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The Manufacturing Career Path - Guest Post from our Tooling Manager

by Administrator8. June 2017 11:36

 

 

Guest post from Tooling Manager, Joe Karpinski

 

I joined Team Thogus a year and a half ago as the Tooling Manager.  My responsibilities range from estimating/quoting, customer service, vendor/supplier relations, design, quality, purchasing, prototyping, production support, machining, coaching/mentoring, and mold maintenance. It’s true – I wear a lot of hats! But that is the beauty of this career field.

 

With more than twenty-five years of experience in the plastic injection molding manufacturing industry, wearing those many hats, I’ve come to the realization that “you” can determine the success and future from a career in manufacturing.  

 

1. Innovation - Technology

 

Not trying to date myself but I remember creating drawings on a drafting board in shop class. Then, I was introduced to AutoCAD in the mid-80s, which was a huge advantage, because it opened opportunities for any job field that utilizes CADD (Computer Aided Drafting & Design).

 

Manufacturing isn’t working in a foundry pouring steel billets like my grandfather did decades ago, and like some people still do to this day. The industry has evolved with innovation and technology. For those that want to make chips on a milling machine or design the next innovative product using virtual reality, the opportunities are there – period.

 

Innovation goes hand-in-hand with manufacturing and always has. Power-generation systems using steam and water powered manufacturing equipment back in 1784. The assembly line introduction utilized electric back in 1870 to modernize mass production. In 1969, the first (PLC) programmable logic controller (or Robot) was used to automate production process. The future of manufacturing will be driven by (CPS) cyber-physical systems which allow for endless information to be shared in a manufacturing facility inside and outside their physical walls. The manufacturing industry and systems will not only optimize the process, but will analyze and communicate directly to execute tasks.

 

Going into manufacturing means you will experience innovation and technology. It’s not your grandfather’s factory.

 

 

2. Hands On

 

Most of the people that choose the manufacturing industry as a career path have either; taken something apart, tried to put to back together, sketched something on a piece of paper, grabbed a tool to fix something, visualized a product or process, or created something. Manufacturing reaches pretty much every aspect of our lives daily. So, I struggle when I hear that manufacturing has lost its appeal for the generations to follow because of previous views or perceptions of manufacturing. I will state, however, that the manufacturing industry is, and always be, a hands-on career, regardless of how you want to define hands-on.

 

The official definition of hands-on is, ‘involving or offering participation rather than theory.’ Is there no theory in manufacturing? Yes there is, but along with it, there are also people that must prove or disprove that theory. 

 

For example: You walk into your garage and pick up a piece of wood. You have a concept in mind or on paper to transform that piece of wood. Then, you survey the garage to find the tools to “shape/transform” that piece of wood. Finally, you perform the task necessary to generate the final product. Yep, you guessed it, that is ‘manufacturing.’

 

That is the beauty of this industry. You are part of ‘making’.

 

 

3. Longevity

 

The manufacturing industry will always need people to support this career field. The world revolves around people making stuff, creating stuff, and providing stuff to all the other people in the world. My best recommendation to those considering the manufacturing industry is: there are multiple paths to follow and you will get out of it what you put into it. The part I most enjoy about my job is delivering the final product and/or service to my internal & external customers.

 

I highly recommend considering manufacturing as your career destination. You can find resources to help you. I have had the honor to work with Lorain County Community College’s Engineering program. If you are interested in manufacturing but don’t know where to start, check them out! Below is a snapshot from Lorain Community College’s Engineering & Manufacturing Pathway. LCC also offers the RAMP program (Retooling Adults for Manufacturing Programs).







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Injection Molding | Manufacturing | Plastics

Plastic Injection Molding or Additive Manufacturing?

by Administrator4. January 2017 15:10

 

As a plastic injection molder, it surprised many when we entered the additive manufacturing industry with the creation of rp+m in 2012.  Why would we entertain the thought of starting a company whose industry was considered a direct threat to plastic injection molding? Simple, we believed that this technology would pair well with injection molding.

While the two technologies may be complimentary, there are still times when one will be a better choice. 

