Advocating for the Industry: Mold Craft Joins Plastics Manufacturing Washington Fly-In

Recently, our vice president, Justin McPhee, flew into Washington, DC to meet with government officials and discuss issues facing the plastics industry. Justin and several other representatives from the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) met with U.S. Representative Tom Emmer and staffers representing U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken.

Tax reforms for better business

Justin and his fellow industry representatives advocated for comprehensive and permanent tax reform that would lower corporate tax rates and income tax rates, allowing for more equal tax treatment. They encouraged government representatives to enact legislation to stimulate industry confidence in the economy allowing for investment in innovation, expansion and job creation.

Less regulation, more opportunity for all

Focusing on more granular problems facing the plastics industry, the representatives encouraged the staffers they met with to allow open competition for materials on federally funded projects. They pointed out that many local building codes are outdated and don’t allow for the use of plastic pipes, even though they meet all the specifications required for the project. Specific examples like these helped drive home the point that open competition helps decrease expenditures for large projects.

Justin also spoke about promoting a stronger free trade policy to open international markets to U.S. exports and level the playing field. His fellow advocates talked about modernizing NAFTA and increasing exports to Mexico and Canada as well as countries, like China, that do not have trade agreements with the United States.

Investing in the future of the industry

The fly-in group also addressed the need for federal funding to support state and local career and technical education programs. This increase in funding would help to close the skills gap and train qualified workers at all skill levels for manufacturing. Justin also highlighted Mold Craft’s Gen Z Connection program, an educational outreach program with local high school students, as an illustration of the work the plastics industry is putting into solving the skills gap on its own.

The group of plastics representatives also encouraged the passing of regulatory reform to put the rule-making process back in the hands of Congress, using sound science and input from both the plastics industry and consumers.

Justin and rest of the leadership team at Mold Craft are grateful for the opportunity to advocate for an industry they are passionate about. They’re optimistic about the future of their efforts and eager to see the effects of their work in future legislation.

Read More

Extreme Welcomes a New Master Mold Maker

On the 1st day of September 2017 Extreme Tool & Engineering notched another company “first” during a congratulatory company picnic.  With the entire company assembled in a circle with bright warming sunshine coming down & plates filled with juicy pulled pork (smoked on-site by Lead-Moldmaker/Chef Andy Laurin) Extreme presented and awarded Jake Zielinski of Bessemer, MI with his American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) Master Moldmaker certification.  This certification removed “apprentice” Moldmaker from Jake’s title and replaced it with “master”.  This simple title change to signify his Journeymen’s Certification as Moldmaker did not happen overnight and was not Jake’s original path.

Jake began working at Extreme Tool & Engineering when he was 16 as a general laborer performing odd jobs such as injection molding press operation and janitorial work.  After high-school, Jake went went down the 4-year college path chasing a Mechanical Engineering degree as that was touted as the best path to personal and professional success.  During his first semester of his sophomore year, Jake returned to Extreme in a new capacity as a Mechanical Engineer intern.  This internship planted Jake squarely in the Moldmaker’s finishing department at Extreme where many Master Moldmakers performed their craft.  Mold making is an extremely technical profession requiring the mastery of complex mechanical systems and manufacturing processes such as CNC-milling, Wire-EDM, Sinker-EDM, surface grinding, hand polishing and more.  Jake rapidly fell in love with the Moldmaker profession because the Moldmaker is the person responsible to fit, adjust, time and assemble hundreds of components into the finished product.

Jake knew the path to becoming a Master Mold Maker was the path he wanted to go down because it combined the best of both worlds.  This realization caused some personal turmoil due to dealing with the stigma of leaving a 4-year college degree program to enter the work force as an apprentice, which would “only” result in a certification.  As a highly-inquisitive person, Jake began asking the journeymen Master Mold Makers he was supporting how they reached such a high level of precision-manufacturing prowess.  The Journeymen Master Moldmakers on staff at Extreme all shared with him that their certification was obtained through apprenticeship programs.  Jake approached the senior leadership at Extreme to see if they would invest in him by providing an apprenticeship program.  With several years of background employment history with Jake already, Extreme jumped at the chance to secure this bright young man within their workforce and agreed to provide the program.

Fast forwarding several years, Jake Zielinski of Bessemer, MI is the first graduating apprentice to achieve Master Mold Maker from Extreme Tool & Engineering.  Jake is an incredible asset to Extreme Tool & Engineering and just as big of an asset to the community he lives in.  Serving as a High-School football coach, musician in Marty’s Goldenaire’s & living life faith-based has rewarded everyone around Jake, as well as himself, with a rich and accomplished life.  Jake has a couple of decades to practice his new Journeyman’s craft of Master Mold Maker and Extreme is excited to watch this community-focused young man set the bar for those who come to follow in his footsteps.

