The American Mold Builder 2020 Issue 1

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ISSUE 1 2020


Meet AMBA in Indianapolis

Finding Assistance through TAAF n Customer Service in the Shipping Department n


“With off-the-shelf standards and CAD files that match the actual component, Progressive is a designer’s trusted friend.” Kevin Kessinger, MSI Mold Builders

simplifying complex designs Today’s mold designers are tasked with engineering tooling that does more, in time frames that are becoming less and less. Progressive works to assist by offering these advantages: • Exclusive standards and innovative kit style mechanisms • Tech support from Progressive’s in-house mold design team • Complete library available as a USB drive or online download Access new resources that have been built with designers in mind by contacting Progressive’s Engineering team at 1-800-269-6653.


AMBA MEMBERS SAVE MORE WITH GRAINGER DEEPER DISCOUNTS + ADDED CATEGORIES With AMBA membership, mold builders get exclusive access to Grainger’s discount program, which includes significant savings on over 20 categories.

Impact the bottom line by shopping these deep-discount categories: • • • • • •

Motors Safety - People Safety - Facility Safety - Footwear Electrical Power Transmission

• • • • • •

Hand Tools Material Handling Abrasives Lubrication Machining Welding

• • • • • •

Power Tools Cleaning - Consumables Cleaning - Other Fasteners Hardware ...and more!


Call the AMBA offices at 317.436.3102 to learn more about Grainger discounts available to AMBA members.

Other freight charges will be incurred for such services as expedited delivery, air freight, freight collect, sourced orders, hazardous materials, buyer’s carrier, shipments outside the contiguous U.S. or other special handling by the carrier.

ISSUE 1 2020

ON THE COVER Pictured is a machined core-cavity. Photo courtesy of MasterCam.

8 PREVIEW AMBA Conference 2020

Speak Out .................................................. 6 Association ............................................. 20 Product ..................................................... 28 Industry .................................................... 32 Calendar ................................................... 46 Ad Index ................................................... 46

12 OUTLOOK State of the Industry 2020 16 STRATEGIES Nationally Funded Program Offers Assistance to Mold Builders 22 ADVOCACY China, NAFTA and What is Next from Trump on Trade 24 TRAINING Investing in the Future: Training to Retain Talent 30 BENCHMARKING Economic Indicators Forecast Uncertainty


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

AMERICAN MOLD BUILDERS ASSOCIATION 7321 Shadeland Station Way, #285 Indianapolis, IN 46256 P: 317.436.3102 • F: 317.913.2445 •



34 TECHNOLOGY CAD/CAM Offers More Efficiency, Connectivity and Precision 40

VIEW FROM 30 Customized Software Spurs Shipping Efficiency at Craftsman Tool & Mold

42 PRODUCTION Moldmaking 4.0: Evolving Technologies in the Molding Industry

Visit our website for subscription information, articles, events and more.


Troy Nix, Executive Director Kym Conis, Managing Director Susan Denzio, Business Manager Rachael Pfenninger, Project Manager

Advising Editor: Kym Conis Advertising/Sales: Susan Denzio PUBLISHED BY:

2150 SW Westport Dr., Suite #101 Topeka, KS 66614 P: 785.271.5801 Managing Editor: Dianna Brodine Asst. Editors: Liz Stevens, Nancy Cates Art Director: Becky Arensdorf Graphic Designer: Mikell Burr Opinions expressed in this publication may or may not reflect the views of the Association and do not necessarily represent official positions or policies of the Association or its members.




Aenjoying the unseasonably warm weather here in the Midwest. I know it’s going to turn back

s I write this letter (just like any good moldmaker would – the morning it’s due!), I am certainly

to below-freezing temps soon, but I will take the victories when I can get them. I hope you also are enjoying some unseasonable successes in your businesses, so that you will be ready when the inevitable winter storm hits and then fully prepared when the good times return.

One major success for US moldmakers was the late-December announcement that the tariffs on Chinese molds have been reinstated. This is a huge win for us, resulting from an outstanding group TOBY BRAL effort from our membership and management. Thank you to everyone who submitted comments AMBA President during the open comment period. This showed the US Trade Representative (USTR) that there MSI Mold Builders clearly is the capability and the capacity to build molds right here in the US. A special thank-you goes out to the Franklin Partnership and Harbour Results. The Franklin Partnership is the lobbying firm that AMBA contracted to help us get our point across and fight for the reinstatement. The firm knew what information was needed at what times, whom to contact and how the process flows. It was our voice to the USTR while conducting meetings and submitting letters. When the Franklin Partnership needed certain industry information, Harbour Results was instrumental in getting a lot of it for them. The group at Harbour stepped up and supplied facts on the industry, put together pamphlets, held meetings and supported the AMBA from the beginning of the effort. Last, I’d also like to thank the AMBA board and AMBA management staff for really stepping up and taking on a bold initiative. Our association isn’t a lobbying firm, but when our industry was being attacked with false information, we made sure our voice was heard. That took a lot of work from the board and the management team to set the direction and to execute on it. Looking at the AMBA calendar, February was filled with a variety of opportunities to get value out of your membership. There were online peer networking opportunities, a webinar on the State of the Industry, a Health and Benefits survey and a new event – the Sales Process Forum. The timing of this letter is such that that it is written before the Sales Process Forum, but I am currently very excited about this new event and how it is an even more in-depth collaboration opportunity. I hope to hear good reviews soon. As readers of my letters in the past may know, my favorite AMBA event is coming up at the end of April – the annual AMBA Conference. We are back in Indianapolis, which was a great host city for the event five years ago, and this year should be no exception. There is no better event for moldmakers to come together, meet other people in the industry and talk about issues and successes very specific to our everyday lives. We have a plant tour, a lineup of great speakers and lots of breakouts to share experiences and best practices. I always leave this event pumped up about something I learned. I hope many of you will be able to make it. You won’t be disappointed. Finally, since my term is up after the conference, this will be my last letter for the magazine. I would like to thank everyone in the association who has made this such a great experience for me. This industry is full of people who really want to drive American manufacturing, work hard every day, get better every day and share with others for the greater good of the industry. It’s been an absolute privilege for me to be a part of this organization, and I look forward to continuing to serve as past-president. I know great things lie in the future for the AMBA! n OFFICERS

Secretary and Legal Counsel Alan Rothenbuecher, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP

Immediate Past-President Justin McPhee, Mold Craft, Inc.


National President Toby Bral, MSI Mold Builders

Vice President Jim Sperber, Master Tool & Mold 6

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

Tom Barr, TK Mold & Engineering David Bowers II, JMMS Mike Devereux, Mueller Prost Don Dumoulin, Precise Tooling Solutions

Greg Eidenberger, Paragon D&E Dan Glass, Strohwig Industries Mike Mullholand, Freeman Co. Andy Peterson, Industrial Molds Group Kenny Skar, Vincent Tool Tyler VanRee, Legacy Precision Molds, Inc.

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Turning 25 years of experience into state-of-the-art training


The AMBA Conference 2020 is a value-packed, two-day exchange that provides profitimpacting information to senior-level executives and their teams in the mold building industry. Each year, the AMBA Conference provides insights on industry trends, operational improvements, leadership strategies and benchmarks that help companies learn, improve and grow. This year’s theme – Ready. Fire. Team! – is designed to inspire mold manufacturing professionals to focus not just on building a team, but on how crafting the right team the right way can lead to consistent success. This year’s Emerging Leaders Pre-Con Session will provide attendees the opportunity to delve into communication strategies that can foster change at all levels of the organization with Keynote Speaker Kit Welchlin. This group of young professionals (under 40) will join together to exchange best practices, discuss challenges, develop leadership strategies and build a network with a group of like-minded peers. 8

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020


American Mold Builders Association Troy Nix is the executive director of the AMBA and serves as the master of ceremonies for the AMBA Conference 2020. Known for his spirit, enthusiasm and belief in American manufacturing, Nix delivers an opening address that never fails to spark emotion in each attendee’s inner core. This year’s message will focus on the importance of aggressively pursuing the endeavors of becoming a better leader, a better manager and a better organizational contributor, particularly in the context of teamwork. Nix’s tagline “America Is What America Makes” is an essential ideal that motivates those attending the conference to strive for excellence.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS WEDNESDAY 8-11:30am 11:45am 5pm 6-8:30pm

THURSDAY 7am 8am


9:30am 10am 11am



Emerging Leaders Pre-Con Session – optional Dorel Juvenile Tour/Upland Brewery Stop (includes box lunch) – optional Supplier Meeting Welcome Reception

Breakfast Opening Keynote » Troy Nix, AMBA Executive Director Building High-Performing Teams in a Multi-Generational Workplace » Kit Welchlin Networking Break Peer-to-Peer Rounds Trump, Tariffs and Trade: What’s Next for America’s Mold Builders? » Omar Nashashibi Networking Lunch Or Lunch and Learn with Omar Nashashibi – optional AC Lab Track One

2:15pm 3:15pm 3:45pm 4pm 6:30pm 7:30pm 10pm

FRIDAY 7am 8am 9am 10:15am 10:30am

11:30am 11:45am

Continuous Improvement Breakouts Networking Break Annual Meeting The Truth about Change » Phillip Van Hooser Awards Reception Awards Banquet AMBA’s Got Talent – optional

Breakfast Tech Trends – Ask the Experts AC Lab Track Two Networking Break The Champion’s Code: Building Relationships through Life Lessons of Integrity and Accountability » Ross Bernstein What’s Next – Troy Nix Conference Adjourns |


FEATURED PRESENTATIONS BUILDING HIGH-PERFORMING TEAMS IN A MULTI-GENERATIONAL WORKPLACE Kit Welchlin, Welchlin Communication Strategies Position power is the extent to which leaders have rewards, punishments and sanctions. Personal power is the extent to which a leader can gain the confidence and trust of those people that he/she is attempting to influence. Cohesiveness or commitment between leaders and followers is critical. Leaders need to build and sustain both positional and personal power. In this session, participants will learn the value of teamwork and building culture, the functional task roles and social maintenance roles of high-performance teams, how to foster teamwork and enhance cohesiveness and how to communicate across the five generations at work for attracting and retaining talent.

TRUMP, TARIFFS AND TRADE: WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA’S MOLD BUILDERS? Omar Nashashibi, The Franklin Partnership AMBA’s lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Omar Nashashibi, will provide an update on the latest with the trade wars and discuss the major victory for American mold builders when President Trump reinstated the 25% tariffs on imported plastic injection molds. He also will provide insight into what the new NAFTA means for manufacturing, the status of trade talks with China and the European Union, and the impact on supply chains. This session will help attendees plan for the unexpected and gain a better understanding of how trade and tariffs impact their businesses.