COST:

Plastic injection molding is the most popular method to make plastic parts. One reason is cost. If you need thousands of parts produced annually, plastic injection molding would be the most cost effective, even when factoring in the tooling. While a tool will cost thousands of dollars, the actual piece price for the part may run as low as a few cents (if a very small part made of a common polymer). Even small parts produced via additive manufacturing will cost tens of dollars per part – price for thousands of parts and you will quickly match the cost of plastic injection molding.

If you need a small plastic part made but only need a few of them – additive manufacturing is your better choice. When only a few parts are needed the cost for tooling in plastic injection molding is prohibitive. Additive manufacturing is the better choice for lower part quantities.

DESIGN ITERATIONS:

Sometimes you have a part design that isn’t quite there but you need to know where exactly the issues might be with the part. Additive manufacturing is your best choice. Your CAD design can be uploaded and the part made in hours. You can then have your part in-hand to review and decide what changes need to be made to the design.

TIME:

The time it takes to make your parts truly depends on the size and number of parts you need. If you need just a handful of parts, additive manufacturing is absolutely the most efficient choice to produce the parts. If thousands of parts are needed throughout the year, then plastic injection molding is your best choice when mass-producing.

QUALITY:

While there have been great strides in additive manufacturing to create high quality parts, injection molding can produce a part that typically has a better appearance to it and can be made with various surface finishes (including in-mold labeling and diamond-finishes).

 

                   

Complexity in design with 3D printing  

 

          

 Overmolding and high gloss finish with injection molding                                 

 

 

 

 

 

Even four years later we firmly believe that plastic injection molding and additive manufacturing are complementary technologies that can exist on their own or work together. If you have a part design but want to have the opportunity for design iterations before committing, you could have the part made via 3D printing and oncethe design is confirmed, then move forward to mass-production via injection molding. We are very excited to see what the next stages will be with additive manufacturing and how it will continue to work with plastic injection molding.

10 Interesting Facts about Plastic Injection Molding

by Administrator5. December 2016 13:09

 

We at Thogus find plastic injection molding fascinating and while we recognize that this might not be the case for most, we do think the facts below are pretty interesting. Enjoy! 

  • The first plastic injection molding machine was patented in the United States in 1872 by John Wesley Hyatt, with help from his brother.
  • The original purpose for the injection molding machine was to make billiard balls by injection celluloid into a mold. Celluloid went on to replace ivory in billiard ball production. 
  • In 1946 the Injection Molding industry was revolutionized by American James Hendry when he updated Hyatt’s design from a plunger to a screw injection molding. To this day most plastic injection molding machines use this technique
  • In the 1970s James Hendry also designed the first gas-assisted injection molding process, allowing for more complex parts to be made.
  • Injection molding is the most popular method of plastic processing.
  • In 1980 Apple selected the material ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) for personal computers.
  • There are over 80,000 different materials available for molding (including 17,000 plastics).
  • Injection molded parts can range in size as large as a car bumper or tractor hood down to a part smaller than the eraser on a pencil.
  • There are over 8,000 plastic injection molders in the United States including captive molders and contract manufacturers. 
  • Since 1949 Lego has injection molded over 400 BILLION Lego elements and currently they produce on average 35,000 Lego elements a minute. 

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Injection Molding | Manufacturing | Plastics

Cold vs Hot Runner Molds – Benefits to Both

by Administrator29. June 2016 17:58

Following part design and material selection the next step in plastic injection molding is getting the tool designed and made. One of the earliest decisions to make is whether to have a cold runner or hot runner system. 

Cold Runner

When a mold is designed for a cold runner system, you have a channel formed between the two halves of a mold, allowing the plastic to move from the injection molding machine nozzle to the cavities. When the mold opens to eject the newly formed parts, the material in the runner system is also ejected, resulting in scrap material.

Hot Runner

This system is an assembly of heated components that inject molten plastic into the cavities of the mold. A hot runner system typically includes a heated manifold and a number of heated nozzles. When a mold with a hot runner system opens, only the part ejects as material in the runner system is kept molten and will fill into the part cavity during the next cycle.

So which do you choose?

