A Big Demand for the Smallest of Parts

By: Rebecca Carnes, Design-2-Part Magazine There’s small. There’s micro. And then there’s super-micro. Accumold handles all three with a “micro-mindset,” where artistry, talent, and tooling have as much to do with crafting the smallest of critical components as the molding machine that forms them. The company, which primarily serves clients in the medical, micro-electronics, and micro-optics industries, is able to handle part sizes less than 1mm in size, tolerances under 5 microns, and part features at sub-micro levels, according to Accumold’s marketing manager, Aaron Johnson. The largest part Accumold produces is about three inches in diameter and micro-molded parts range in size from ½ inch to parts with features measured in microns. But micro-molding goes far beyond part size. “We define micro-molding by size, features, and tolerances,” Johnson said. “You can mold simple little pieces here and there, but if the parts don’t contain micro features, tight tolerances, tough geometry and/or the parts aren’t on the extreme side of size, then it probably isn’t true micro-molding.” Injection molders who simply buy a machine to get into micro-molding are in for a big awakening. “It’s not just about making a big tool small. When making small parts, not only do you need to know how to build the tool, you also need to know how to handle the material so it gets to where it needs to go,” Johnson said. Ankeny, Iowa-based Accumold has been in the business of micro-molding for the past 25 years. When two tool makers who started the company built their first micro-molder, it was possibly the first in the world. Accumold came to “shape and define what micro-molding is” just when electronics and medical applications were beginning to get smaller, he said. Minimally-invasive Procedures Trend Smaller The medical industry often requires the smallest of parts so procedures are less intrusive to the body. The most challenging parts Accumold faces come from the medical industry, said technology manager Greg Peterson, who started with Accumold 22 years ago as a tool maker. Parts for the medical industry continue to get smaller with even tighter tolerances. “If you’re making parts for a delicate surgical procedure, you need to have very little flash or...

Defense Cuts Require Contractor Creativity

By: Aerospace Manufacturing and Design A top Air Force leader say the possible defense cuts for the United States could actually help spur innovation. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, commander of the Wright-Patterson headquartered Air Force Command, told the Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association that although the cuts could hurt business, they could also provide opportunities for contractors with good ideas, according to the Dayton Daily News. The opportunity “to bring good ideas forward and have them get a fair sound hearing in a way that (in) some other environments we don’t get the opportunity to put those good ideas on the table as readily,” the paper quotes her as saying. According to the paper, Wolfenbarger has three suggestions for contractors to cope with the possible 9.4% defense budget cuts in January: “more input when determining capability requirements; more ‘agility and flexibility’ within the system and dialog with industry to adjust rapidly to contract requirement changes; and staying within contract budget limits and technical standards.” She also says execution is key. “You will find that those programs that were canceled, substantially modified, or didn’t fare well in the president’s budget request would be those that are not executing...

Do You Know the Financial Health of Your Suppliers?

By: Mark Stortt, Deisgn-2-Part Magazine Long term financial strength is a business plan priority for a spring manufacturing company that practices Open Book Management If you’re looking for a supplier of high quality, low cost parts and would like to talk with Springfield Spring Corporation President Norman Rodriques about the possibility of bringing his company into your supply chain, be prepared for an offer to check out his company’s financial Z-Score. The spirited head of the East Longmeadow, Massachusetts-based manufacturer of springs, wire forms, and stampings takes justifiable pride in his company’s financial solvency–not to mention its year-after-year growth in sales, profit, and capital investments–after having steered the firm through some turbulent economic storms over the last dozen years. Rodriques, a passionate practitioner and advocate of Open Book Management, willingly documents Springfield Spring’s financial stability for prospective OEM clients, many of whom request that their suppliers offer financial transparency before entering into a manufacturing relationship. He knows that many corporations have been burned by supply chain disruptions resulting from the financial insolvency of companies that had formerly supplied critical components. “During the recession, supply chain disruptions were happening all over the place,” he says. “We were trying to tell customers, we’re a supplier you don’t have to worry about. So if you’ve got five spring suppliers, and one’s not shipping on time that used to be, could it be potentially that they can’t get raw material? How many people have been laid off? What’s their turnover? What’s their debt service ratio? Are they over-leveraged? And all of a sudden, it really doesn’t become a discussion in ISO.” Springfield Spring Corporation (www.springfieldspring.com), a privately held company with headquarters in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts and a division in Bristol, Connecticut, manufactures precision-engineered compression springs, extension springs, and torsion springs, as well as wire forms, stampings, light assemblies, and air filter holding frame clips. The company services a variety of industries, such as firearms, medical devices, lighting, filter frame hardware, electrical distribution controls, window screen hardware, and military. Many prominent OEMs–including Cook Medical, Toyota, Covidien, Bose, Cooper Lighting, Otis, and Smith & Wesson–are among the firm’s customers. As a practitioner of Open Book Management, Springfield Spring teaches its...

