The Precision Manufacturing Institute in Meadville is doing some highly specialized microsized injection molding, using a press on loan from Sumitomo Plastics Machinery LLC.
PMI has a 3-year-old plastics technology program that trains graduates for upper-level shop-floor jobs, such as processing managers, process engineers and tooling engineers.
``Manufacturing is very much alive and well in this area,'' said John Mitrision, an instructor at the school. ``Our belief is that our students need to know the complete side of the plastics manufacturing trade, including the tooling end of the trade.''
Mitrision said local processors are very interested in micropart molding, along with optical and two-shot molding. In order to learn micropart molding, the school recently added a Sumitomo SE30DU direct-drive all-electric press. The machine has 30 metric tons of clamping force and an 18-milimeter screw.
Koichi Kasamatsu, vice president of global account sales for Sumitomo, said the company loaned the machine at the urging of molders in western Pennsylvania, who put a premium on supporting the training program. Kasamatsu is based at the company's Norcross, Ga., North American headquarters.
``We are so happy to contribute to the local industry. In the western part of Pennsylvania, the market for injection molding is pretty strong,'' he said.
Right now the Sumitomo press is making an interesting part: a tiny component for a hearing aid. The molded parts cost about $2 each, but they replace a machined part that costs about $39, Mitrision said. He touted the school's capability to make a part with strict specifications that many molders can't achieve.
``I don't think we would have run this product, if it wasn't for this place,'' instructor Frank Yurisic said. ``It's a pretty good facility for developing new products.''