New Castle Industries Inc. officials say the firm's new technical center gives it a ``scientific approach'' to cutting screws, enabling the company to make custom-designed screws correctly on the first try.
The 3,500-square-foot technology and training center is housed in a renovated building behind the company's headquarters in New Castle. It is equipped with a sheet extrusion line, a smaller extruder, an injection molding press, testing instruments such as a Kayeness capillary rheometer, and equipment for checking moisture content, melt index and bulk density.
President Thomas Doland said New Castle aggressively is courting custom, one-of-a-kind orders. Company technicians even ask customers to send a sample of the actual resin that will run on the screw.
``With the slowing of the economy, less new equipment is going to be sold and people are going to be in a position of upgrading their existing machinery,'' Doland said during a recent interview at the tech center.
A customized screw, instead of an off-the-shelf model, can improve productivity and part quality - and get more mileage out of a processing machine. But a screw maker may have to cut the screw, ship it to a customer for a tryout, then take it back to make adjustments, according to Tim Womer, vice president of engineering and manufacturing. Sometimes the screw can travel back and forth three or four times, which ties up the customer's plant and takes too much time, he added.
By trying out the screw in New Castle, with the actual resin and processing parameters, the firm can cut that time and money wasted. ``We normally hit it pretty close the first time,'' Womer said.
Womer, a screw designer, pushed for a separate lab after New Castle hired him in 2001.
``We saw the market turning down and we needed to create value,'' Womer said.
He heads a staff of four in the lab - two full-time screw designers and two process technicians.
Womer stressed that the lab can do full-scale production. The sheet line is an old NRM machine, but with some dramatic, souped-up differences.
New Castle fully restored the line, building a new control panel that collects a large amount of data. Technicians added 11 pressure caps with transducers, to measure pressure down the entire length of the barrel.
New Castle also makes chill rolls for sheet, so it beefed up the rolls on the line at the technical center.
The data-collection system measures the inlet and outlet water temperature and pressure. The water lines have quick-disconnects.
A smaller extruder can be set up for pelletizing, custom compounding and casting film. The injection press is a 180-ton Sandretto.
All auxiliary equipment is from Conair Group.
New Castle said it plans to conduct classes in the center. The building has a private office for customers to use.