Things really started rocking at the Molding Co. in November, as the Missouri rotational molding factory cranked up the largest rock 'n' roll machine built by Ferry Industries Inc. - and one of the largest at any custom rotomolder.
Now the rotomolder is seeking more work so it can rock around the clock.
Also called a rocking oven machine, the rockin' press pivots at the center and swings 45 degrees in both directions, oven, molds and all. Traditional carousel rotomolders mount the mold on arms that cycle through a fixed oven. But to make very long, cylindrical shapes - think the kayak - the rock 'n' roll style is preferred. Making that shape of parts with a fixed oven would require a huge oven, and lots of wasted space.
Most kayaks are made at dedicated kayak factories, so it's unusual for a custom molder like Molding Co. to get into rock 'n' roll molding. But the big Ferry press can make industrial parts, things a lot bigger and heavier than a kayak, said President Carl Dobrzeniecki, who adds: ``We're 100 percent custom.''
The Rotospeed rocking oven machine can make parts measuring as large as 24 feet by 10 feet. It's robust enough to carry 9,000 pounds of combined mold and part weight.
Molding Co. bought the machine to make parts measuring 23 feet long, 4 feet and 8 feet wide. ``We have a contract with a large customer that we're making that sized part,'' Dobrzeniecki said. He declined to say what the part is, or to identify the customer.
The company in Farmington, Mo., also plans to make a very large sliding board for a major, undisclosed playground manufacturer, he said.
Those jobs will keep the hulking machine running about 12 hours a day, or 50 percent of a 24-hour day. So officials are looking for more work.
``This allows us to open up new markets,'' said Barney Grosberg, vice president of sales and marketing. ``It's very unusual for a custom rotational molder to have a machine this size. It's a unique piece of machinery that opens up our industry for having people look to rotomolding for making large technical parts.''
Want more enthusiasm? Just ask Dobrzeniecki about ``the pit.'' (No, not the mosh pit.) To fit the big machine into the plant in Farmington, Mo., the company had to bring in heavy equipment and dig a pit 18 feet deep by 13 feet wide. He said crews started to hit rocks at about 5 feet. ``There was a lot of chiseling going on,'' he said.
Ferry President Harry Covington said the large Rotospeed sets the Molding Co. apart. ``Whereas most rock 'n' roll machines are designed for long length, small diameters and moderate weights, this machine was specifically designed for large-diameter, heavy technical parts,'' he said. Ferry is based in Stow, Ohio.
The three-station machine has an oven, a loading station and an unloading station. Operators stand on a platform about 5 feet above the floor. The mold swings back and forth with the oven, while the mold turns.
Dobrzeniecki said the rock 'n' roll machine is a sophisticated piece of equipment. ``All those different motions on this machine are computer controlled,'' he said. ``You can stop any of the variables at this machine, at any time, and also control speeds. Every motion is adjustable.''
The operator can freeze the swinging motion at any point and keep rotating the molds, to build up thicker walls in strategic areas of the part. Different colors can be added during the operation.
``The amount of control gives us huge flexibility as far as the type of parts and the uniqueness of parts we can put in there,'' Dobrzeniecki said.
The rock 'n' roll machine is the eighth Ferry press for the Molding Co. The other seven are carousel machines.
Dobrzenieki, a former vice president of operations at Iron Mountain Forge, the commercial playground equipment maker in Farmington, started the Molding Co. in 1998. The business started with one machine in a corner of a 70,000-square-foot building, but grew to occupy the entire space.
In 2001, the company bought another small rotomolder, Absolute Products Inc. in Broomfield, Colo. Hit by the recession, officials decided to fold Absolute into its headquarters in Farmington.
Last year, the company moved into a larger, 85,000-square-foot building in town.
The Molding Co. ranked 55th in Plastics News' ranking of rotomolders, with $5.3 million in sales, and about 75 employees.