To commemorate Jake’s accomplishment on becoming Extreme’s first apprentice turned journeymen Master Moldmaker, Extreme Tool & Engineering owner Mr. Mike Zacharias gifted Jake a brand new Custom Nosler .338 Win Mag rifle featuring a Kevlar stock that won’t ever give up, like Jake.  Mike Zacharias closed the celebration by saying “going first is never easy, but not only has Jake completed the initial segment of a life long journey, but he’s played an active role in creating a path for others to follow. From this day on and for every day after Jake can be proud to say he was Extreme’s First!”

Read More

Design for Manufacturing

Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is the process of designing parts in such a way that they can easily be produced with the end goal in mind of cost and part efficiency, and is an industry standard in the world of manufacturing. The DFM process is relevant in virtually all manufacturing industries and is based on the part that is being manufactured as well as the equipment and processes available to build said part. At Mold Craft DFM is anything but standard, we work with our customers to design and build the best possible mold, going above and beyond meeting standards as defined by the industry.

The DFM process at Mold Craft starts with a customer who wants a new injection mold to efficiently recreate their part. The mold designers at Mold Craft will look at the part and define its “manufacturability.” This is based on a number of different variables such as what material the customer wants their part to be made of, the quantities required, the tolerances required, etc. If the mold designers at Mold Craft can find a way to make the part more manufacturable, it will make the mold more efficient and therefore will save the customer time and money in the long run. Jim Currey, the Engineering Manager at Mold Craft said, “Here at Mold Craft, we utilize the DFM process to give our customers the best experience possible. The DFM process ensures that our customers receive the highest quality mold, with complete interchangeability, producing very close tolerance molded parts.”

If a part is not easily manufacturable (moldable), Mold Craft will work with their customers to make their part more manufacturable in order to improve the quality of their injection mold. Mold Craft’s goal is to design and build an impressive and durable mold for their customer that will meet or exceed industry standard of one million cycles. To do that, Mold Craft needs to have an understanding of every single feature of the part being molded all the way down to how different materials will react in their molds. This is especially relevant with Mold Craft micro mold design, build and sampling for the medical industry with implantable resins such as PEEK (polyetheretherketone) materials (materials that can be left in the body). PEEK materials are very difficult to mold with and therefore require a thorough understanding.

Mold Craft realizes that certain areas of a mold are going to wear faster than other areas so Mold Craft designs their molds to make those areas replaceable. “Some areas such as gates, thin steel, shutoffs and core pins can be replaced without replacing the entire cavity. This saves our customers time and reduces the total cost of ownership over the life of the mold”, says Tom Emmons; Mold Craft’s Operations Manager. That is just one example of how Mold Craft custom designs a micro mold.

Design for Manufacturing is an integral part of the injection mold design process at Mold Craft. Mold Craft takes the time to develop a deep understanding of the customer’s part and recommend improvements to make the part more manufacturable so that we can design and build the most efficient injection mold possible. It is all in a day’s work, here at Mold Craft.

Read More

Gen Z Connection: Skills & Careers in Manufacturing

Mold Craft provides hands on experience for select White Bear High Schoolers with an eye on a Manufacturing Career, particularly in the field of injection molding.

After working with the Minnesota Department of Labor for many months to change the labor laws allowing students to experience a real manufacturing environment, the White Bear Lake High School Manufacturing Pathway Program was created. Not only will the students do some of the mold design and CAD work, they will have a very hands on experience setting up blocks of steel and electrodes as we mill and burn all the components required to make a mold for a “coin” with engraving molded into the part documenting the experience. The students will keep the mold, the molded parts and the CAD design prints they will use to create their mold.

There are a total of (4) companies and (4) students involved in the Gen Z Connection program. The students spend a week at each manufacturing company learning about the specific manufacturing processes required at each company. The other companies involved in this local program are Du Fresne Manufacturing (Sheetmetal Forming & Fabrication), Schwing (Concrete Pumper Trucks), SMC (Specialty Mfg Co., Valves & Fittings) and, of course, Mold Craft.

Read More

Westfall invests in over $1M in Molding and Quality Equipment

Westfall is proud to announce its recent equipment upgrades enabling accelerated speed-to-market for its customers plus double digit revenue growth with new product launch programs in both the medical production and QTM (Quick-Turn Manufacturing) segments of its business.