Phillip Van Hooser, MBA, CSP, CPAE Leaders at every organizational level know change is inevitable and never-ending – an inescapable reality that does not go away. But for those willing to see it, change also brings new, expanded opportunities! Still, to get the best possible outcomes, a sound approach is needed to embrace change, guide transition and energize transformation. In this session, Phillip Van Hooser will dissect the often overlooked truths for managing change while revealing a strategy for successfully leading transition and transformation. The result? Attendees will discover a mindset that thrives on change and embraces the opportunities others are afraid to explore!


This session covers the DNA of what makes champions in sports so unique and how that relates to business. Ross’ discussion is based on a series of books he wrote for which he was able to interview more than 1,000 professional athletes and coaches who all had one thing in common – they were all members of championship teams. In his research, he concluded that the same metrics and characteristics that were common among champions in sports were also common among peak performers in business. There are reasons certain teams win consistently, whereas others don’t ... and Bernstein explains why.



the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

as of 2/13/20

SPECIAL SESSIONS EMERGING LEADERS PRE-CON SESSION $69 Leadership – The Business of Communicating Kit Welchlin, Welchlin Communication Strategies Hundreds of studies have sought to identify what differentiates effective managers or leaders from ineffective ones. All studies generally conclude the ability to persuade and influence others is essential. Interpersonal relations in an organization are not confined to dealing with people who work directly for you. From getting the support of your boss and buy-in from a peer to gaining assistance outside of the organization, participants will discover the strategies to influence others, listen and respond effectively and drive change up and down the command chain. LUNCH AND LEARN $40 White House 2020: How Politics will Impact your Business Omar S. Nashashibi, The Franklin Partnership Omar S. Nashashibi, founding partner with The Franklin Partnership, a bipartisan Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, will share his expertise on the 2020 elections and how politics impacts business. Government affects every aspect of manufacturing, and understanding what a second Trump administration or a Democrat in the White House means for business is key to strategizing a business plan. How will the outcome impact tax rates, workforce training programs, trade policy and more? Nashashibi will speak to the status of the 2020 elections, the White House and key races across the country. AC LAB Tracks The AC LABS are composed of a number of topics, designed to equip attendees with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve the mission-critical priorities of today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow. Since the theory is different than practical implementation, the AC LABS will be presented by mold builders, thereby allowing attendees to learn from their peers. Peer-to-Peer Rounds This session is back by popular demand! Growing peer-to-peer networks is a primary component of the AMBA Conference. Attendees will have the chance to interact with peer groups during this session on topics that are unique to their job functions in their specific groups. Driven by past attendee feedback, these focused sessions are a perfect way for professionals to find new ideas, expand their networks and explore new methods of improvement.


Take a fascinating tour of Dorel Juvenile’s Columbus, Indiana location, where approximately 500 product SKU’s and 4,000 components are managed from Dorel’s 43-acre facility. From car seats to small furniture products, see how these high-quality products are manufactured with the utmost attention to detail, from molding to assembly to crash testing!

HOTEL INFORMATION The AMBA Conference 2020 will be held at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Indianapolis - beautifully designed and refined. The Hyatt Regency is a contemporary hotel blending modern amenities with classic design elements to create a comfortable oasis in the heart of one of the Midwest’s most exciting cities, with many interesting attractions and exquisite dining options nearby. AMBA rate is $179/night For online reservations, visit conference/.

CONFERENCE APP Connect with fellow attendees before, during and after the conference, check the agenda and learn about the speakers, programming, exhibitors and exhibitor giveaways and so much more with the AMBA Conference mobile app.

AMBA’S GOT TALENT Bring your best karaoke voice or other hidden talents and join conference attendees as we look for the most talented AMBA member to award!

After the tour, attendees will visit Upland Brewing Company’s Columbus Pump House for a tasting of Upland classic brews. Tour includes a box lunch and drink. |


STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 2020 By Liz Stevens, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder


hat does 2020 look like for the US economy, American companies and, especially, the mold builders that support the nation’s manufacturing sector? The big picture predictions and onthe-ground feedback for the year reveal optimism and growth. In survey results released by the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) and cited by CNN1, respondents expected the nation’s economy to grow by between 1.1% and 3% in 2020. The survey’s nearly 100 participants indicated that businesses are feeling confident about the economy and that recession fears have taken a back seat. The surveyed economists reported a jump in expectations for job growth, even while the US unemployment rate has reached its lowest point in 50 years and available jobs outnumber the pool of job seekers. The NABE survey found that while a majority of businesses, overall, felt unaffected by 2019’s trade tariffs, the majority of manufacturing, mining and farming companies reported that tariffs had raised costs and lowered sales. Business Wire2 echoes the NABE survey’s tempered optimism. Citing the Business Outlook Report, based on a survey of more than 750 business leaders by accounting and consulting firm LBMC, Business Wire wrote that 83% of survey respondents anticipated growth in 2020. This group reported a strong focus during the coming year on business intelligence, digital transformation and talent development.


These businesses further indicated that, unlike 2019’s push to expand to new locations and penetrate new markets, 2020 will see companies investing to improve productivity and efficiency. Among the group’s business goals, the search for, development of and retention of employees was a top priority. Leveraging technology also was a key goal, along with increasing sales and improving products and services. the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

The American Mold Builder talked with three AMBA members to get perspectives on their current situations, and the opportunities and challenges they see arising in 2020. Jonathan Buss, president of Buss Precision Mold Inc., in Clackamas, Oregon, shared his view based on experience running a design and manufacture firm that creates plastic injection molds for the medical, scientific, industrial, ITAR military and irrigation sectors. Donna Pursell, chief executive officer of Prestige Mold Inc., Rancho Cucamonga, California, weighed in to share her thoughts as the leader of both a moldmaking facility and an injection molding facility that primarily serve the medical industry and the technical field. And Darrin Schmitt, president of Prodigy Mold & Tool in Haubstadt, Indiana, gave us his thoughts as a supplier of plastic injection molds and tooling for medical, motion control (gears, worms), safety products, automotive and consumer goods. THE OVERVIEW The AMBA members echoed the optimism reported by CNN and Business Wire. For Buss Precision Mold’s Jonathan Buss, business is good. “Last year was one of our two best years since 1988 when we started in business,” said Buss. “Plans are being made for expansion and upgrading of equipment.” Donna Pursell reported similar feelings. “Last year was another record year for us,” she said. “This year has started off very strong, and we have seen a big uptick in our quoting activity.” Prodigy Mold’s Darrin Schmitt’s take was a little more tempered. “I’m pleased with the progress our company is making, but it’s not easy,” said Schmidt. “Training a younger-generation workforce and

competing in a highly competitive market – including overseas – is certainly presenting its own set of unique challenges.” TRADE TARIFFS AND FOREIGN ACTORS Like many manufacturers, both Buss and Schmitt keep an eye on the international scene, including trade tariffs and working with foreign suppliers. Schmitt cited uncertainty in the marketplace due to the unsettled trade deal with China as a challenge that his company will face in 2020. Buss noted that concern over intellectual property theft by foreigners is a reality. He has seen that anxiety, along with instances of actual theft by the Chinese, prompt customers to avoid outsourcing to China and to remain cautious even with onshore manufacturing. SALES Winning new business and increasing sales ranks as a big opportunity in 2020. Buss put it this way: “Our biggest opportunity will be continuing to add customers who value IP protection, quality and customer service for their mold building needs.” For Pursell’s company the new year is an exciting time, and she cited a good amount of new prospective customer interest on the molding operation side. “Our biggest opportunity for growth is our expansion of both companies,” said Pursell as she described her company’s in-progress construction of a new molding facility and the expansion of its moldmaking facility. “With the continued synergy of the two companies, we will continue to be able to manage projects through the entire process for our customers – from mold design and build through final plastic part production.” Schmitt was equally enthusiastic about new business and sales growth this year. “I really think this could be a good year,” he said. “We are making a lot of progress gaining new clients and market share. We added our first 5-axis mill recently, and it’s opening up opportunities.” TECHNOLOGY Just as the NABE survey respondents signaled a focus on technology in 2020, moldmakers are keenly aware of advancements, including evaluating their impact on market segments and considering how to leverage knowledge of the most captivating technologies to a company’s advantage. At Prestige Mold, Pursell uses cutting edge technology in service of supporting the latest methods in the medical field – designing for labware, surgical products and diagnostics – and in the technology sector – with items such as mice, security cameras and memory storage. Prodigy Mold and Tool counts the automotive industry among its main market sectors. Schmitt noted that the emergence of autonomous and electric vehicles poses a challenge for his

company in 2020, primarily because of the unsettled future for these new technologies. “I believe most of the industry still is trying to figure out which way to go and who’s going to do what,” he said. “The uncertainty and lack of decisions are making the short-term outlook fuzzy, but I believe the long term looks good with additional vehicle platforms.” TALENT RECRUITMENT AND DEVELOPMENT Jonathan Buss is leveraging technology – specifically robotics – in an interesting way; his company reaches out to local robotics clubs as sources of new apprentices to the moldmaking trade. “Our biggest challenge [in 2020] is finding and training apprentice and design candidates with an aptitude for moldmaking,” he said. With a total crew count of 14, Buss Precision Mold is not heavily into robotics, but it does have CNC machines. Buss described two aspects of moldmaking that he says appeal to robotics devotees: CNC cutting tool automation and the satisfaction of imagining, designing and then building something. Robotics builders, said Buss, “typically are making parts for robot competitions on cutting tools such as lathes, milling machines, page 14 |


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grinders, welders and sometimes CNC machines.” He pointed out that they really appreciate the “maker” aspect of the moldmaking job, as well as the automation used in CNC machines. Buss currently has two apprentices who came from robotics clubs and is actively seeking another mold design apprentice at this time. Darrin Schmitt at Prodigy, now employing 25 team members, is in the same talent-oriented boat. “This year,” he said, “we will be focusing on gaining efficiencies in the shop with our training and development program.” Ditto for Donna Pursell, who has 92 employees at Prestige Mold and 55 employees at Pres-Tek Plastics, the affiliated injection molding facility. “With our continued growth,” said Pursell, “hiring qualified employees will be our biggest hurdle this year. We struggle just like every other employer to find the right candidate with the skill set, personality and work ethic that it takes to keep a successful business moving forward.” Pursell is taking her company’s hiring presentation to local colleges, in pursuit of new, young engineers. “We will offer paid internships in hopes that once they see what our industry has to offer, they will want to make this their career path.”