Manufacturers are Saving by Reshoring

By: Today’s Energy Solutions Lower costs, better product quality and quicker “time-to-market” pressures among factors that are leading U.S. manufacturing customers to consider the “Made in the USA” stamp. After decades of relying on global manufacturing sourcing, many U.S. manufacturing firms are taking a closer look at reshoring – a term referring to manufacturing that was previously done in foreign countries and has been moved back to America. According to an analysis by Acorn Systems, a leading provider for profitability and cost management solutions, 28% of its current manufacturing customers have saved an average of $23 million in annual costs from domestic sourcing. Acorn Systems’ analysis shows that a major driver of the reshoring trend is the manufacturers’ customers themselves. One specialty retailer evaluated all its product categories and analyzed domestic versus import sourcing and then rationalized for lowest cost sources. For many low dollar items, U.S. sourcing is actually more cost-effective when the total picture of all costs is included. Acorn has observed both this indirect and direct evaluations resulting in demand for reshoring. Gone are the days of low-cost labor to get the “cheapest price” for an end product. U.S. manufacturing and retail companies are now giving more attention to attaining the “lowest total price” or “net landed costs” to avoid the sting of rising wages for Chinese workers and a strengthening Chinese currency. According to a recent report from The Hackett Group, the most important decision-driver in the sourcing strategy for manufacturing firms is net landed costs, which incorporates components historically overlooked, such as raw material costs, manufacturing costs, transportation and logistics, inventory carrying costs, taxes, duties, etc. Other factors cited when considering the option to reshore include: • Product quality – For manufacturers, quality is always top of mind. Justin Rose, a principal with the Boston Consulting Group says, “You never know what’s being sourced from local suppliers and if it’s up to quality standards.” Rose also points out that extra-long supply chains add uncertainty to the shipping and distribution process, causing manufacturers to hold a lot more inventory to ensure that retailers can be kept stocked. • Shorter product life expectancy and faster time-to-market: The life expectancy of products...

The Future of American Manufacturing – Is there Reason for Hope?

By: Michele Nash-Hoff, Can American Manufacturing Be Saved While the state of American manufacturing has been grim for the past decade, the “reshoring” trend and new technologies are making the outlook for the future of American manufacturing look brighter than it now appears. In the past few years, the key factors for returning manufacturing to America have been quality problems, rising labor costs, intellectual property theft, rising shipping costs, long lead times for product delivery from Asia, and the cost of inventory for the larger lots you have to buy from Asia to get the cheaper prices. Now, Harry Moser’s Total Cost of Ownership worksheet calculator is helping companies quantify the hidden costs of doing business offshore enabling more companies to make the decision to reshore manufacturing. According to Harry Moser, founder of the “Reshoring Initiative about 10% of companies nationwide are bringing manufacturing back to America from Asia. It is a pleasure to read frequent stories about even large companies such as Dow Chemicals, Caterpillar, GE, and Ford starting to move some manufacturing back to the U.S. from China. “But rising costs and political pressure aren’t what’s going to rapidly change the equation.” according to Vivek Wadhwa, Vice President of Academics and Innovation at Singularity University. “The disruption will come from a set of technologies that are advancing at exponential rates and converging. These technologies include robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, and nanotechnology. These have been moving slowly so far, but are now beginning to advance exponentially just as computing does.” In the past, large American food product companies like General Mills and Kraft Foods, as well as the automotive industry, have been the biggest user of complex robotic systems. But, today’s robots are smaller and cheaper ─ they are really specialized electromechanical devices run by software and remote control designed to perform specific tasks in the manufacturing of products for a variety of industries. These robots are cost effective for lower production volume than those used in the food and automotive industry enabling more companies to utilize this technology. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is really the software that makes computers, robots, and even unmanned aircraft and space vehicles run in an “intelligent”...