To meet its molding customers' design needs, Summit Plastic Solutions Inc. has linked up with a Winter Park, Fla., firm that specializes in rapid prototyping and time-compression engineering. The partnership initially will target Summit's electronic enclosure customers - manufacturers of business, medical and telecommunications equipment, said Summit President Terry Minnick.
Partner Marathon Manufacturing Services Inc. does mechanical engineering, product and industrial design, solids modeling, rapid prototyping and short runs at its 10,000-square-foot plant in Winter Park, where it employs 12.
Summit injection molds electronic enclosures at plants in Florence, Mass., and Daytona Beach, Fla., for customers that include IBM Corp., Motorola Inc. and Texas Instruments. In April the firm acquired its first mold making capabilities with the purchase of injection molder Presto Plastics Corp. of Stamford, Conn. Summit operates 53 presses, and has sales of about $60 million.
Minnick said his company also will add mold making at its headquarters plant in Daytona Beach by year's end, enabling it to bring 60 percent of its customers' mold building in-house.
The firms are not bound by a financial agreement, nor are they exchanging technology, said Marathon marketing manager Ken Lauterer. Robert Begley, Marathon chief executive, tagged the arrangement a marketing partnership, in which the companies' respective sales forces represent each other.
``We're partners to better serve the client. We potentially are a strategic element of [Summit's] sales and marketing plan,'' Begley said.
The partnership is a first for both firms, though Summit does business with other engineering and design shops, and Marathon with other injection molders. About 95 percent of Marathon's design business is for plastic, with 90 percent of that for injection molded parts, said Lauterer.
``We get a lot of referrals from mold builders,'' he said. ``We will work basically with any injection molder, from aerospace [applications] to inventors coming in with consumer items.''
Marathon makes functional ABS prototypes of plastic parts on a Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling machine. The ABS prototypes approach the functionality of an injection molded part, since they can be assembled and equipped with printed circuit boards, painted and decorated, Lauterer said. Marathon outsources work its in-house FDM equipment cannot accommodate.
The firms claim they provide a better value by moving products quickly and efficiently from the concept phase through production, and minimizing unexpected downstream costs.
Seamless transitions are the mark of Marathon's time-compression technology, or concurrent engineering, which lets customers set up purchasing, sales and marketing strategies while the product still is being engineered, Lauterer said.
``It doesn't just happen - it has to be orchestrated,'' he noted. ``It's a coaching job. We can't make decisions for customers, but as they become more familiar with [the process] they can make their own decisions.''
Both ``time compression'' and ``concurrent'' engineering refer to the process of performing different disciplines simultaneously, but time compression is fast becoming the more popular catchword, said Lauterer.
``It's a little sexier,'' he said. ``It's just a different way to say [concurrent engineering] that focuses on the value a little bit more.
``The whole idea is to keep from reworking the mold, because it's time-consuming and expensive.''