ONWARD AND UPWARD At Prodigy, Schmitt has added the company’s first 5-axis mill, an important investment for improvement. The benefits include “having the ability to machine more things finished vs. using the EDM process, and more efficiencies with being able to reach five sides in one set-up,” he said. That’s not the end of it for Prodigy. “A new 5-axis graphite mill is next on our list for major purchases, plus acquiring a molding press for sampling and qualifying new tools.” For the industry in general, and for their own businesses, these AMBA members sound an optimistic note for 2020. Darrin Schmitt offered a succinct philosophy for embracing the opportunities emerging this year. “Overall,” he said, “I believe that structuring the business for long-term growth – by adding young people, new equipment and technology, and improving processes – is setting us up well for the future.” n REFERENCES 1. CNN, 2. Business Wire,

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NATIONALLY FUNDED PROGRAM OFFERS ASSISTANCE TO MOLD BUILDERS By Dianna Brodine, managing editor, The American Mold Builder

Fthe reach of small- to midsize manufacturing companies. As far ighting global competition requires resources that may be beyond

back as 1962, the US government attempted to level the playing field with the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF) program. The program offers matching funds - $75,000 from TAAF and $75,000 from the company receiving funding – to increase the competitiveness of US companies. According to a 2017 Congressional Research Report, “The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs were first authorized by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to help workers and firms adapt to import competition and dislocation caused by trade liberalization… TAAF provides technical assistance to help tradeimpacted firms make strategic adjustments to improve their global competitiveness.” Eleven TAAF centers across the US work with manufacturing companies to develop and implement projects that strengthen their organizations and increase their competitiveness. But, many mold builders have never heard of it – and the Great Lakes Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (GLTAAC) wants that to change. MATCHING FUNDS FOR DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TAAF “We’re one of 11 centers around the country, and we manage the Michigan-Ohio-Indiana region,” said Scott Phillips, senior project manager for GLTAAC. “We are part of the Economic Growth Institute at the University of Michigan, and we’re funded by the US Department of Commerce.” As Phillips explained, the TAAF program has been around since the early 1970s, but its reach has always been small. “We typically work


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with one to two dozen new companies a year,” he said, “and across the US, all the centers together usually are working with 500 to 600 companies in total.” Nationally, the program receives less than $15 million per year in funding. The program is open to all types of companies, and though almost all are in manufacturing, the predominant type of manufacturing served by the TAAF centers varies based on location. “The centers are structured so that the companies accepted into the program can get the specific type of assistance that is needed,” explained Phillips. “In our area, we work with moldmakers, plastics processors, and tool and die manufacturers. In the northwest, the center may work with more salmon fishers or in Texas, it could be small food processors.” Phillips, whose job is focused on outreach, works to find companies that fit the program and can meet three criteria for qualification, based on level of sales, level of employment and the degree to which imports have impacted the company. First, sales must be down 5% over a recent period of time. Second, employment head count must be down 5% over the same period of time. Finally, evidence must be presented that shows the impact of competitive imports. “Typically, that means the company must show that the purchase volume of at least four customers is down,” Phillips explained. “We need to speak to two of them, and at least one of them must validate the fact that purchases are down because they’ve been resourced to an offshore company. “In a five-minute phone call, we can almost always figure out if a company is eligible because the criteria are pretty straightforward,” he continued.

Once the company has taken the first steps toward qualification, GLTAAC submits a petition on its behalf for review in Washington, DC. GLTAAC also makes a site visit to talk with the client and perform an assessment of the business. “We work with the company to decide on the best way to use $150,000 over five years,” explained Phillips. “Half of that – $75,000 – is a grant from the program to match $75,000 in funds from the company.” HELPING MANUFACTURERS COMPETE TAAF is designed to meet the needs of the manufacturer, so its funding parameters are fairly broad. “If you’re a small company and all of a sudden you’re confronted with additional foreign competition, you probably don’t have the internal capabilities to deal with it,” said Phillips. “The program allows manufacturers to bring in outside service providers to build their capabilities and competitiveness.” Examples of projects to be undertaken could include sales lead generation, market research aimed at diversification into new markets, productivity improvements, ERP or MES implementation, management training, succession planning and more. Capital expenditures are one limitation – equipment and building additions cannot be funded. GLTAAC staff help companies assess where best to focus their efforts. “When we go in to create a spending plan, we begin with a site assessment,” said Paul Crossley, senior project manager. “We look at all functional areas: management, sales and marketing, financial, production and support services, such as human resources and information technology.”


The assessment includes interviews with company leadership to help form a high-level picture. As the plan develops, follow-up calls with department heads and other staff members occur to help GLTAAC dig deep into what the company is doing and where the opportunities are for improvement. “Part of what we do is help companies figure out what they need to do, what they have the internal capabilities to do and where they need outside help,” said Phillips. Crossley added, “Our function is to come in and help them define what is needed. We’ll make recommendations based on what we see, but ultimately the company decides what it wants to do. Our function is to provide information based on our experience.” Once a plan is finalized, it must be submitted for approval. Then implementation mode begins. The program allows five years to identify the scope of work, chose an outside solution provider and create a three-way contract among the solution provider, TAAF and page 18



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the client. Before the contract can be finalized, parameters for the outside provider must be met, including proof of outside expertise, a set project duration and the definition of clear deliverables. As the project progresses, the plan is able to adjust. “We are working with distressed companies,” said Phillips. “A plan that is developed today may not be perfectly meaningful and useful a year later. We have up to two years to redesign the plan as the company’s needs change.”

Karaman expanded on this, saying, “We were able to choose our own vendor. We told them exactly what the relative factors were for the program, because the vendor has to be a party to the agreement. The vendors bill half of their costs to Michiana and half to GLTAAC.” Crossley added, “There’s a due diligence process, and our function is to oversee that, but we’ll defer to the company unless we see a mismatch.”

MICHIANA GLOBAL MOLD BENEFITS FROM TAAF Michiana Global Mold – located just down the road from Notre Dame University in Mishawaka, Indiana – provides injection molds for the plastic and rubber industries. The company services the automotive, electronics, medical and military markets in its 25,000 square foot facility, taking great pride in its employees’ extensive experience and problem-solving capabilities.

TAAF funds also helped Michiana Global Mold to hire a business development person to take the lead generation activities to the next level. “Our business development person takes the leads from the lead generation company and runs them to ground by following up with phone calls and information,” he added. “We’ve employed this strategy for about a year and a half, and it’s been successful in helping us add new customers.”

Five years ago, President and Chief Operating Officer Eric Karaman heard about the TAAF program. “One of our customers told us about it,” he said. “The customer had participated in the program and had nothing but good things to say. So, we went through the application process, and now we’ve been engaged with GLTAAC since 2016.” At Michiana Global Mold, TAAF funding has been used for several activities related to business development. “We’ve used funds to support cold calling and lead generation efforts,” said Karaman. “The first thing we used funding for was to use a head hunter to try to find a sales representative. That wasn’t successful for us, so we moved into a lead generation service.”

By freeing up resources and bringing in outside expertise, the TAAF program works to give manufacturers an advantage by letting them focus on the daily work. Crossley commented, “There are only so many hours in a day, and these small companies need boots on the ground. GLTAAC helps these companies on many levels in a strategic way, but we also help them with outside resources to give their management team the time to do the strategic work.”

When working with the TAAF program, the manufacturing company is able to choose its own outside vendors. “The most important part is the cultural fit between the company and the consultant,” said Phillips. “Some companies already know a consultant and have a prior relationship. However, some companies don’t have that knowledge or previous relationship, so we can provide three or four potential providers if needed.”

GLTAAC tracks data to show that the work it does is impactful and helps companies stay in business. “We have a 97% five-year survival rate,” said Phillips. “We track sales and employment – our companies typically have significant sales and employment growth while in the program and after.” After several years of cooperation between Michiana Global Tool and the staff at GLTAAC, Karaman said, “I’m highly supportive of this program. Working with the people at GLTAAC has been terrific. It’s not a terribly cumbersome process, and they help you every step of the way.” n

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020


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NEW SURVEY LAUNCHED: HEALTH AND BENEFITS SURVEY DEADLINE: MARCH 13, 2020 AMBA has launched its new 2020 Health and Benefits Survey, which will gather data related to health and benefits packages offered to employees by mold manufacturers across the US. Collected data will include the following: company cost and employee participation strategies to control cost current plans offered to employees additional benefits and retirement programs offered

Compiled data and results will be shared at no cost to participants. To complete, visit BUSINESS FORECAST REPORT AVAILABLE AMBA’s 2020 Business Forecast Report is now available for purchase! With this report, executives have the opportunity to better benchmark how their company stacks up in comparison to the mold building industry norms and how they can better align their anticipated outlook for the upcoming year with strategic direction and resource investment. Also available for purchase is AMBA’s annual 2019/2020 Wage and Salary Report, which includes high, low and average rates of pay across over 50 job functions commonly found in mold building and allows industry professionals to determine their competitiveness as an employer, measure employee ROI and better understand the latest industry practices and trends. To view and purchase all available publications, visit REGISTRATION NOW OPEN FOR AMBA CONFERENCE 2020 Registration now is open for AMBA Conference 2020. This year’s theme – Ready, Fire, TEAM! – is designed to inspire mold manufacturing professionals to focus not just on building a team, but on how building the right team the right way can lead to consistent success. See pages 8 through 11 for full details. Nominations Underway for Prestigious AMBA Awards Nominations for AMBA’s Mold Builder of the Year and Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Awards are now being accepted. Award winners will be announced during AMBA Conference 2020. AMBA members may nominate themselves or a peer and should be from member companies in good standing. Each winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship (provided by Progressive Components) to be awarded to the educational institution or program of their choice. Visit to view eligibility requirements, the award deadline and past recipients. 20

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

Rick Finnie, M.R. Mold & Engineering, accepts the 2019 AMBA Mold Builder of the Year Award. Also pictured: Geri Anderson (M.R. Mold & Engineering) and Don and Glenn Starkey (Progressive Components).

