Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. has decided to step back to the company's roots and again make thin-wall molds for its customers.
The company reintroduced its thin-wall molds in North America at Plastimagen Mexico 2004, held April 27-30 in Mexico City.
The Bolton, Ontario, company began in the 1950s as a mold maker, specializing in thin-wall molds used on such parts as ribbed coffee cups sold at vending machines.
But eight years ago the company abandoned thin-wall molds, focusing more attention on its growing PET mold operations and hot-runner systems, said Rob Giles, product manager for the company's new thin-wall molds business unit. Husky left the manufacture of those molds to outside toolmakers, teaming with them to supply equipment packages for joint customers, Giles said.
Yet, something was lost at Husky when that decision was made, Giles said. The company was not as involved in product design for many packaging products as it once was, he said.
``The mold is the heart of the system,'' Giles said in an April 28 interview. ``We got removed somewhat from the market, especially the product development end. We missed not bringing our ideas and innovations to the table,''
The company made the decision last year to start up production of thin-wall molds and offer them both separately and with its injection molding equipment, Giles said. The company began building its first thin-wall molds late last year and has sold about 170 molds already, Giles said.
The molds are used primarily for packaging containers and lids, a healthy market that includes yogurt cups, butter and margarine tubs and plastic glasses.
While growth for those products is in the single digits, they represent healthy volumes for many molders worldwide, Giles said. The thinner wall thicknesses on those products, many made from polypropylene, make them light and flexible, said Andras Borbely, project manager for Husky's thin-wall group in Bolton.
Husky also has introduced a new mold-opening technology for lids, called SlideChute, which reduces cycle times in an injection press. The company has sold a similar feature for containers, called SwingChute, for close to 15 years, Giles added.
For its SwingChute process, special cam lifters and other features added to the mold allow container parts to swing away from the mold at a 90-degree angle after the part is made. The parts then drop down a stainless-steel chute to a conveyer, Giles said.
The process is similar for lids, except that the parts shift sideways, instead of rotating, before dropping down the chute. Both processes avoid the use of a robot to pick up the part after the mold opens, cutting cycle times by about 20 percent, Giles said.
The company calls the chute feature ``in-mold automation.''
``Even if you cut off a second in cycle time from each part, that's a lot when you're making 60 million parts a year,'' Giles said.
Several toolmakers at the Plastimagen show have specialized in thin-wall mold production, and have grown since Husky decided to get out of the business. StackTeck Systems Inc.. of Brampton, Ontario, has the largest backlog of thin-wall molds that it has ever had, said Fernando Segovia, vice president of business development.
For the past three years, the company has worked with Husky, Netstal-Maschinen AG and other equipment suppliers to provide complete packages to make the container products, Segovia said. Those plans will continue, he said.
``We're selling about one large system a month,'' Segovia said. ``Customers know we are specialists in thin-wall molds. Husky's decision will not affect what we do.''
Still, Segovia expressed surprise that Husky has decided to make full production molds.
Husky's assembly will take place at its recently expanded Advanced Manufacturing Center in Bolton, and most North American mold bases will come from its mold and hot-runner production site in Milton, Vt., Giles said.