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Emphasis on Design Engineering Pays off for Injection Molder

Emphasis on Design Engineering Pays off for Injection Molder

Maybe some costs have to be cut, but not in the design engineering department.

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 customers."

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.

Overmolding and hard coating provide ruggedness for a military GPS device. Photo:  Rockwell Collins
TAGS: Materials
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