AKRON, OHIO - Despite air freight costs and a trip to England, Akron Pattern Works Inc. said a new process it is using can cut tooling costs by 40 percent while reducing lead times for tooling for composites to as little as 90 days. Akron Pattern Works has formed an alliance with Ex-Press Process Equipment Ltd. of Loddon, England, to make tooling that combines steel frames and laminated mandrels with nickel shells. The company claims that the low costs of the mandrels and the low cost of the nickel plating combine to keep the costs of the tooling lower than conventional tooling.
Tom Hartz and Albert Caprez, owners of Akron Pattern Works, said the tooling can be made quickly and inexpensively, and can be used as temporary production tooling while permanent tools are made.
Akron Pattern Works makes the patterns and mandrels for the tooling, then air freights the mandrels to England, where Ex-Press Process Equipment applies a nickel shell. The tools are returned to Akron for finishing, Hartz said.
The tools are designed for low volume production applications, in processes where molding pressures do not exceed 100 pounds per square inch, according to Martin Baginski, manager of thermoplastic applications for Production Methods Corp. of Austinburg, Ohio. He helped to put Akron Pattern Works and Ex-Press Process Equipment together.
Baginski said the tooling is best suited for resin transfer molding, low pressure compression molding and reaction injection molding.
While Ex-Press has been producing such tooling for many years, Baginski said the tooling was considered too expensive and too difficult to get because the company is remote.
With Akron Pattern Works as the domestic maker of the tooling, it became more accessible, Baginski said.
Caprez said savings on the tooling depends on the size of a mold made. The larger the tool, the greater the savings, he said.
Ex-Press has built tools up to 44 feet in length and nearly 6 feet wide that are used to make elevator panels for Boeing Aircraft Co.'s 777 commercial airliner, said Baginski.
Akron Pattern Works is a supplier to the automotive industry, and Caprez said several automakers have expressed interest in the tooling for preproduction parts and to help get parts into production faster. Baginski also said the company is targeting bathtub, spa and shower manufacturers for the tooling.