AMBA Offers New Pre-Con Session for Under-40 Emerging Leaders AMBA will again offer a pre-conference session for its young professionals group, the AMBA Emerging Leaders, on April 29, 2020. During this session, keynote speaker Kit Welchlin will coach attendees on communication strategies that they can employ within their organization to influence others, promote change, listen and respond effectively, set goals and delegate appropriately. Complemented by roundtable discussion and peerto-peer networking, this session will give leaders emerging in their organization the tools they need to drive change internally within their organization. Under-40 professionals can register at TACKLE EMPLOYEE RETENTION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT WITH UPCOMING WEBINAR March 10, 2020 | 1 PM EST For the fourth year running, mold manufacturers have identified workforce development, including recruiting, training and retaining high-quality employees, as the top issue facing the mold building industry. This webinar will focus on providing owners and top management with techniques to enhance benefits and attract/retain top talent, tackling the workforce development challenge head-on. This webinar is offered at no cost to AMBA members. Non-members: $50. For more details and to register, visit CONNECT VIRTUALLY THROUGH AMBA PEER NETWORKING: MARCH 25, 2020 Peer Networking provides a FREE opportunity for Senior Leaders and HR Professionals to join a virtual session where questions are answered, benchmarks are discussed and attendees can access new ideas, explore new methods of improvement and expand their professional network without leaving the office. All participants

submit questions, which are discussed and shared for immediate feedback. These sessions are held near lunch, so grab a bite and get on the line to make connections and learn about things you don’t realize you’re missing. Invest 60 minutes to see how your AMBA membership can bring more value to your organization. Register at AMBA MEMBERS SAVE MORE WITH GRAINGER Deeper Discounts and Added Categories With AMBA membership, mold builders get exclusive access to Grainger’s discount program, which includes significant savings on over 20 categories. Impact the bottom line by shopping deep discount categories, including motors, safety, electrical, power transmission, hand tools, material handling, abrasives, lubrication, machining, welding, power tools and more. Call the AMBA offices at 317.436.3102 to learn more about Grainger discounts available to AMBA members. MEMBERS X-Cell Tool and Mold Inc. Ron Novel, President / Owner | 814.474.9100 X-Cell Tool and Mold provides design, mold and component manufacturing, emergency repairs, mold sampling/validation and production runs. The company has the tool building expertise and equipment required to bring high-precision molds/components and excellent quality-molded parts to its customers. ASH Industries, Inc. Hartie Spence, President | 337.235.0977 ASH® Industries is a trusted manufacturer dedicated to its customers’ success. The company offers a complete suite of inhouse manufacturing and engineering services dedicated to molding, tooling, project engineering design for manufacturing (DFM) and production management (tooling, process and mold validation). Machine Tool Technology dba Richmond Tooling David Obert, Owner | 804.520.4173 Richmond Tooling is located in Colonial Heights, Virginia, and manufactures plastic injection and thermoset molds. The company offers precision machine work for the medical, packaging, electrical, automotive and consumer products industries. Xcentric Mold & Engineering Mark Strobel, VP Marketing | 586.598.4636 Xcentric is a US manufacturer providing consulting, prototyping, preproduction and production services for most industries. Xcentric’s core expertise is rapid manufacturing, specializing in injection molding, CNC machining and additive manufacturing. Moldworks Inc. Jenny Uphus, Office Manager | 763.493.3134 Moldworks designs and builds small- to medium-size prototype,

multiple-cavity precision molds, including LIM, MIM, silicone, compression, two shot, hot runner and unscrewing molds. The company takes pride in its high-speed milling capabilities. Thompson Stearns Tooling Brad Thompson, Owner/President | 830.387.4314 Thompson Stearns Tooling designs and builds close-tolerance, precision molds for numerous industries including automotive, medical and consumer products. The company also handles specialty tooling, including spare mold inserts and mold repair for its customers. High Desert Tool & Mold Mfg. Jeremy Sheldon, President | 775.882.2701 High Desert Tool & Mold specializes in the design and build of highquality plastic injection and compression molds. Maximum molds sizes up to 25,000 lbs. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Bill Robbins, Tool Room Manager | 208.848.8483 Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), invents, designs and builds digital products and systems that protect power grids around the world. The company’s mission is “to make electric power safer, more reliable and more economical.” SEL’s tool and die shop builds plastic injection molds to manufacture the components for its power products and utilizes all the latest machine tools and software. Advanced Mold & Engineering Myron Moorman, CEO / President | 812.342.9000 Advanced Mold & Engineering Inc. (AME), has been a manufacturer of high-quality molds since 1994. AME is proud to be an employeeowned company with a workforce representing more than 250 years of experience. The company is dedicated to meeting customers’ needs and is ISO 9001:2015 certified. PARTNERS Mastip Ann Ruplinger, Office Manager | 262.644.9400 Mastip is a leading designer and manufacturer of innovative hot runner solutions to the plastics industry worldwide. The company provides exceptional service, technical support and parts for the life cycle of the hot runner. Autodesk Thiago Fagionato, Sales | 519.791.7532 Autodesk Manufacturing, powered by Delcam, now offers digital solutions that automate and integrate design and manufacturing with the latest technology for CAM, additive, simulation, robotics and inspection. n |


CHINA, NAFTA AND WHAT IS NEXT FROM TRUMP ON TRADE By Omar Nashashibi, founding partner, The Franklin Partnership, LLP

BTrump had some major victories on trade in January that already y all accounts, and despite the impeachment trial, President

have begun to reshape the landscape. On January 1, the Phase I deal with Japan took effect. Two weeks later – January 15 – the US and China secured a Phase I deal, de-escalating tensions between the world’s two largest economies. The president pulled off his complete hat trick on January 29 by signing into law the new NAFTA (USMCA – United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement). Sources in Washington indicate that the Trump administration now is shifting its attention to talks with the European Union, India, Vietnam, South Africa and Kenya. We expect a Phase I deal with India in the first part of the year, but the president’s main focus is Europe and in applying maximum pressure to bring those countries to the table. The president feels emboldened by his January successes and believes that his strategy of tariffs, tariffs and more tariffs is working: It brought Japan to the table, China made concessions, and Canada and Mexico agreed to a new NAFTA, all of which he can tout on the campaign trail. Manufacturers are asking what this all means to them, and more importantly, is Phase I followed by Phase II?

The US and Mexico now have passed their NAFTA bills, with Canada expected to do so in March. While some had hoped for a full implementation of the new NAFTA rules by July 1, most observers expect a full entry into force date closer to the end of the year." The US-China Phase I agreement does not impact the victory the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) and its members secured in December 2019 when the president agreed to reinstate 25% tariffs on imported plastic injection molds from China. The US Trade Representative has not indicated an intent to revisit the reinstatement of the tariffs to protect the US industry. AMBA helped coordinate the filing of more than 150 comments by American companies calling for Washington not to extend an exclusion granted for the molds at the request of importers seeking cheaper Chinese molds. The agreement with China maintains the 25% tariffs on Lists 1, 2 and 3, including the plastic injection mold tariffs, but did reduce the List 22

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

4A rate from 15% to 7.5%, mostly impacting consumer goods. The agreement allows both sides to raise tariff margins or take additional steps if they feel the other party is not fully complying with the terms in Phase I. The top priority for the president in the talks remained increasing purchases of US goods by China. The agreement calls for an additional $200 billion of American exports over the next two years, with manufacturing accounting for $77.7 billion, agriculture $32 billion, energy $52.4 billion and services $37.9 billion. In another AMBA victory, the list also identifies Harmonized Tariff Schedule code 8480, which includes “molding boxes for metal foundry; mold bases; molding patterns; molds for bases (other than ingot molds), metal carbides, glass, mineral materials, rubber or plastics.” While the government has not made public the exact amounts in this category China will purchase from US manufacturers, this is an important recognition of AMBA’s efforts in Washington to raise the profile for mold builders to the highest levels of government. The Chinese, in addition to the purchase of American goods, have agreed to begin making the structural changes that many in manufacturing have long called for but which have been resisted by Beijing’s politburo. China will agree to destroy counterfeit goods, set up a civil court system for intellectual property theft and reduce tariff barriers. The US agreed to remove China from the list of illegal currency manipulators, a key source of contention. In the movie business, Hollywood rarely makes a sequel worth watching, and few in Washington have high hopes for a comprehensive Phase II deal in the coming months. If fact, quite the contrary: Should the president publicly engage in the next round of discussions, he may set himself up for failure and erase any perceived victory by his voters over the January 15 Phase I deal. Most longtime China watchers believe the Chinese government recognizes it must make the needed structural changes to the economy to comply with the country’s World Trade Organization obligations, but will likely do so on its own timeline. As with any negotiation, the two parties typically keep the most complicated points of contention for the later rounds. In the case of Phase II, the most complicated topics remain the elimination of state-owned enterprises, illegal subsidies and forced technology transfer. Such

actions by China require a significant overhaul of its industrial strategy of the past 20 years. Could the president secure those commitments from Beijing and verify enforcement prior to the November elections? Possible, but unlikely. While manufacturers need China to make those changes to further level the playing field, securing a Phase I deal that maintains the mold tariffs and increases purchases of US goods is an important victory – but yes, just a first step to long-term change. The new NAFTA signed on January 29 also is a major victory for President Trump in this election year. In their January vote, 89 US senators voted in support of the bill. Bipartisan votes remain rare in Washington and those on trade are even rarer. Staunch opponents of trade agreements – such as Ohio Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown – voted yes, and the country’s largest union endorsed its first trade measure after decades of decrying the old NAFTA. The US and Mexico now have passed their NAFTA bills, with Canada expected to do so in March. While some had hoped for a full implementation of the new NAFTA rules by July 1, most observers expect a full entry into force date closer to the end of

the year. Prior to replacing the old NAFTA, the three parties must each verify to one another that they have taken the steps, passed the legislation and written new regulations to comply with the updated trade agreement. Especially in Mexico, at which many of the labor and wage provisions are directed, it will take time to not only implement the changes but also for the US and Canada to verify completion. The 2020 elections remain nine months away, and a lot can happen between now and November 3rd, especially in Donald Trump’s Washington. Many a fool has sought to predict what this president will do next, but one thing is for certain: He will work every day to keep trade and his January victories on the minds of voters. n Omar Nashashibi is a founding partner at The Franklin Partnership, LLC, a bipartisan government relations and lobbying firm retained by the American Mold Builders Association in Washington, D.C. He lobbies the federal government on behalf of manufacturing trade associations and advises clients on formulating business strategies to minimize risk and maximize opportunities resulting from decisions made in Washington.

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INVESTING IN THE FUTURE: TRAINING TO RETAIN TALENT By Lara Copeland, assistant editor, The American Mold Builder

Tprofessional development. Across the employed generations he vast majority of jobholders in the US value opportunities for

– Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials – many workers base a decision to stay at their current position on opportunities for job-related training and development. Skills training also is one of the most effective manners in which a company can improve its productivity, serving as a boost to an employee’s career and a valuable investment for any ongoing business. Schoolcraft, Michigan-based Concept Molds and Fremont, Ohio-based Freeman Company recognize training as one of the most successful methods to retain employees. ACCESS TO ENGAGING DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES While flexible work schedules, a comfortable work environment and benefits packages certainly help motivate employees to remain with the company, offering engaging training may be the most important contribution, according to recent research. Retaining employees by incorporating opportunities for professional development is more important than ever, considering Millennials – the largest generation in the US labor force – desire access to such experiences. Some even cite a lack of access to professional development as a reason they would contemplate abandoning their position. These learning opportunities not only advance a person’s growth, and therefore the work they produce, but as Concept Molds’ Director of Technical


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

Sales and Engineering Jason Sparks, said, “It helps give them a little more sense of worth at the company.” The emotional commitment that employees experience regarding their work and their employer is directly affected by the training and career growth opportunities afforded them. Ongoing training demonstrates, in ways other measures can’t, that the employer is invested in its employee’s future. In-house, online or off campus, training should be meaningful. For example, at Freeman, new hires are not “harnessed,” to a senior worker for two years, as Mike Mullholand, general manager at the company explained. “Young people today need training to be fast and involved, which is why we want new employees pushing buttons within a few weeks of starting with us.” He said getting them involved immediately communicates the message that they are contributing to the company, and seeing this progress right away is key to keeping them engaged. “If you’re just hanging around in the shadows, learning information by osmosis or happenstance, you will lose interest quickly – it just doesn’t work well. ” TRAINING RESOURCES One way Concept Molds engages its employees in training is by providing various perspectives and experiences from outside sources. Michael Rochholz, program manager at Concept, explained that the company often shares training responsibilities with its sister company,

