Canon Virginia Inc. has invested about $6 million since 2004 in its Newport News, Va., site to increase its capacity to build tools for thermoplastic injection molding.
The mold-making operation aims to generate annual sales of $30 million by 2010, said Brian Strangways, director of business development and strategic planning. He was interviewed at the Feb. 13-15 trade shows in Anaheim.
While current figures were not provided, Canon Virginia's combined toolmaking and injection molding activities had 2005 sales of $9.8 million.
In toolmaking, the company employs 30 craftsmen, designers and programmers now and would like to have 90 in three years. ``We are looking to push into the top 10 mold makers by 2010,'' Strangways said.
Canon built the in-house capability to gain control of quality and costs for its own products, but decided also to market the service to others.
``To control plastics in its process, Canon has made molds for 30 years'' and operated as a captive molder of Canon business equipment for 20 years, Strangways said.
Currently, in-house requirements use about 5 percent of Canon Virginia's mold-making and 25 percent of its injection molding capacity, with the remainder available for outside customers.
In September 2004, the operation began using proprietary software from parent firm Canon Inc. of Tokyo to transfer designs into machine code for precision steel tools. Canon Virginia started using the tooling software with external customers in late 2005.
``If a machine stops, it knows where it left off,'' said Matt Slothower, business development manager. ``The software monitors tool wear. It can take a [three-dimensional computer-aided design] from a customer and get it up and running about 30 percent faster than the industry average from placing order to completing tool.''
Canon Virginia is promoting its contract manufacturing, including production of molds and plastic and metal parts, testing services and reverse logistics, which involves repairing products from the market and handling product recycling.
Customers want innovative closure and packaging designs that may demand more mechanical movement requiring complicated, high-precision tooling for tight-tolerance molding.
``We have been pleased with the positive responses so far,'' Strangways said. ``Folks are interested in keeping tooling domestic for protecting their intellectual property and for speed-to-market requirements.
``A lot of folks have tried offshore [services] and are coming back'' to domestic suppliers, he said.
The site added a Mori Seiki CNC NL-2500SY turning center in August and a Makino a51 horizontal machining center in April to handle gun-drilling activities the firm previously outsourced, Stangeways said. Canon may acquire a Makino V-77 vertical machining center to work on molds for press sizes up to 850 tons.
Pending more market and product research, managers may add a heat-treating chamber.
The Canon Virginia molding operation employs 70 and operates 18 presses with 75-650 tons of clamping force.