Benefits of a Hot Runner System:

  • Eliminate the runner thus eliminating expensive scrap (and potential regrind issues) and you have less handling of materials. 
  • Lower the cycle time since you are not waiting for the cold runner to cool during the cycle. Removing the runner also improves the injection screw recovery and injection time since due to the smaller shot size
  • Design flexibility because you can locate the gate at many points on the part

 Downsides of a Hot Runner System:

  •      Very expensive to design and build
  •      Maintenance of the mold requires higher level of expertise
  •      Complicated design 

Benefits of a Cold Runner System:

  • Less expensive to manufacture
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Easier to use for a wide variety of polymers

Downsides of a Cold Runner System:

  • Scrap waste through runner system and handling of materials
  • Potentially incorporating regrind into the system

When you are making the decision to choose between the a cold or hot runner system it is important to have a thorough understanding of your part, the material, and the estimated annual units. While hot runner systems are expensive to make, the scrap material waste and extended cycle time can offset the tooling savings.

 

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Injection Molding | Manufacturing | Plastics | Training

An Insider's View - American Injection Molding Institute (AIM) Certificate Program

by Administrator28. March 2016 14:03

My name is William Allen. I have been around plastics injection molding my entire life. My parents actually met while working in an injection molding facility as young adults and I can remember recognizing the sounds and smells of a plastics plant as early as five years old. When I found myself on the hunt for a job in 2005 I made my way into the plastics world as well. Starting out as an operator I was able to see plastics manufacturing from many angles as I worked my way up through the ranks. My first formal training in the realm of processing came in the form of a two day class and a one month crash course from a newly hired engineer on staff at Nampac (North American Packaging) which, at the time, was located in East Cleveland Ohio. That was in 2007. At the time, I was strictly working with polypropylene making one product – buckets - in several sizes and colors on the 11 presses we had in house. It wasn’t until midway through 2008, when Nampac closed its doors, that I joined the Thogus Products family as a process technician. I immediately started to realize just how many different plastics there were, and how much processing variation could exist in a facility that ran so many custom jobs.

Over the course of the next six years I enrolled in three additional technical training programs and gained a great deal of invaluable experience. My experience expanded across many different machines, several types of robots and automation, and of course multiple types and grades of plastic. Fast forward to March 2015, I was then offered an opportunity to be among the inaugural class of the AIM Institute in Erie Pennsylvania - an opportunity I will be eternally thankful for and know I will benefit from for the balance of my career. 

Upon taking the entrance test for the AIM Institute (strictly for the sake of gauging current level of knowledge) I realized two things. First, this was not going to be a walk in the park. Second, I simply did not know nearly as much as I thought I did in the realm of injection molding. I was a fair mixture of nervous and excited. But, since I only had a week’s notice before the first of the four classes I was not able to do any research on what exactly I had signed up for; and therefore possibly less nervous than I would have been. Previously, I had read many articles both written by and written about John Beaumont, Mike Sepe and John Bozzelli and recognized them as leaders and pioneers in their respective corners of the plastics world. Little did I know that they would be among the instructors that would be teaching the AIM institute classes. I was a bit star-struck to say the least when I first entered the classroom and saw their name tags on the desks. I remember thinking “I might be out of my league here.” Turns out the mix of students in that class ranged from product design, to tooling, to processing and even quality control. The class, thankfully, is designed to work for anyone in the plastics world.

Throughout the next year I learned plastics - starting at the molecular level and working all the way through tool design, processing and even part review and design. The classes, while very challenging (even for the Thogus, degreed plastics engineer who was taking the class as well), were not the usual “take your information and go” type of classes. There was an enormous amount of support not only during the class and on the homework assigned between classes, but on any day of the week at any time. The instructors were just an email away and their responses were always prompt and informative. They want the students to succeed and their passion for the plastics industry was always evident. I admittedly had rough patches in some areas, but I was never completely lost. When I needed help it was always available.