The Freeman team participated in the Manufacturing Day Showcase at a local college, reaching more than 800 students this past year. The team – which included Freeman employees and four students from the local technical school – demonstrated CAD/CAM, print reading and hands-on operation of a CNC.

including taking turns hosting. For example, Concept recently brought in an outside software company to conduct training at the facility for its employees and those of its sister company. “It was engaging because there were multiple individuals from two different companies who participated, and this offered personal conversation back and forth about how things worked at either facility.” Rochholz continued, saying they are learning not just from the instructor but also from one another, “and that creates engagement.” Sparks added that to get away from the “this is how we’ve always done it” paradigm, employees need to visit other shops to look for avenues to do things differently. “Sending our employees to another company as part of our enterprise gives them an opportunity to see things from another perspective,” he added. Freeman also utilizes outside sources to promote professional development. “We pay for additional training and encourage everybody to do it,” Mullholand said. Freeman is a SECO partner and offers opportunities for employees to take its classes for advanced training in terms of understanding tooling. “We pay for our employees to travel to their facility, learn new information and then bring back those ideas so we can implement them here,” he stated. The company also pays for groups of people to go to the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago. “This is a chance for everyone to see the latest and greatest in terms of machinery equipment, and seeing things first-hand really gets people engaged.” Additionally, employees are encouraged to take classes at the local university or remotely, and Freeman will pay 100% of tuition and books so long as the student earns a “B” grade or higher. VALUE IN CROSS-TRAINING Both companies acknowledge cross-training as vital to their success in business believing it makes employees feel as if they are a part of something bigger, and offering them the chance to do something different and exciting. “It really prevents boredom,” Sparks declared. “When an employee has the opportunity to learn one or a few departments across the shop, it gives them more perspective and makes them more valuable to the company.” Cross-training also provides flexibility. Life happens and people suddenly quit, go on planned vacations, or take maternity or paternity leave.

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

(Left) Stephen Rochholz, current apprentice, stands in front of graduate certificates. (Right) Ray Thrasher, recent apprenticeship graduate, is presented his certificate by General Manager Len Hyde.

Because processes constantly demand skilled people, businesses are providing a sort of insurance for themselves by ensuring their employees are cross-trained. Furthermore, as Mullholand noted, “Cross-training prevents people from being one-dimensional and only able to do a single operation.” Freeman splits its shop into zones – such as milling, large machine, precision, etc. – and everybody is crosstrained within those groups. “All our people move around to different machines all day long because we don’t want someone just standing there watching a machine,” he said. CREATING A CULTURE FOR ADVANCEMENT Attempting to instill confidence in its employees, Rochholz said Concept wants them “to be creative thinkers and have the ability to decipher, foreseeing and offsetting potential problems.” He acknowledged that the company culture builds that confidence not only for managers overseeing the employees but for the employees themselves. “It allows them the comfort and reliability to know what they’re trying to accomplish.” Concept does everything it can to acknowledge an employee’s growth, from regular reviews to small bonuses and raises. “We try to be uplifting, positive and motivating to our employees, and many of them put it on themselves to improve,” he added. At Freeman, training has inspired a sense of comradery among its employees. Mullholand explained that while some facilities’ older and more experienced staff may look down on turning younger, newer hires loose on the floor, “people here love it!” He said Freeman welcomes new and interested employees with open arms. “Everybody can benefit from learning something, no matter what it is. Though effective training can present some challenges – completing day-to-day activities, costs, etc., – its benefits typically outweigh them. “We must invest in training if we are to be afforded opportunities to compete effectively and efficiently in the future,” Rochholz exclaimed. Mullholand added to this sentiment: “The better trained we are and the better our processes are, the better we do things that allow us to become advanced.” Training is valuable for the employee and it’s valuable for the company, too. “Everybody wants to contribute, feel like they are making a positive impact and see that they’re making a difference.” n

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1 [1] HEIDENHAIN INTRODUCES ENCODERS WITH SIEMENS DRIVE-CLIQ In order to meet the needs of manufacturers of small servo motors and actuators, motion control feedback solution developer HEIDENHAIN, Schaumburg, Illinois, has introduced an expansion of its small-diameter 1000 and 1100 series rotary encoders with added versions now available with Siemens DRIVE-CLiQ. HEIDENHAIN’s models ECN/EQN 1000S, ROC/ROQ 1000S and ECN/EQN 1100S rotary encoders with integrated DRIVECLiQ interface feature a compact design with 35mm diameter, while permitting a high operating temperature of 95 °C. For more information, visit MEUSBURGER ADDS POWER CONTROLLER AND DISPLAY UNITS Wolfurt, Austria-based Meusburger, a manufacturer of products for die, mold, jigs and fixtures construction, presents the new T7 and THYPO. The T7 is a compact operating and display unit for sysTemp® and flexotemp® controllers, and MPI 02 and MPI 05 components, with a 7-inch multitouch screen for parameterization and visualization of Meusburger controllers. Depending on the controller series, the T7 is connected via CAN or Ethernet and can service multiple controllers. The THYPO power controller is a control unit for precise switching of resistive loads in all industrial segments. THYPO offers a modular multi-loop power controller for switching and controlling heating elements and heating fields. For more information, visit www. [2] GUILL INTRODUCES LARGE DIE CART WITH CROSSHEAD Guill Tool has announced the immediate availability of its new die cart with easy disassembly and reassembly. It features a highvolume, adjustable-center accumulating crosshead. This crosshead is designed to produce a smooth linear bore and provide jacketing over various substrates. The crosshead’s maximum through core is 28

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

2 18", while its maximum die ID is 23". Built to handle thermoplastic applications, the crosshead includes tooling and isolation sleeve design. Additionally, the tooling section features quadrant heating. Guill’s crosshead stand is equipped with an integral alignment station and concentric role guide. The stand also is an integral cleaning station, so clients don’t need to remove the crosshead for cleaning. Last, this crosshead has “on-the fly” catenary adjustment and can be easily maintained with simple hand tools. For more information, visit HASCO OFFERS ADAPTERS FOR DIFFERENT LOCATING RING DIAMETERS HASCO, a Germany-based supplier of modular standardized components and accessories, offers the new locating ring adapters Z7500/..., allowing tool-free adaptation with no need for machining to facilitate the installation of molds on machines with different diameters. The spring washers supplied with the adapter ensure frictional tensioning. A large lead-in chamfer allows easy installation in the injection mold with an 8mm guide. Lever slots are provided as a dismantling aid. The stainless steel locating ring adapters are suitable for cleanrooms and come in inch and metric versions. All the locating ring adapters have an unambiguous laser inscription to ensure rapid and error-free deployment of the correct adapter in production. For more information, visit MOLDEX3D STUDIO OFFERS MOLD FILLING SIMULATIONS CoreTech System Co., Ltd. (Moldex3D) a Taiwan-based provider of plastic injection molding simulation solutions, offers Moldex3D Studio, which integrates the functions of every stage in mold filling simulation. With the Studio, users can fix and generate the mesh automatically, set the material and molding parameters, run analysis, visualize simulation results and create analysis reports in a unified platform – a time-saving advantage. Moldex3D Studio has assistant

quickly, setting the cooling system, generating the mesh, and setting the materials, molding conditions and calculating parameters. For more information, visit

3 features, intuitive interfacing and powerful functions, helping users increase the efficiency and quality of their product and mold designs. Moldex3D Studio arranges its easy-to-learn operation workflow from left to right so that new users can get started inputting geometry

[3] CAD/CAM SUITE OFFERS 3D AND 5-AXIS MACHINING ENHANCEMENTS OPEN MIND Technologies AG, Needham, Massachusetts, has introduced hyperMILL速 2020.1, a new version of its CAD/CAM software suite. In addition to 3D and 5-axis machining enhancements, the new version increases ease of use and overall programming performance and includes key new automation and additive manufacturing strategies. hyperMILL速 2020.1 offers new Corner Rest Machining strategies for 3D and 5-axis techniques that provide benefits in complex machining applications, including mold and die. Corners can be machined largely by vertical stroking motions. Then traditional z-level steps can be used to blend with the vertical section and the lower floor area. hyperMILL速 2020.1 also features a new 5-axis blade tangent milling strategy, which increases efficiency when milling with conical barrel cutters that have a large primary angle. The additive manufacturing process in hyperMILL速 CAM software supports 3D printing / additive processes, including filling strategies for both planes and free-form shapes, and in 2D and 3D sections. For more information, visit n |



Areport that current business conditions lthough nearly 90% of mold builders

are positive in the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) 2020 Business Forecast Report, several business indicators shifted significantly when compared to last year’s data. Amid rising challenges related to increased foreign competition and maintaining profitability, it seems likely that the industry may experience slowing or stagnating growth as it heads into 2020. SURVEY HISTORY Now in its 10th year, AMBA’s annual 2020 Business Forecast Report analyzes data that was collected from more than 110 senior-level executives representing US mold manufacturing shops across 24 states. With this information, mold building companies are able to better benchmark how their companies stack up to industry norms, and executives can better align their anticipated outlook for the upcoming year.

Current Business Conditions: 1st Quarter Trends

Average State of Pipeline in Q1 2020

PROFITS AND HISTORICAL DATA As the industry heads into 2020, current profitability and employment maintain historical trends, but other economic indicators forecast uncertainty and slowing growth within the industry. Fourth-quarter trends hit near historic lows, as 76% of respondents reported that fourth-quarter quoting was either the same or down (up 13% from the previous year) while 75% of New in 2020: Current Capacity Utilization respondents (compared to 60% last year) indicated that backlog was the same or down. This data reflects new From a historical perspective, trending data on current business information benchmarked this year on the state of mold builders’ conditions reflects the information above. Overall, only 40% of pipeline in the first quarter. Over half of mold builders reported that respondents (10% fewer than last year) reported good conditions, either their pipeline is not full enough or they are desperately looking while only 15% reported that conditions are excellent. For the for work; just over one-fifth of respondents said their pipeline is full first time since 2011, a percentage of respondents indicated that or oversold. conditions are bad (i.e., that their pipeline is empty). 30

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CURRENT CAPACITY UTILIZATION In addition to surveying respondents on the current state of their pipeline, AMBA also surveyed companies on their current and anticipated capacity utilization.

