Custom injection molder Eck Plastic Art is stepping up its product development marketing efforts under new ownership.
The Binghamton, N.Y., firm is promoting its rapid prototyping skills, according to Brett Pennefeather, new co-owner and president.
"We have had 3D printing capability for a while but have not been utilizing it much," Pennefeather said in a phone interview. "We have done research to make plastic molds and we're beginning to see a lot of success in it."
Eck Plastic is making molds by 3D printing an ABS-like material to allow part runs of up to 500 units for the prototyping and pre-production stages, Pennefeather explained. It is using a late model Stratasys Connex 350 3D printer to make the ABS molds which are capable of churning out parts in the final production plastic.
Pennefeather said automotive is the company's major single market, for which it molds knobs, pulleys and other small parts in its four injection presses with clamps of 60 to 120 tons. The rest of its client base is diverse.
Eck Plastic is partly funding an analysis of its manufacturing methods that could save it up to 30 percent of the time to get a project from concept to production. Binghamton University's engineering school is conducting the analysis using funds generated within the university plus funding from Eck Plastic and the state of New York.
Pennefeather declined to provide sales figures but said the company is growing and planning two new hires for its 18-person staff, in sales and engineering. It soon also will hire a new person to head its tooling department to replace the current manager who is retiring.
Eck Plastic is running 60 hours over a six-day workweek but Pennefeather expects his firm will soon need to add more shifts. In addition to injection molding, the company has two vacuum formers and a range of CNC machining equipment to fabricate diverse parts.
The Pennefeather family bought Eck Plastics from Robert Eck, who is retiring. Brett has a background in commercial lending that fits well with his family's manufacturing experience in running the plastics business. The Pennefeathers finalized the acquisition last summer but with the many changes that come with new ownership, it only got around to an official ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the ownership change on March 10, some 68 years after the company was founded.
"We came across this opportunity and took a few years to work on completing the deal," Pennefeather noted.
Eck Plastic's Connex 350 printer has a 13.8 by 7.9 inches build tray and can print objects with as many as 14 different properties in the part. Printing resolution is about 16 microns, allowing production of complex geometries, smooth surfaces and thin walls.