Ansonia, Conn. (July 31st, 2017) — NPI/Medical has purchased three new injection molding machines and one new CMM for its medical device, life sciences and healthcare customers to enable accelerated product development and faster speed-to-market for their new product introductions. The equipment upgrades offer several advantages for NPI/Medical’s customers that require speed to market, closed loop machine capabilities, and stringent process monitoring which are vital for new product launches, said NPI/Medical CEO Randy Ahlm.

“The new machinery is a part of NPI/Medical’s ongoing continuous improvement measures to benefit our customers through state-of-the-art enhancements,” Ahlm said. These additions also support our engineering and new product introduction development efforts.”

NPI/Medical recently purchased and installed one 330 ton Milacron Roboshot, an all-electric machine to support expanded medical device programs and accommodate larger shot size programs, a 80 ton Milacron MV80 Shuttle press to enhance our insert molding business, a 40 ton Arburg All-Rounder 270A, all-electric with an integrated Servo driven sprue picker and a ZEISS CONTURA (CMM) VAST XT Gold Coordinate Measuring System with active scanning and multipoint sensor with dynamic RDS, for accurate part inspections for our in-house Quality Assurance lab.

The machinery upgrades, Ahlm said, are part of NPI/Medical’s ongoing equipment replacement plan to facilitate the current business growth. “Growth from our medical device and life sciences production segment was nearly 20%, while our QTM (Quick-Turn Manufacturing) business grew over 30% in the last 12 months. Our unique prototype to production capability is creating huge dividends for our customers who wish to seamlessly launch new programs faster and without the disruption of changing suppliers during each phase of the new product launch process.”

Read More

Top 5 Reasons to consider silicone molding for your next medical device project

NPI/Medical has almost a decade plus experience in processing medical grade silicones for a variety of applications including healthcare and optical LSR (Liquid Silicone Rubber) Additionally, Tim Erwin our Sr. Technical Advisor is an LSR guru with 30+ years of experience processing silicones. Our proprietary silicone master frame and two state-of-the-art vertical and horizontal  55ton Arburg machines enables in-house processing from prototype through production to accelerate your speed-to-market.

Why should you consider using a silicone material in your next medical device?

1. Overall design flexibility

Molding with optical grade silicone exhibits the many benefits associated with molding silicone rubber, but offer the added benefit of optical clarity needed for specific applications. Particularly in the medical device market, functionality is absolutely crucial, and with applications that are based around highly precise features, factors such as viscosity and molding parameters can make or break an entire program. The flexibility of optical grade silicone allows for designs with undercuts, negative draft angles, and fine features, and the assembly can be simplified by adding gasketing, sealing, and mounting features directly onto the part without compromising optical characteristics.

2. Ability to mold complex geometries

Most applications using optical grade silicone center on highly precise geometries that are almost impossible to fabricate with current materials and methods, and the low viscosity before cure makes molding optical grade silicone into complex shapes easier than with either glass or organic polymers. The most common application that optically clear silicone is being used for currently is to offer alternatives to polycarbonate, glass, or polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) in situations where traditional materials are limiting the design or function of the device. Because of the low viscosity of the material, liquid injection molding of optical grade silicone allows for the molding of geometries that would not otherwise be possible with other polymers and glass. More precise features, varying wall thickness, reduced likelihood of sink allowing for thicker walls, small undercuts, negative draft, and difficult parts to fill are all possible with this material, allowing designers to really test their product’s limits.

3. Physical benefits during molding

OEMs and molders have been heading in the optical grade silicone direction because of the physical benefits silicone offers, including bacterial resistance, UV resistance, biocompatibility, low viscosity for molding precise and difficult features, temperature flexibility from -180F to 600F, chemical resistance, and fatigue and compression set resistance. It is also significantly lighter than most plastics and glass, and silicones in general are lighter in weight than traditional optical materials. Because the material is a thermoset, it does not have molded-in stresses like thermoplastic resins do.

4. Cosmetic benefits

Beyond the design and manufacturing benefits, there is a push towards optical grade silicones purely for cosmetic purposes. In the medical device world, quality is held above all else, and anything that appears to be flawed or dirty can be interpreted as a defect. Even if it has no effect on the function of the device, a yellowing or discolored part will be misinterpreted by doctors and patients. Regardless of how old it is or where it has been, optical grade silicone does not lose transparency or discolor with age, or with exposure to UV light, moisture, or heat. It requires no polishing after molding and is resistant to scratches, cracks, and breaks. Optical grade silicone is essentially unaffected by environmental factors and remains attractive throughout the life of the device, never worrying a doctor or patient if something is unsafe.

