Maybe some costs have to be cut, but not in the design engineering
That's the view of Ben Harrison, CEO of a custom injection molder in
Manitowoc, WI called Kaysun Corp. "We've had cost
cutting, but we've really stayed true to our design engineering head count
because that area is so critical to our business and our ability to attract new
The last few years have been a blood bath in the American injection
molding community because of business cutbacks and the rise of less-expensive
competitors in Asia. A few invested in design
engineering and are surviving, and even growing.
Phillips Plastics in Hudson, WI
is a stand-out example. The company moved away from price-based markets many
years ago to become a one-stop shop from design through distribution, offering
manufacturing services that range from tight-tolerance injection molding to
metal and ceramic molding. A major focus is component development and assembly
for the medical industry.
On the other side of Wisconsin,
Kaysun is confirming that type of approach with a complement of four design
engineers. "We're growing in areas that require far more than injection
molding," says Harrison. "We launched last
week with a company that asked us to design and manufacture a rugged
personalized digital assistant for soldiers in the military. We're getting
asked quite a bit could you not only manufacture but also do all of the upfront
program management that carries the whole design responsibility."
One example of the company's work is the Rockwell Collins Defense
Advanced Global Positioning System Receivers (DAGR).
"A DAGR with a current crypto key provides the warfighter with the
most robust, secure and precise navigation capabilities within the volatile and
ever-changing theater of operations," says Col. Dorothy Taneyhill, Army
project manager for the Navigation Systems group at Rockwell Collins.
The receiver provides precise timing to synchronize tactical radios,
missile platforms and other situational awareness navigation systems and
includes a graphical user interface. The DAGR design incorporates anti-jam
improvements and is the first U.S.
handheld GPS receiver program to receive the next-generation security device,
the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module.
PC Plus Polyester
Kaysun designed and built tools and automation stations. The lens is
made from polycarbonate, hard coated, overmolded with a polyester blend (Xenoy)
and then shielded. More than 300,000 have been shipped.
The next generation product is a smaller version called MicroDAGR that
can be worn on the wrist just like the devices used by Dick Tracy in the comic
strips. It also includes an MP3 player and a digital camera.
Another interesting technical challenge at Kaysun is replacement of
brass fixtures with injection molding plastic as a way to comply with California Assembly Bill 1953, which puts tight
limits on lead exposure. Lead free is defined in the bill as any pipe, plumbing
fitting or fixture having a weighted average lead content of the wetted surface
area of not more than 0.25 percent.
Several plumbing companies are, or already have, re-engineered their
plumbing lines to comply with the law.
The material selected by Kaysun's engineers to replace brass is polyphenylene
sulfide, a polymer that has excellent dimensional stability and virtually no
water absorption. They are unaffected by many organic and mineral-based
chemicals, even at high temperature over a prolonged period of time. The tough
part is that PPS has a melting point of 700F.
Another challenge was designing a tool and a process to unthread the
steel to produce the valve body.
That is great. Following market prices on services. If more USA based manufacturers follow that example, an enormous boom in the sector is sure to follow. I recently needed a part made. I received a quote from a China based manufacturer and a USA one. China had the price at $5 each, USA had it at $20. I could have gone to China, but instead I asked the USA company to adjust prices. The price came down to $12 each. Although almost 3x more, I went with the USA company. That was my plan all along.
But I still think about the $5 price. The USA companies need to get prices down.
I will soon be having some part molded. Glad I found this article. I might start with the featured company as I get bids on the work.
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“How can European standards affect me, especially since I only use machines built in the US?” This is a common question, and one way to answer this is to look at how machine safety is enforced, where the information comes from, and how well you can prove you followed the regulations.
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