Molded to Perfection

Overall, the industry reported an average capacity utilization of 67%. Companies under $4.99 million in annual sales revenue tended to fall under the average, reporting lower capacity utilization (57% to 58%), while companies with $5 million or more in annual sales revenue tended to be above the average (68% to 83%). All respondents believed that their capacity utilization would rise in 2020, resulting in an overall industry expectation of an average of 72%, five percentage points higher than the current state. MOLD BUILDING INDUSTRY CHALLENGES Despite its continued standing as a primary challenge facing the mold building industry, workforce development fell for the first time in three years – declining from a challenge reported by 100% of respondents in the previous year to 93% in this year’s survey. While it remains a critical issue within the industry, this change reflects a shifting of priorities. Challenges related to new business development, for example, were reported by 46% of respondents this year – a 13% growth over last year’s data. Maintaining profitability also shifted significantly, rising from a challenge faced by 7% of respondents in 2019 to 20%. Finally, foreign competition continues to weigh heavily on the US mold building industry and has risen in importance in this year’s report. (Read more on this topic on pgs. 22 and 23). EFFORTS TO INCREASE COMPETITIVENESS As mold builders reviewed what challenges they faced in 2020, they also shared what was planned in 2020 to improve their overall competitiveness within the industry. Twenty-six percent of respondents reported that they intend to purchase new or update current equipment, while 15% of respondents have plans to concentrate on workforce development (an 8% increase over last year’s data). Another 14% plan to hone their strategic sales focus (an increase of 9% over last year’s data). Continuous improvement initiatives – which were planned by 25% of respondents last year – dropped to only 12% this year. Overall, plans to improve competitiveness were in line with the challenges shared and demonstrated a renewed commitment to tackling the workforce development problem and the need to become more profitable.

With over 160 years of steel production experience backing their brands, SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH is not only a pioneer, but also a market leader in specialty steels. Their comprehensive range of Formadur®, Thermodur®, and Cryodur® grades allows you to choose the ideally suited mold material for your application. In addition, an extensive range of value added services provides you with more alternatives from one source, SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH. Phone: +1 800 323 1233

Despite lower-than-average economic indicators heading into 2020, mold builders can feel some optimism. With recent changes to the tariff exclusions placed on Chinese-built plastic injection molds by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), many mold builders are hopeful that domestic work will begin to return to the US and that the pressure of foreign competition will ease. n |




3 HYPERTHERM TO AWARD POWERMAX SYSTEMS TO 12 NORTH AMERICAN SCHOOLS Hypertherm, Hanover, New Hampshire, a manufacturer of industrial cutting systems and software, now is accepting applications for its Spark Something Great educational grant program. In total, Hypertherm plans to award a Powermax45® XP plasma system, an AWS SENSE-approved plasma cutting curriculum kit and inperson training to 12 North American schools. The Spark Something Great grant program, now in its sixth year, is meant to support the next generation of welders and metal fabricators by making the newest generation of plasma cutting equipment and standardized instruction available to schools. This year, applications are due on or before April 1, with grant decisions communicated by May 1. For more information, visit [1] EMUGE CORP. APPOINTS SCOTT LOWE AS NATIONAL ACCOUNTS MANAGER EMUGE Corp., West Boylston, Massachusetts, a manufacturer of taps, thread mills, drills, end mills and other rotary tools, has announced the appointment of Scott Lowe as national accounts manager for the US and Canada. In his new position, Lowe is responsible for developing and managing channel partner relations with key customers, distributors and integrated suppliers of EMUGE products. Prior to joining EMUGE, Lowe worked at Kennametal, a supplier of tooling and industrial materials, mostly recently as sales manager. For more information, visit 3D SYSTEMS AND ZVERSE PARTNER TO PROVIDE DESIGN CAPABILITIES ZVerse, Inc., Columbia, South Carolina – developer of the only CAD as a Service (CADaaS) platform for digital manufacturing – is partnering with 3D Systems – a provider of parts manufacturing services. The alignment will give 3D Systems’ customers access to ZVerse’s network 32

the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020



of certified designers who can lend expertise to optimize file formats – facilitating desired final parts. These services include everything from design modifications to revising file formats to ensure the final part matches the customer’s requirements. Users will gain processspecific guidance throughout their manufacturing project’s design phase, with file optimization for specific manufacturing needs and pre-production quality checks. Because the ZVerse technology and designer network can handle high volumes of projects, it also offers increased speed of service for 3D Systems’ on demand customers. For more information, visit and [2] GUILL LAUNCHES 10-DAY EXTRUSION TOOLING PROGRAM Guill Tool & Engineering, West Warwick, Rhode Island, a manufacturer of extrusion crossheads, tips and dies, has announced a 10-day tooling program. Eligible tips and dies will ship within 10 business days of receipt of a purchase order. US made for 55 years, Guill extrusion tools are produced using certified, documented quality steel material specifically qualified for the polymer to be extruded. A variety of tips and dies are available, featuring multilumen, stripe, multiple stripe, wire and cable, hose, pipe, tube, fiber optic, blown film, corrugated tube and profile. Eligible tips and dies cannot be plated and must have a diameter less than 1.5" and a length less than 4.75." For details on eligible tools, check with any sales representative. For more information, visit [3] RJG® AND HRSFLOW PARTNER UP, PROVIDE ADVANCED PROCESS CONTROL Traverse City, Michigan-based RJG® – a provider of injection molding training, technology and resources – and San Polo di Piave, Italybased hot runner systems producer HRSflow have partnered to provide a process control solution for sequential valve gate control. They conducted a demonstration that included placing sensors in three different-sized cavities of a family mold and strategically

placing temperature sensors. The mold was designed to test the ability of the whole system to withstand difficult process conditions while ensuring optimal part production. The system was first tested through advanced mold filling simulation to establish initial process parameters. Results showed that systematic engineering and simulation efforts, integrated intelligent molding systems and flexible servo-driven hot runner technology greatly minimized the risks associated with a new tool launch. For more information, visit and [4] STAR CHARITIES TO CARRY FORWARD IWARRIORS MISSION The iWarriors iPad program has transferred, effective December 1, 2019, to STAR Charities, Wauconda, Illinois, a registered 501C3 nonprofit entity. The program has provided tablet computer gift packages to more than 900 combat-wounded service members for use as rehabilitation and recovery tools. iWarriors was founded in 2011 by Kim and Tim Bartz who, nearing retirement, were approached by Don and Glenn Starkey of tooling components supplier Progressive Components and STAR Charities. “None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support of members and partners of the American Mold Builders Association,” stated Kim Bartz. “I have no doubt this support will continue with the new team at the helm.” For more information, call 847.487.1000 / 800.269.6653 or visit ID ADDITIVES NAMES PCS AS EXCLUSIVE ID ECO-PRO 360 DISTRIBUTOR LaGrange, Illinois-based iD Additives, Inc., a supplier of additives to the plastics industry, has named PCS Company of Fraser, Michigan, as its exclusive distributor to injection molders and moldmakers in the US for its iD Eco-Pro 360 rust removal systems. The agreement is effective immediately. iD Additives will continue to sell and market iD Eco-Pro 360 directly for other non-injection molding-related rust removal applications, including extrusion, blow molding and non-plastics processes. For more information, visit [5] TST SELECTS AMERICAN QUALITY MOLDS FOR VISI ALLIANCE American Quality Molds (AQM), Hamilton, Ohio, and Tooling Software Technology, LLC (TST) have announced an alliance, bringing AQM’s library of its standard aluminum mold bases and Rapid Insert Dies (RIDs) to VISI CAD, exclusively distributed in North America by TST. TST selected AQM for this alliance because of AQM’s ability to provide aluminum mold bases and RIDs on a timely basis, maintaining sufficient stock of its standard mold base and RID components such that it can deliver a completed mold base or RID in two to three days. Having AQM’s standard mold bases already programmed into VISI’s software can reduce turnaround times even further. Also, special sizes can be designed rapidly in VISI by quick modifications of the standard mold base designs. For more information, email or visit n |


CAD/CAM OFFERS MORE EFFICIENCY, CONNECTIVITY AND PRECISION By Cynthia Kustush, contributing writer, The American Mold Builder

Minternal and external. Shortened delivery times, continued old building shops are facing a lot of pressures these days – both

pricing pressure from Chinese mold suppliers, new employees without significant shop floor experience replacing retiring seasoned employees and reduced tooling demand in certain industries have combined to shrink profits and increase stress levels. Software designers are working to bring more advanced solutions to market and help fill the gap so tool builders can more accurately design and develop molds. The American Mold Builder surveyed a few CAD/CAM supplier companies to find out what specific trends they are seeing, how their products can fulfill moldmakers’ needs and what’s new for 2020. CAD/CAM TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS According to Ben Mund, senior market analyst for CNC Software Inc., Tolland, Connecticut, which owns Mastercam software, higher productivity is what moldmakers need most from their CAD and CAM software products. “They want software that can give them the most efficient way to remove bulk material to near net shape. That level of productivity extends through the entire process, driving trends we see in CAD/CAM software development: Faster on the machine, faster off the machine and surface finishes that are as high as possible,” he said.


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

Mund says management teams of Mastercam customer shops are increasingly discussing how they can advance connectivity through the shop. “They want to ensure that their software, machines and other shop floor processes can talk to one another,” he said. “For example, with CAM software, you’ll find connections to tooling libraries, inspection, shop monitoring and a variety of other items. It’s all part of making sure shops are ready for the shift to digital manufacturing.” Mastercam is working to address both fronts. On the programming side, Mund said the company continues to aggressively develop toolpath techniques that optimize both bulk material removal for mold roughing and high-precision surface finishing. “In both cases, we view productivity improvement as some combination of both higher precision and faster machine time,” he explained. “Our expansion of Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion and Accelerated Finishing toolpaths directly targets these areas.” For example, Dynamic Motion constantly changes the amount of engagement of the tool in the cut to ensure it is continually removing material using the optimal chip load for the cutting condition. Mund said the resulting time savings in near-net mold roughing can reach 75%. The recently introduced NC programming function, called Accelerated Finishing, ensures shops use new shaped cutting tools

the way they are intended to be used. “We work closely with tool manufacturers to develop cutting strategies aimed at oval form cutters, barrel mills, taper cutters, lens–shaped cutters and so on that, when programmed correctly, can enable small-diameter tools to have a large, effective cutting radius.” For manufacturing connectivity, Mastercam uses a combination of close partnerships with industry leaders in software, hardware and tooling. “Our partnerships provide a variety of tools critical to mold manufacturers that expand beyond CAM. Examples include probing for precision mold measurement and CAD tools for mold modeling,” Mund said. “While moldmakers always want to deliver high-quality tools of any complexity and size in record time, they are challenged by the growing demand for more complex parts and better quality,” said Roy Sterenthal, vice president, product management, 3D Systems, Rock Hill, South Carolina, developers of Cimatron CAD/CAM for tooling. “In addition, the design to manufacturing process is increasing in complexity as new technologies are being introduced to complement traditional processes – increasing the need to better manage and track the overall workflow.”

