs. The bottom line is you are able to produce a higher quality product for the end user at a better price.”
We left NPE with a good feeling. Things change and so has the plastics industry’s attitude about the economies of value-added processes that come into play after a part leaves a mold.

Contact Harry Urban, hurban@vancepublishing.com for more information.

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