El Dorado Molds Inc. is exploring more equipment purchases and finding creative ways to use a recently acquired, vertical high-performance machining center.
The equipment ``opens up our competitive machining and mold-making abilities to a significant degree,'' said Bob Brewer, owner and president of El Dorado and sister company Northern California Injection Molding Inc. About a half-mile separates the two facilities in Rancho Cordova, Calif.
In early 2004, El Dorado Molds began operating the VCP 1000 from Mikron Agie Charmilles AG of Nidau, Switzerland, a business of Georg Fischer AG. The center has longitudinal, transverse and vertical movements of 1,000, 650 and 500 millimeters, respectively.
Brewer claims the machine epitomizes his focus on quality and customer service: ``That is why we have not lost work to the Far East,'' he said. The VCP requires special abilities to plan production days in advance ``or the whole thing is for naught.''
El Dorado acquired the VCP and design software to do complex contour surfaces for eyewear tools, among other jobs, said Glen Shrigley. He joined the firms in January 2004 as vice president of operations.
If business volume continues to increase this year, Brewer is considering the purchase of a sinker electric discharge machine with a 200-tool-changing capacity.
``It takes an incredibly strong mind-set to justify $500,000-$600,000 for a cell we are thinking about,'' Brewer said.
Such a machine in a rack system can change electrodes and work pieces and provide more capacity to do larger jobs, Shrigley said.
El Dorado operates five sinker and two wire EDMs, with its largest current capacity at 30 tools.
Mold designs are fully modeled in three-dimensional solid materials using input from the engineering department's two seats of recently installed Unigraphics NX3 computer-aided-design systems. ``The solids format allows the design to be shared downstream by the mold makers and CNC department,'' Shrigley said.
Using direct-control numerical drip-feed, computer-aided-machining stations program and cut cavity steel and graphite electrodes from the 3-D mold models. El Dorado no longer uses paper drawings in manufacturing tools.
Parker Hannifin Corp. of Cleveland, which makes motion-control products, uses El Dorado as a network procurement source for units in California, South Carolina, England, Malaysia and China.
El Dorado employs 25 in a 16,300-square-foot facility. It reported 2004 sales of about $4.5 million.
A few blocks away, NCIM employs 45 at its 25,000-square-foot site. It operates 11 presses, with clamping forces of 40-400 tons. Primarily, NCIM molds tight-tolerance parts for automotive, health-care and consumer electronics applications.
While withholding the dollar amounts, Brewer projects NCIM's 2005 sales will top last year's results by 15-20 percent. NCIM expects to buy two more injection presses this summer.
To eliminate production bottlenecks, NCIM soon will buy more material dryers, equipment for controlling water and oil temperatures and end-of-arm robotic tooling for use on some of its existing molding machines.
More than 20 percent of tooling from El Dorado goes to NCIM for molding functions.
Brewer founded El Dorado in 1989 as a lights-out toolmaker and established NCIM in 1997. Brewer started NCIM for tool sampling and short runs, but has found that NCIM is becoming a bigger player than El Dorado.