With growing demand for more complex molded parts, many moldmakers in the US are adding 5-axis (simultaneous) capabilities to their machining arsenals. “Even if shops do not currently have 5-axis machines, they are thinking about adding one in the future,” said Ryan Weekes, B.B.A., president of CGS North America, based in Oldcastle, Ontario, developers of CAM-TOOL software. Weekes added that automation also is becoming more and more prevalent in shops looking to let their software do as much of the work as possible in order to eliminate human error and get consistent results uploaded to the machines. Weekes says CGS works continually to make creating 5-axis toolpath programming easier, and the company recently improved on its CAM-TOOL Auto Five-Axis function, which allows users to take a 3-axis toolpath and convert it into a full 5-axis toolpath with the click of a button. “Most software products require a learning curve and the setting up of parameters,” he said. “Because of this, a lot of programmers are scared to make the switch to 5-axis because they think it will be so difficult to adapt to. With CAM-TOOL, you put in the angle at which you want your 5-axis toolpath to be and it will apply it to the 3-axis program. You don’t have to think about it, and you don’t have to go back and create a whole separate toolpath; just let the page 36

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software do the work. This is a huge time saver and also very helpful for more inexperienced programmers.”

CGS is making toolpath generation more automated by using templates.

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CGS also is making toolpath generation more automated by using templates, Weekes says. His customers are setting up jobs to run exactly the way they want using templates. The benefit is they can store templates from previous jobs and use them as a starting point for more, similar jobs, creating a library of time-saving resources. “That way a less experienced operator can come in and run more complex machining jobs without having to know what a more experienced machinist would do,” he explained. “The key is to make sure the templates are set up exactly right and then build on that with every new job by creating more templates. It’s a structured process that drives efficiencies and desired results.” Alan Levine, managing director, OPEN MIND Technologies USA, Inc., in Needham, Massachussets, developers of hyperMILL CAM software as well as its “CAD for CAM” solution called hyperCAD-S, concurs with Weekes, saying, “The increased machining complexity, along with its many benefits, is becoming more and more important in this technologically demanding industry. Process improvements in milling also play an increasingly important role in tool and moldmaking. Due to the machining results achieved by milling, in terms of accuracy and surface quality, grinding or polishing is by and large no longer necessary. This reduces throughput times and increases productivity.” Levine added that in order to produce tools that are efficient and stable in production in the long term, tool and mold makers should use state-of-the-art machines, cutters and CAM software whenever possible. “With dimensional tolerances often under 0.0002 inch and surface qualities for visible parts under 40 micro-inch Ra – as well as the challenge to achieve tolerances in the shortest possible time – the need for sophisticated machining strategies is significant,” he said. “Protecting cutters and machines becomes particularly obvious when we consider that the hardness of the materials used for forming and injection molding tools is rarely less than 60 HRC. CAM software must provide high process reliability through robust toolpaths, collision checking and simulations. Highly reliable processes are a prerequisite for night and weekend shifts with reduced manpower.” Answering these needs, OPEN MIND Technologies uses standardization and automation in its software’s functionality by ensuring consistent workflows via data connection to CAD systems at the beginning of the workflow and its own post-processors at the end. But functions for accelerating programming also are important, Levine said. For example, OPEN MIND’s hyperMILL CAM software offers many automation options, including feature and macro technology. “In addition to the assigned geometry, production-relevant information such as the surface, depth, or starting point is automatically recognized and transferred to the

CAM system. Processing sequences, and thus programming knowhow, are stored in macros and a macro database for easy access,” he explained. “Macro technology allows users to complete NC programming in record time. This includes, for example, prismatic mold plates with all of their 2.5D geometries and many holes for cooling.” On the CAD side, Levine said that with hyperCAD-S, hyperMILL users have perfectly supported CAD for CAM functionality. For example, to ensure no seams are visible on the molded part, the parting plane between the mold plate on the nozzle and the clamping side must be completely sealed during injection molding. “This requires sharp, intact edges,” he added. “hyperMILL provides the automatic face extension function to ensure this, allowing the periphery of selected milling surfaces to be extended during programming so it is no longer necessary to modify the milling surfaces in the CAD system beforehand. This saves programming time and achieves a better milling result.” OPEN MIND is implementing more functions for processing CAD data for further process optimization in CAM programming. “The hyperCAD-S function called Global Fitting is directly integrated into the CAM strategy in 5-axis tangent machining. This function allows multiple faces to be joined into one face with a defined ISO orientation,” Levine said. CAD/CAM MEETS ADDITIVE TECHNOLOGY Both OPEN MIND and 3D Systems noted the growing acceptance and use of additive manufacturing (AM) processes in moldmaking, and each company is looking to assist with this advancing trend. “Integrating new technologies such as additive manufacturing (AM) into the manufacturing workflow helps moldmakers meet increased demand for improved part quality,” 3D Systems’ Sterenthal said. “For example, cooling is a critical process for plastic injection molds, affecting both cycle time and final part quality. Ideally, injection mold cooling channels would follow – or conform – to a part’s geometry and maintain a uniform distance from the surface throughout the entire part. Yet, when it comes to complex parts, traditional drilling and milling methods cannot produce these optimized conformal cooling channels.” As a result, he explained, the cooling process is suboptimal and may lead to longer cycle times, warpage and sink marks on the part. By using AM to address these challenges, mold components with conformal cooling channels can be produced resulting in faster cycle times, better part quality and a more efficient cooling process. To help facilitate customers’ use of these advantages, Sterenthal said 3D Systems leveraged its expertise in AM, mold design and subtractive manufacturing technologies to offer a complete end-to-end solution for conformal cooling design and production consisting of software, printers, materials and even on-demand manufacturing services for

3D Systems assists with additive manufacturing requirements by offering software solutions that identify areas that would benefit from conformal cooling channels.

those that do not own a printer. “The solution enables moldmakers to detect areas that would benefit from conformal cooling channels, design the mold with an optimal combination of conventional and conformal cooling channels using our software solutions, produce the component with our metal 3D printers and materials and reap the time, cost and productivity benefits of conformal cooling,” he said. OPEN MIND’s Levine said, “Additive manufacturing processes will gain in importance both in prototype construction and for functional components in tools.” At EMO last year, OPEN MIND introduced its new hyperMILL ADDITIVE Manufacturing solution as an option complementing its hyperMILL CAD/CAM suite of products. According to the company, hyperMILL® ADDITIVE Manufacturing offers an array of flexible options for Directed Energy Deposition processes (DED) and Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) in terms of highly complex 5-axis simultaneous processing. Both laser-based powder nozzle machining heads and wire arc additive manufacturing can be controlled using the software from OPEN MIND for selective material deposition, as well as programmed and automatically simulated for collision avoidance. Moreover, additive and subtractive manufacturing are combined in one single machine tool for hybrid manufacturing, including true-to-detail application and removal simulation as well as stock tracking between the individual machining steps. IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE BUYING Asked what key considerations moldmaking companies should keep in mind when shopping for the right CAD/CAM software, Mastercam’s Mund said, “It starts with CAD. Shops have an increasing need for specialty CAD tools that help them turn a concept or part model into a production mold. This means design tools for model prep, solid model repair, gap filling, fixture creation and highly focused needs like page 38 |


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Mastercam's upcoming release will help moldmakers quickly fix models and correct errors.

electrodes, core/cavity model separation and parting line creation – all of the things that should happen before a tool touches metal.” CAM-TOOL’s Weekes said 3D accuracy and customer support is key. “Some customers don’t think they need to focus on surface finish because they don’t make the highest precision part. But the increased accuracy and surface finish will reduce the amount of time needed for spotting and polishing, which are very labor intensive and costly,” he explained. “Also, working with a vendor that has a technical support staff who understand the moldmaking process helps ensure that the correct toolpaths are being used for the job.” 3D Systems’ Sterenthal added that, while any software solution should include the right design, analysis, simulation and NC programming

capabilities, there are five main elements that any mold maker should look for when purchasing a new software solution or replacing any existing solution. “These include having a truly integrated CAD/CAM solution with a single interface that spans from design to manufacturing, eliminating data translation and file usage errors, among other issues, and helps reduce manufacturing time and costs,” he said. Other important aspects to consider are dedicated software for tooling – including a solution with functionality specific to mold design and manufacturing; cuttingedge technology and innovation (Is the vendor committed to providing regular updates with new features that integrate into existing workflows for added value?); ease of use and smooth implementation – an intuitive product that is easy to learn and includes an interface with mold-specific tools and automation that make mold design and NC programming easier. Finally, Sterenthal says the CAD/CAM investment should pay for itself by improving efficiencies and reducing the time needed to design and manufacture the mold. WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2020 “In 2020, 3D Systems intends to accelerate additive manufacturing adoption within the traditional moldmaking process through additional enhancements to our portfolio,” Sterenthal said. “We envision this including features that help reduce programming and machining time, as well as improved data and workflow management tools to better control, track and manage the complete manufacturing workflow.” OPEN MIND has developed new “corner rest machining” strategies for 3-axis and 5-axis techniques that provide a significant benefit in mold and die applications, Levine said. The process includes machining of corners largely with vertical stroking motions, then with traditional z-level steps to blend with the vertical section and the lower floor area. Additionally, the top section has an automatic surface extension to enable the production of sharp edges. Mastercam’s CAD for CAM prep tools will continue to be a focus, according to Mund. “In our upcoming release, we deliver a suite of new tools to help moldmakers quickly and cleanly fix models, patch holes and correct errors in CAD models they’re given,” he said. “In 2020, you will see continued improvement in 5-axis functions, as well as increased focus on support,” CGS’s Weekes explained. “Our team is growing to help support all the new functions we are developing.” The software solutions mentioned here have additional components, allowing these providers to meet needs for design, simulation, data collection and more. Watch for more on software products for moldmaking, including job tracking and costing systems, in a future issue of The American Mold Builder. n


the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

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Imanufacturing city, Craftsman Tool & Mold opened its doors n 1965, when Chicago suburb Aurora, Illinois, was a midsize

to create precision stack mold bases and rotational spin stack mold bases for the multi-shot injection mold industry throughout North and South America. Today, as a market leader in custom mold bases, Craftsman values its customers and strives to support them as competently as possible, including during the shipment process. More than a year ago, the company took steps to improve communication with its customers during this process. “The purpose of our shipping communication system is to give our customers the information they need in order to plan their production schedules,” Craftsman’s Process Improvement Manager Dan O’Neall said. This used to be a completely manual process.

The newest update allows employees in shipping to use a smartphone to take a picture of the skid and automatically save the captured image directly to Craftsman’s file server.

“The previous system was time consuming and required a lot of manual data entry. Because of this, we did not reliably send out the shipment information to our customers,” O’Neall explained. When the schedule was busy at Craftsman, its shipping personnel either didn’t have time or forgot to send out the delivery information to customers. “They had to waste time calling or sending us an email to request the information they needed regarding their shipment. Since our customers often work on tight project schedules and deadlines, they need to know when their parts will be arriving,” he added. Without up-to-date information, the customer can’t properly schedule the rest of the project, which may lead to inefficiencies, increased costs and late deliveries. As a result, Craftsman decided to create a system that was quick and efficient in order to get the information sent to customers every time.

