Patrick Kavanaugh nearly loses sight of the SMC Ltd. injection molded part that he is using to demonstrate SMC's expanded expertise in medical parts.
The momentary fumbling is understandable. The tan-colored thermoplastic part is one 50,000th of an inch in size.
Everything we're working with here ends up under a microscope during production, said Kavanaugh, director of micro-miniature molding for Somerset, Wis.-based SMC during an interview at PDx/Amerimold, held May 11-13 in Cincinnati.
SMC already was a well-established medical molder and mold maker when it brought in Kavanaugh previously an independent contractor developing micromolding to oversee its expansion into the world of very small molding in 2009. Kavanaugh said SMC had the clean room capabilities necessary for medical and implantable micromolding and could accomplish things he could not do on his own.
At the same time, it made more sense for SMC to invest in the capability internally, rather than rely on outside suppliers, he said.
The firm makes its own tools and adapts equipment needed for sizes as small as 0.003 cubic inch or 0.045 gram using specialty resins. Customers have the same demands for production and quality as they would for any larger part but apply those requirements to tools and completed parts where the details are nearly impossible to see with the naked eye.
You still have to vent the mold and heat the resin, Kavanaugh said. You've got hot runners and cooling, but you're also working in extremes with tolerances so close that everything makes a difference.
The company produces 10,000 shots per pound, minimum, in its micromolding operations. The requirements in small sizes and tooling require customization that SMC is developing in-house, he said.
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