Owner and President Bob Brewer has invested about $1.5 million for equipment this year at El Dorado Molds Inc. and Northern California Injection Molding Inc., sister companies about half a mile apart in Rancho Cordova, Calif.
``We made a decision to put our future into newer technology, with a primary focus on robotics and automation,'' Brewer said.
``El Dorado and NCIM are among a handful of companies making a commitment to keep the [domestic] industry alive,'' Brewer said in a telephone interview. ``We feel there is a market for high-end tooling in the U.S., and we are putting our knowledge and reputation on the line.''
El Dorado added HSM 600 and 400 computer numerically controlled, high-speed machining centers from Mikron Agie Charmilles. As another part of the manufacturing cell, El Dorado installed an ERS turret-style robot and two carousel tool racks from Erowa AG. The radial turret robot feeds the two machining centers.
El Dorado operates five sinker and two wire electrical discharge machines.
The mold maker added a NX4 seat of Unigraphics computer-aided-design software. Two other Unigraphics CAD systems arrived last year and were upgraded recently to the NX4 version.
El Dorado employs 30, with an average tenure of 15-20 years, at its 16,300-square-foot site and projects 2006 sales of about $5 million. About one-fifth of the firm's molds go to NCIM.
``With the cell, we are doing things more efficiently,'' said Glen Shrigley, vice president of operations for both firms.
By using the latest technology, the cell ``gives us the ability to reduce lead times and time to market and do the same amount of work faster and more accurately,'' said Shrigley, whose prior mold-making experience includes 24 years with Trend Technologies Inc.
Meanwhile, NCIM installed in July three Nissei all-electric Elject NEX injection molding presses with clamping forces of 55, 88 and 198 tons. Now, NCIM operates 14 presses of 40-400 tons.
To boost efficiency, NCIM acquired a Demag 2-ton overhead crane system, a Thermal Care portable Accuchiller unit, four Thermolator mold temperature controllers and four Dri-Air dryers.
Installing the crane let NCIM reduce the space between machines. In July, it added 5,000 square feet nearby for warehousing. The two buildings combined give the firm 24,000 square feet.
NCIM employs 60, adding as many as 20 temporary workers for assembly projects. Sales continue to grow 15-20 percent a year, although NCIM withholds details.
El Dorado and NCIM have a diversified customer base including a major eyewear maker. They supply diesel engine filtration components for Parker Hannifin Corp. of Cleveland, new and replacement mold components for various products for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Boston-based Gillette unit and headset-component tooling and molding for Plantronics Inc. of Santa Cruz, Calif.
``We have a continued effort at both companies to rely on robotics to be more competitive on a global scale,'' Brewer said. ``We are revisiting all of our customers and letting them know what we are up to.''
Brewer started El Dorado in 1989 and NCIM in 1997.