The employee in final assembly uses CRP to determine which orders are ready to ship, inspect those orders, capture information as the orders are processed and then forward that information to the customer via an automatic email generated through Microsoft Outlook. The system was built to be as quick and efficient as possible.

The new system uses a combination of Craftsman’s current ERP system (JobBoss) and an in-house developed software the company has named CRP (Craftsman Resource Planning). “The shipping portion is an integral part of the software,” Craftsman President Wayne Sikorcin said. “It’s the last opportunity for Craftsman to find an issue or to make sure everything was shipped so our customers receive a perfect mold base.”

“This system allows us to offer better support to our customers without increasing the burden on our employees,” O’Neall continued.


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Since its implementation, the new system has been through several iterations. It is essentially home-grown, which gives the company the ability to make enhancements as it sees fit. “It is constantly changing and improving,” O’Neall explained.

The newest update allows employees in shipping to use a smartphone to take a picture of the skid and automatically save the captured image directly to Craftsman’s file server. The image is tagged with the proper job/shipment so when it comes time to send the shipping notification to the customer, the images are automatically attached to the email with a single click of the mouse.

are spending less time sending out shipping notifications, gathering information and sending information with this faster and easier system. “Our customer satisfaction also has improved since they don’t have to send a follow-up email or pick up the phone to inquire about more information relating to their shipment,” O’Neall added.

In addition to sending shipping information to its customers, This efficient system has aided the company in a multitude of ways, Craftsman also sends automatically generated status reports. This and these benefits have spilled over to both employees and customers. allows customers to track the progress of the order as it travels The information Craftsman provides to customers has improved. throughout the shop. O’Neall explained, “Our customers often are operating under extremely demanding timelines, so Craftsman “Craftsman now is able to tailor what we send out to include makes sure to keep them informed constantly throughout the order all pertinent information for the customer,” O’Neall explained. fulfillment process.” Customer specific part numbers, project numbers, descriptions, PO comments, etc., are all included. “The correspondence we provide O’Neall said the company always is looking for ways to improve the is not just a canned report that only includes Craftsman sales order level of satisfaction it provides customers. “In our shipping email, we info. We make sure the customer gets the information that makes include a link to an online survey where customers can offer direct sense to them instead of having to translate what we send them,” feedback on anything related to their order,” he said. If a customer he added. were to suggest or request something, there is a high likelihood the company would implement it into its process because the CRP Craftsman also can send customers images of their shipments and system is built around customization – doing anything to improve even SMS message updates to their phone if desired. Employees satisfaction for the customer. n Magazin: AMBA

Sprache: EN (USA)

Format: 190,5x123,825 mm

Thema: Image Eteile

AS: 24.07.2019



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MOLDMAKING 4.0: EVOLVING TECHNOLOGIES IN THE MOLDING INDUSTRY By Brittany Willes, writer, The American Mold Builder

Iindustrial revolution – also known as Industry 4.0 – with technology

n 2019, the manufacturing industry jumped head on into the next

investments totaling $59 billion (US), according to ABI Research.

Manufacturers are embracing technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, cloud-based simulation and other platforms as a means of replacing older, outdated manufacturing execution systems. Indeed, the level of investment in Industry 4.0 technology is expected to reach a staggering $375 billion by the year 2030, per ABI. INDUSTRY 4.0 TODAY What does Industry 4.0 actually look like, especially when it comes to moldmaking segments of the manufacturing industry? For many, it means having the ability to track and adapt to situations on the shop floor in real time as a result of data that is collected and measured from machines. This, in turn, leads to a host of benefits for both the mold builder and the customer. “Industry 4.0 application to mold building – in terms of the machining process, either hard milling or EDM – requires data from the machine, as well as data from the shop management system made available at the machine,” stated Jim Brown, director of digital 42

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technology for Makino. “Machine data allow real-time tracking of the machining process in terms of machine utilization and performance. Alarms or machine stoppage instantly are available to the upper-level system, allowing these problems to be cleared quickly. The visibility of what is happening with production equipment in real time at both the operation and the management levels is a major benefit.” Real-time visibility attributed to Industry 4.0 technology leads to process efficiencies, as noted by Eric Ostini, EDM product manager for GF Machining Solutions, LLC (GFMS). “Today, Industry 4.0 technology means improved utilization of machinery,” Ostini stated. “These new platforms have the ability to provide direct data of how machines are being utilized on the shop floor. Analyzing this data shows bottlenecks or other issues in the process that need to be resolved, leading to greater efficiency.” Fixing or avoiding bottlenecks is not the only way these technologies are able to improve efficiency. According to Michael Thiessen, sales manager for Tebis America, Industry 4.0 also enables the “creation of designed molds that already contain information for programming, structure and applications.” Such molds can cut down on wasted

time and resources. Furthermore, “Industry 4.0 utilizes ‘digital twins,’ such as standardized tooling, machines, work holding fixtures, etc.,” said Thiessen. Increased standardization can lead to better process monitoring, as well as improved accuracy and finishes. “The great thing about these types of systems is that they allow for much more consistent results in the moldmaking process,” noted Gisbert Ledvon, director of business development – machine tool for Heidenhain Corporation. Greater consistency in and of itself is a definite advantage, but the benefits don’t end there. “Consistency and process reliability are crucial,” said Ledvon. “It means better surface finishes and better accuracy for machining mold components. It means more efficient systems and more predictive maintenance, which prevents unnecessary downtime” – which lead to increased global competitiveness for moldmakers. In an increasingly global marketplace, it is crucial for companies to be able to keep up with customer demands that require greater numbers of applications produced in increasingly shorter timeframes. LOOKING AHEAD As noted by ABI Research, Industry 4.0 technologies already are making their mark on various industries. Moldmakers, of course, are hoping to utilize this technology to make their own marks. For instance, GFMS has set several goals for itself in terms of what it hopes to accomplish via Industry 4.0 technology. “GFMS’ first goal is to provide quicker service to our customers without compromising security,” explained Ostini. “To accomplish this, we use rConnect – a 128-bit encryption portal through the internet from GFMS to the customer’s location. The only way for GFMS to connect to the customer’s machine is by the customer’s password-protected activation.” In a world increasingly plagued by cybersecurity issues, the ability to remotely access customer machines without compromising security is a crucial advantage. “Our second goal is to provide all data to the industry,” Ostini continued. Through the use of OPC Unified Architecture – a machineto-machine communication protocol for industrial automation – on all of GFMS’ equipment, the company hopes to generate all the data points needed to provide necessary information to the industry. Building on that, GFMS’ third goal is to be a one-source solution provider to the manufacturing industry. “GFMS has a team dedicated to Industry 4.0, which is looking into what our customers want and need,” stated Ostini. “With this information, software systemsrelated analytic module, predictive module, preventive module and more can be created – if they’re not already in development.”

One of the major challenges is the ability to connect the machines to software that can perform the data handling,” said Brown. “Many older machine controls have limited capability for interfacing with Industry 4.0 technology.” Naturally, GFMS is not the only company with goals for how to best utilize Industry 4.0. According to Thiessen, as an automatic solutions provider, Tebis plans to use new automation technologies as a means of producing greater numbers of error-free parts, as well as safer processes. “Our products provide the highest capabilities for automation solutions,” remarked Thiessen. “Utilizing Industry 4.0 will allow us to achieve a high degree of automation principles with integrated simulation of machines for safe processes – ones that already are driven by the design of the mold. It also will allow us to guide the manufacturing process in order to achieve perfect parts every time.” Tebis’ ability to utilize design-driven automated processes for all manufacturing solutions makes for greater quality, higher efficiency and reduced downtime – something all segments of the industry strive for in order to remain competitive. Makino likewise is taking advantage of the ability to automate the data collection process. According to Brown, “We are applying Industry 4.0 techniques to provide actionable data to the machining operation. To accomplish this, we are adding analytics to the data collection. The analytics processes the acquired data to alert the operator and/or the management of conditions that are affecting the machining operation. These notifications can be both real time and predictive in nature. Instead of collecting data that must be manually analyzed, the Industry 4.0 data can be automatically analyzed.” For Makino, the efficiency and quality of operations will be greatly improved by giving the machining operation actionable data already analyzed to reveal possible causes for problems or potential problem conditions. AVOIDING PITFALLS While the benefits are undeniable, no system is without its challenges. The reality is that many shop floors are not necessarily prepared to operate in an Industry 4.0 setting. “One of the major challenges is the ability to connect the machines to software that can perform the data handling,” said Brown. “Many older machine controls have limited capability for interfacing with Industry 4.0 technology.” That doesn’t mean that manufacturers should opt out of investing in new page 45 |


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Someone from the company needs to be the main driver of standardizing and automating processes.” technologies. However, when it comes to investing in Industry 4.0, there are several factors of which moldmakers and other manufacturers need to be aware. To begin with, companies need to be realistic with their expectations. As Brown noted, “Implementing Industry 4.0 on a large scale can be very expensive. Before launching into the project, make sure the technology can meet your Industry 4.0 objectives. Industry 4.0 is a very broad technology, with many different aspects. Take time up front to make sure the technology you are planning to implement will provide the results you need.” “Take small steps,” advised Ledvon. “Utilize and connect the equipment within the shop first, and be patient. Furthermore, it is important to be sure the business owner has a thorough understanding of both the technology and how to implement it in his own shop.”

be difficult to determine at first glance, which is why it’s crucial for manufacturers to do their research before committing to a provider. Other questions manufacturers should be asking themselves as they prepare to implement Industry 4.0 include the following: • How long should the company store the data it collects? Thirty days? One year? Longer? • What is the cost of data storage? This could affect how long the company wishes to store the collected data. Finally, perhaps the biggest question manufacturers need to ask themselves when transitioning to Industry 4.0: What kind of data does the company want or need to be collecting? “Now that you can get the data, what do you do with it?” questioned Ostini. “What are the analytics you want to explore?” Finding the answer to this question could be like finding a needle in a haystack, but it’s worth exploring in order to get the most out of Industry 4.0 technology. n

Failing to have a solid knowledge base in this area can lead to many additional, unnecessary problems that might otherwise have been avoided – including lost productivity and profit as the owner and employees struggle to make sense of the new technology. “You need a key implementer,” stated Thiessen. “Someone from the company needs to be the main driver of standardizing and automating processes. There also needs to be intensive training for that person, the key implementer, to ensure that individual is up to speed on how to automate.” According to Thiessen, the key implementer should be someone who is very structured, as the process of implementing Industry 4.0 requires “thoroughly planning processes from start to finish before beginning to implement them into the structure. This way the process won’t need to be further adjusted in the future and can benefit the company for many years.” ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS As noted previously, some equipment on the shop floor may not be ready to provide data. In that case, as Ostini advised, “It can get expensive to accumulate a single data point from older equipment.” Beyond the potential expense, there’s also the question of which software/equipment provider to choose. “When deciding on a dashboard provider, it’s important to find one that will grow with the company,” Ostini continued. This can

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the american MOLD BUILDER | Issue 1 2020

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