In addition to the support from the instructors at the AIM Institute, the time allotted to me by my workplace to complete the WebEx classes and homework assignments was pivotal in my completion of the certification as well. Without Thogus’ support and encouragement throughout the program I may not have done as well or even have been able to complete and pass the classes. Their investment in me made an enormous difference in my ability to do well and directly impacted how much I was able to digest and retain the information. 

After my grade for the final test came in and I received my certificate in the “Plastics Engineering and Technology” program I had a great sense of pride. I finished the class tied for the top grade, and while the class was not very large, I felt very accomplished. More importantly, I had a measurable increase in confidence. I was able to step up at work and take on a new role with new responsibilities. I bring a new understanding of troubleshooting to every situation and find myself narrowing in on a particular problem so that I can quickly investigate solutions. I am able to look at new designs and recognize potential issues before products are launched, which can make a world of difference once the steel is cut and processing begins. The lessons and education I was afforded by this program have made a world of difference for me in my day-to-day work. Learning real world applications from experts in a professional setting and having the homework and reinforcement between classes made the information stick. It was an experience I will never forget, and the confidence to challenge the industry standards, ask questions and strive to solve problems will be a staple in my career. 

AIM Certificate

 

Which plastic processing method should you choose?

by Administrator17. March 2016 09:23

 

Plastic products are everywhere and the processes in which to make them are many. Knowing which process to choose for making a plastic part is key to making a quality part, and also to finding a supplier that can help you achieve your production goals. 

So, how do you choose? Let’s look at some of the most common processes used to make a plastic part:

1. Blow molding

Typical Use: Blow molding is typically used in the making of hollow parts, like bottles, that have a uniform wall thickness.

Overview of the Process: The first step in blow molding is the creation of a resin parison or a preform. A parison is a tube-like shape of plastic with a hole in one end that allows pressurized air to pass through. The parison is then clamped into the machine and air pressure is used to inflate the material which fills up the mold and creates the desired shape.

Variations of the Technology: Within the technology there are three types; extrusion blow molding, injection blow molding, and injection stretch molding.

 

2. Thermoforming

Typical Use: Within thermoforming there are two categories: Thin-gauge and thick-gauge. Thin-gauge thermoforming requires sheets less than .060in thick (1.5mm) and thick-gauge, the sheets are greater than .120in thick (3mm). Trays and packaging for medical, food, and retail are created using thin-gauge and larger items like plastic pallets, bumpers, refrigerator lines are made using thick-gauge thermoforming.

Overview of the Process: A plastics sheet is heated until it is pliable and placed over or between a steel mold of the shape to form customized plastic products. Typically thermoforming is done in a continuous, high-speed process where thousands of parts are made each hour.

Variations of the Technology: Vacuum forming, compression molding, pressure forming

 

3. Rotational plastic molding or roto molding

Typical Use: Rotational molding is typically used when making hollow parts that require uniform wall thickness such as tanks or kayak bodies. 

Overview of the Process: A mold is filled with a polymer resin – typically in powder form; the resin is then heated to a molten state while the mold rotates bi-axially so that the resin coats the inside of the mold cavity in a uniform fashion. Once cooled the part is removed from the mold.

Variations of the Technology: Much of the variation in rotational molding lies in the production equipment itself. There are a variety of methods used to actually rotate the molds: Rock and Roll, Clamshell, Carousel, Vertical, Shuttle and Swing Arm machines to name a few. Rotational molding often times is confused with rotational or spin casting which have slight variations that make them different than rotational molding. 

 

4. Extrusion

Typical Use: Extrusion is used to make products that have linear and fixed cross-sectional profiles such as pipe, hose, and fenestration products; and is the reason why extrusion is often times referred to as profile extrusion.  Extrusion is also one of the most common processes used to make compounded plastic pellets for extrusion or injection molding.

Overview of the Process: Either plastic compounded pellets or a dry blend of chemicals are placed into the material hopper and then loaded into the barrel of the extrusion machine where they are heated and worked along a screw to the end of a machine where they exit through a die. The die shape dictates the ultimate dimensions of the profile coming out of the machine. The shape or profile is then cooled and cut to the desired length. Because of the length requirements, often times extrusion equipment can take up an extensive amount of space on a shop floor.

