Developers of the golf Aero-tee brought production home after trying to get the job done offshore.
In September, the Plymouth, Mass., facility of injection molder Pixley Richards Inc. began Aero-tee production in a two-cavity mold on a small-tonnage, vertical press using Lexan polycarbonate. A golfer sets a ball on three prongs, or flutes, of the aerodynamic, tooth-shaped tee.
``For once, we were receiving a mold back from Asia,'' said Rick LaViolette, PRI vice president of sales and marketing.
``This is quite unheard of in today's global marketplace, especially for a product of this type. By providing innovative technical plastics expertise and fair pricing, we can at times beat our offshore competitors.''
MasterTee Co. Inc. of Plymouth, which does business under the Aero-tee brand, tried without success to manufacture the product in China and then the Philippines.
Venanzio Cardarelli, an inventive dentist in Braintree, Mass., patented the product in 2000 and, through a Florida sales representative, had the mold built in China. Once molding started, he encountered language barriers and unauthorized use of recycled PC and other resins.
The result: an inferior tee that often broke.
The mold was relocated to a processor in the Philippines, but ``everything went downhill,'' Cardarelli said.
In mid-2003, he found a solution and cooperative vendor nearby at the Pixley Richards plant.
MasterTee convinced PRI of the product's potential. The original mold, brought to Plymouth, was in poor condition and lacked plastic design fundamentals, according to Ian MacLeod, PRI executive vice president of engineering, research and development. ``We knew it was going to take an in-depth review to be successful in turning this mold around.''
With Cardarelli's close collaboration, technicians and engineers analyzed and tweaked the part and addressed issues with the carrier arrangement and cooling cycle. With a refurbished tool, PRI is ``giving us a consistent product,'' Cardarelli said. MasterTee is contemplating an automated mold with as many as 16 cavities.
LaViolette underscored the ``buyer beware'' lesson to be learned from the situation.
``If you are considering offshore sourcing, be sure of your source and their capability of producing a quality product,'' he said. ``Typically, you have only one chance to launch a product successfully, so you must make it count.''
In November at MasterTee's request, Golf Laboratories Inc. of San Diego conducted mechanical tests. The Aero-tee outperformed wood and plastic tees in distance, lift, accuracy and roll tests.
Unlike conventional tees, the design allows an air stream under a ball. The stem has side notches to measure depth placement. The tee conforms to United States Golf Association rules.
In a Web special, Aero-tee offers a bag of 25 tees for $25 plus shipping and handling.
An Aero-tee recycling program encourages golfers and course operators to send in damaged or nonfunctional tees of wood or plastic.
Cardarelli holds more than 20 patents on dental products and other inventions including a physiologic golf shoe, filtration system and magnification device. In the golf-tee arena, two other dentists, George Franklin Grant of Boston in 1899 and William Lowell of New Jersey in 1924, received patents on significant earlier designs.