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Pulsar Plastics Adds Value to Injection Molding Process

This Illinois-based custom injection molder’s name has become a watchword in the industry for its specialization in value-added services.

By Karen M. Koenig

Pulsar Plastics specializes in custom injection molding and secondary finishing of thermoplastic parts. The company has 15 Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Nissin injection molding machines on the premises ranging in size from 110 tons to 1,800 tons to mold components for the medical and scientific, computer, communications, lottery equipment, electronic, vending, automotive accessories, seating, contract furniture and general industrial markets.
Its very name, “Pulsar” symbolizes energy. And indeed, Pulsar Plastics is a company moving fast to the top of the custom injection molding market.

Business has been so good at the company that it has undergone three expansions since its inception in 1986 (see “A Company to Watch” sidebar on page 22). Today, the 101,300-square-foot plant in Carlyle, IL, includes 20,000 square feet of space dedicated to injection molding operations, 32,500 square feet for added value finishing/machining and assembly, 5,000 square feet for the company’s in-house maintenance/tool room area, a 500-square-foot metrology lab and 4,500 square feet of office space. An additional 38,000 square feet of space is used for warehousing and storage of inventory, parts and tooling.

Because it is a custom shop, Pulsar Plastics services manufacturers in a wide range of markets throughout the United States and Europe. The markets served include: medical and scientific, computer, communications, lottery equipment, electronic, vending, automotive accessories, seating, contract furniture and general industrial.

The materials used to mold the products are just as diverse. They include: polycarbonate, nylon, polyethylene, polypropylene, ABS, PC/ABS, plus a host of other engineered thermoplastic materials.

Custom Injection Molding

As a custom injection molder, Pulsar Plastics specializes in medium to large thermoplastic injection molded parts, ranging in size from 0.5 pounds to 24 pounds.To mold the various products, the company uses a total of 15 Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Nissin injection molding machines, ranging in size from 110 tons to 1,800 tons.

“We’ll often have 50 or more different orders in process at a time. That means we have 12 to 15 of the presses running almost continuously,” says Ron Speiser, manufacturing engineering manager. The presses run on a 24/6 schedule, with the employees assigned to the press area split into four rotating shifts of 12 hour days, Speiser adds.

Pulsar Plastics has the capability to process solid-wall, structural foam and gas assist injection molded parts. “We’ve been doing gas assist molding for over four years. Gas assist offers greater part definition, savings in weight, reduced cycle times and a reduction in finishing,” Speiser adds. According to Speiser, gas assist also produces a smooth part surface, without the mottling often associated with structural foam molding. The company has converted more than 70 of its molds to gas assist molding.

Although Pulsar Plastics does not make its own tooling, it does have the capability to maintain and modify existing tools in-house. Speiser says its just one more of the value-added services it offers to Pulsar Plastics customers.

Post-molding operations run the gamut from insertion of small parts into the molded product to simple sanding of rough edges from the plastic piece as it exits the injection molder.
Value-Added Services

What differentiates Pulsar Plastics from other injection molders is the diversity of the value-added services it offers. In addition to solvent bonding, ultrasonic inserting and welding, Pulsar Plastics offers CNC and manual milling as well as painting. For low-volume applications, Speiser says, Pulsar Plastics also has the capability to perform hot stamping and silk screening of parts in house.

Approximately 60 people work in the finishing/assembly area on a two-shift, 12/6 rotation. “We specialize in the
value-added operations,” Speiser says. “We’ll offer customized machining to modify any part,” he adds. The company has six milling machines, including a recently purchased Fryer CNC mill, to machine plastic parts.

Painting encompasses a large portion of Pulsar Plastics’ finishing operations. An 250-foot overhead monorail conveyor delivers a variety of customers’ parts to operators manning the four DeVilbiss double water-wash curtain spray booths equipped with DeVilbiss HVLP spray guns. In most cases, a water-based coating is applied to the plastic parts, which are then sent to the Koch Hi-Velocity curing oven. The company will also finish products using urethane and lacquer coatings if desired.

“We tend though to use water-based finishes on our products, not only because of customers’ requests and the low VOCs, but also because they are very easy to work with and have a longer pot life,” Speiser says.
The company has the capability to apply prime, mist, smooth and texture coats. Other capabilities include RFI/EMI shielding.

According to Speiser, employees are cross-trained to run the various machines. Also on site are horizontal and vertical cutoff saws, a bandsaw, drill presses, hand grinders and sanders which are used on both the plastic parts as well as the molds.

Quality Control

According to Speiser, Pulsar Plastics’ quality control begins with the initial product design and continues throughout the entire manufacturing process. In addition to inspections by the company’s Quality Assurance team, each employee is responsible for checking over his own work.

“We maintain over 340 sample boards for our customers. The boards show what’s acceptable and unacceptable — anything the operator needs to see for that part,” he says.

First article inspections, dimensional stability reporting and statistical process charting are used by Pulsar Plastics’ Quality Assurance team. In addition, a metrology lab is used for verifying quality and tolerance requirements of parts. Located in the lab are two micrometer sets and two coordinate measuring machines, plus a variety of calibration and measurement equipment.

As an added incentive, the company has installed a bonus plan which rewards employee performance in the areas of: safety, paint conservation, efficiency/quality performance and plant/housekeeping/equipment maintenance. Monthly drawings are held in the areas of painting, efficiency and maintenance. Five monetary prizes are awarded on a yearly basis if the company achieves a 12-month accident-free cycle.

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Plastics Machining & Fabricating
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