5. Overall reduction of costs

Due to the elastomeric nature of this material, it can reduce the need for additional parts and secondary operations, lowering tooling and non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs. For example, in a traditional lighting application where optical silicone is not being used, a lens and a seal would be two separate parts. By molding the lens with an optical grade silicone, the seal can be incorporated into the lens, ultimately eliminating an entirely different part and assembly step. This decreasing of the manufacturing process reduces inventory, bill of materials, time-to-market, and overall project cost significantly.

Using optical grade silicone in the healthcare industry is an exciting, albeit challenging opportunity for molders and OEMs. The design options with this material are endless, and due to the flexible nature of optically clear silicone, there is unlimited potential for new innovations and devices. We are starting to see a new wave of product development, silicone tooling, and DFM work being introduced to the marketplace with no intention of slowing down.

 5 Types of Silicones and their associated properties

1. Silanes and coatings are single component products that can be used to promote adhesion to substrates, crosslink plastic polymers to improve their performance properties, scavenge water to prevent premature curing of compounds and improve stability, and as a coupling agent to bind organic polymers to mineral or siliceous fillers for improved bonding and strength

2. Silicone fluids are commonly used in high performance lubricating applications involving extreme high or low temperatures. They can also be used as an additive to enhance the performance of greases, pastes, and other lubricants.

 3. Silicone sealants come in one- or two-component forms. The two-component form requires the end user to measure and mix the two parts together just prior to using and can be a bit tricky to use. The more common one-component form starts to cure as soon as it is exposed to air (actually the moisture in the air) and must be applied fairly quickly. These are commonly used as automotive sealants or gaskets, moisture barriers for kitchen or bathroom fixtures, and for sealing windows and doors

4. Silicone elastomers (LIM or LSR) are castable or moldable thermoset polymers with a broad range of characteristics and end uses. They are two-component resins (commonly called “A” and “B” component) that are stable for long periods of time when kept separate and sealed. They too begin to catalyze (set or harden) when mixed, but can have extended pot lives (time they can be applied, formed, or used) of up to several days at room temperatures—even longer if kept cool or cold—but set quickly at elevated temperatures (seconds at 150-180ºC). They exhibit an extended range of qualities, characteristics, and appearance, and are used for an array of products from baby bottle nipples, oven bakeware non-stick liners, healthcare or medical products, valves, and high friction grips on tools and appliances.

5. R.T.V. (room-temperature vulcanizing) are two-component silicones that, when mixed together, begin to catalyze but have a reasonable pot life to enable them to be cast or poured to form a variety of end-use products. They are used in the mold-making industry to make rapid tooling for prototype parts, electronics industry for potting or encapsulating components for environmental protection of sensitive components, and movie/entertainment industries to make life-like characters or for special effects.

Looking for your next medical application using silicone? Contact us today!

Read More

Breaking the Mold- Westfall’s feature in the Medical Product Outsourcing Magazine June 2017 Issue

NPI/Medical is proud to be featured in the June 2017 issue of the Medical Product Outsourcing magazine. Randy Ahlm, CEO of NPI/Medical offers his expert commentary on the value of using a single supplier to benefit OEMs. According to Randy, “It is surprising how many OEMs overlook the importance of using the same supplier during the new product development lifecycle,” said Randy Ahlm, CEO of NPI/Medical, a provider of complex, injection molded components and assemblies for medical device, life sciences, and healthcare customers. “The few suppliers that can do prototype to production in-house truly accelerate the new production introduction process and lower their overall costs due to a more seamless transition with fewer iterations. At the same time, they are also consolidating their customer’s supply base.”

A good molding vendor will also pay close attention to all regulatory requirements concerning process validation and quality assurance. Value-added services make the journey to a cost-efficient component much more feasible for a medical device OEM.

“We have had several customers come to us after missing launch milestones because their prototype supplier wasn’t able to meet their validation requirements and/or their parts needed significant redesign for production molding,” Ahlm explained.

Read More

Molding our Youth for the [Manufacturing] Future

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we build our youth for the future.” Extreme Tool & Engineering understands the importance of investing in our youth and that’s why we’re committed to familiarizing today’s youth with direct access to experience manufacturing industry.