Variations of the Technology: Often the screw does the majority of the work to extrude the product through the die, but in highly filled polymers such as fiber-reinforced profiles sometimes a method of pulltrusion is employed where the extrudate is pulled through a long die. 


5. Injection molding

Typical Use: Injection molding is the most common method of manufacturing plastic parts and is ideal when production of a single part is of high volume. Injection molding allows for a fast rate of production, the ability to have many textures, finished, colors and complex parts.

Overview of the Process: Similar to extrusion, plastic compounded pellets are loaded into the barrel of a machine where the material is melted and worked down the length of a screw. Unlike extrusion, however, instead of exiting the machine through a die, the material is pushed through a runner system into a closed mold made of steel in the shape of the desired part. The mold goes through a heating and cooling cycle and once the desired temperatures and time settings are achieved the mold opens and the part can be removed.

Variations of the Technology: Much of the variation that exists in injection molding has to do with the way in which the injection molding machine itself is positioned (vertical or horizontal) and also the way the tool is designed. Tooling and the machine are always dictated by the complexity of the part and the volumes that need to be achieved while optimizing manufacturing efficiencies.

Now that you know the processes let’s refer to a chart for advantages and disadvantages of each as it relates to potential applications.

 

Technology

Types of Parts

Advantages

Disadvantages

Blow molding

Disposable containers for packaging liquid consumer goods (soda bottles) 

Produce a one-piece hollow part

Best suited for mass production of small containers

Higher productivity than rotational molding

Limited to thermoplastics

Limited to hollow-forms

Wall thickness hard to control

Thermoforming

Tables, trays, liners, bumpers, packaging

Make parts quickly

Large and small parts can be made

Material is higher in quality and durability

Tool costs are less than other processes

Material costs can be as much as 50% higher than other methods

Uses more plastic than other methods

Rotational Molding


Tanks and other large, hollow parts 

Very little material wasted

Best suited for making large hollow parts

Not fast-moving process

Material costs are high

Extrusion

Drinking straws, pipes, tubes, hoses, optical fibers, fenestration products, deck boards

Low initial setup cost

Low production costs 

Limited precision

Restricted to only parts with a uniform cross section

Injection Molding

High volume, complex shapes

Most versatile

Many types of resins & additives

Fast production

Low labor costs

Design flexibility

High initial tooling cost

Part design restrictions

Accurate Part design required at initial stages 

 

 

Hopefully this information will help you when you have to decide what process to use when making a plastic part! 

 

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Manufacturing | Plastics

Transitioning from the military to the workforce

by Administrator8. February 2016 10:26

Guest post from our own James Michalenko and his transition from the military to the workforce!

When I thought about what I wanted to do for a career as a high school graduate, I only knew that I wanted it to be fun, exciting and challenging. So I decided to join the United States Marine Corps Reserves while I decided on college. The Marine Corps Infantry delivered just about everything that I was looking for, but I realized it wasn't what I wanted to do long-term. After returning from boot camp, my father told me about a Plastics Engineering Technology program at The Behrend College, Pennsylvania State University in Erie, Pennsylvania. The main selling point at that time, in 2004, was that the industry was relatively young and the job placement was 99.0% coming out of the program. I decided to try it out and quickly realized that it could possibly deliver the challenge I was looking for. I believed it could also occupy and interest me with all of the different types of manufacturing and engineering opportunities that exist, relative to the industry. In 2005, I was soon pulled out of college and the Plastics Engineering Technology program to serve overseas in Iraq. Returning back to school was difficult, however, the technical exposure, opportunity and the humming of an injection molding machine quickly got me back into plastics engineering and manufacturing. Today, I experience more opportunities to engineer applications and products than I could have ever imagined. The troubleshooting, critical thinking and discipline, among other things, that I developed while in the Corps, prepared me well for the manufacturing leadership position I hold today. It is obvious that the industry is still developing beyond what it was when I joined, and there is still much to be learned and redefined in the industry. It's exciting to be apart of the plastics industry.

Read more about Plastics Careers - http://www.moldingthefuture.org/

 

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Career | Manufacturing | Military | Plastics

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