Preparing anyone for a future in manufacturing ties back to our core values of being: Innovative, Responsive, Dedicated, Community Minded and Progressive. This driving force leads us to regularly participate in local middle and high school career days and even help set up a manufacturing business within a local high school, Northwoods Manufacturing.

Extreme takes great pride in being an instrumental part of creating Northwoods Manufacturing at Hurley High School, a full-service student run shop with a metals and woods division.  Our contributions include: teacher selection and training, curriculum development, and shop set up with equipment donations and installations. Also, we help coordinate donations from manufacturing vendors. Extreme is thrilled to be a devoted supporter of Northwoods Manufacturing and provide all students the opportunity to get hands on experience in manufacturing.

Uncovering the manufacturing opportunities to students is exciting for Extreme. Whenever a career day opportunity is presented you can bet we get it on our calendar. Hurley High School has hosted career days where we presented mold making and injection molding as careers in partnership with Ironwood Plastics, a local injection molder. We’ve also participated in a combined career fair coordinated with MichiganWorks!, at Bessemer and Wakefield/Marenisco High Schools, which was a booth-style event as well as a fair at Ironwood High School. In our booth, we offered the opportunity to speak with one of our Moldmaker Apprentices, Jake Zielinski.  He was able to provide a valuable perspective of someone their age working in the manufacturing industry.

Zielinski shares “coming into Extreme, I had zero experience in machining and mold making. It didn’t take me long to realize that there were several career avenues that one could gear themselves towards to make a rewarding career in a great industry. Whether it be in engineering, quality control, processing, or mold making, Extreme provides foundational knowledge to our youth with its state of the art tools and technology. It has been a privilege to work at Extreme as well as work with our local youth on discovering manufacturing.”

Knowledge is power, but it doesn’t have to be limited to the schools. Excitement is contagious! Build off industry enthusiasm! Getting involved in industry events, such as National Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) or Manufacturing Week within your state or city, helps to educate others about the industry’s career options and shows your support of the advancement of the industry. Getting today’s youth excited about a future in the industry will contribute to making manufacturing more successful in years to come.

Read More

Westfall is featured in Design-2-Part Magazine’s Western Edition

Westfall is featured in Design-2-Part Magazine’s September 2015 Western Edition titled “Collaboration- Why is it critical to your next manufacturing process”?

Collaboration and a sense of trust is critical for successful relationships with suppliers. We at NPI/Medical foster quality relationships with customers based upon reliability and transparency.

Why is NPI/Medical the partner of choice for your complex medical device? Put simply,  our focus for solving our customers’ difficulties repeatedly brings them back to NPI/Medical to amplify their new business development within the entire new product development life cycle.

As part of our value proposition NPI/Medical eliminate the chaos and uncertainty of product development life cycle by turning it into a strategic advantage for our customers. Come to NPI with your tooling or molding project and we will provide technologies that produce parts efficiently and cost effectively.

Competitive Advantages

1. We understand our customers tooling and molding needs

  • Customer Satisfaction through superior on-time  delivery
  • Increased productivity
  • Continuous innovation
  • Quality and consistency

2. Execution of the complete P2P Life cycle and Full Service Production Manufacturing

  • Low volume prototype tooling to full scale production
  • Bridge Tooling to Production
  • In- house tooling and molding
  • Tooling Transfers
  • LSR expertise
  • Part Validation
  • Material Certifications
  • DFM
  • Kitting, Assembly, Packaging
  • Supply Chain Optimization
  • Value Added Services

3. 66,000 square foot state-of -the-art facility with 4 production cells, a full service tool room, and 3 ISO certified Clean rooms

  • 3  certified Clean rooms for molding, assembly and packing
  • 2 Class 7 Clean rooms for low volume,  short run assemblies
  • 1 Class 8 certified Clean room equipped with injection molding machines to meet customers tight tolerance medical device requirements.
  • 8 injection molding machines- 25-165 ton capacity
  • 41 presses ranging from 28-300 capacity


4.  DynaClass® Tooling and Molding and Quick Turn Manufacturing (QTM)

  • A unique system with 4 different tooling levels to match customers needs from 1 to 500,000 parts
  • Tools run in an ISO 9001 environment with options to transition to ISO 13485
  • Shorter lead times
  • In- house tooling- single cavity and family molds
  • True to form CAD geometry
  • Clean Room Assembly & Packaging Options
  • Full Process Validations

5.  Superior Project Management based upon transparency from initial concept development to launch to market

  • Adherence to DMAIC ideology
  • Turn-key relationships with customers
  • Seamless communication
  • ERP project management system with 24/7 RT (Real Time) project status updates
Read More