Advanced Plastic Manufacturing has bought a Sodick injection press to mold liquid silicone rubber, as the Battle Creek, Mich.-based automotive molder expands into medical an effort led by a longtime executive of Sodick Plustech Co. Ltd., Takashi Yamazaki.
APM is already one of the largest Sodick customers in the U.S. The company runs 30 Sodicks, ranging in clamping force from 20-350 tons, to mold precision electrical connectors and fuse panels for automotive.
But the new press, Sodick No. 31, will be APM's first LSR machine, and Yamazaki said that is a key part of a strategy to do more medical molding.
APM, a subsidiary of mold maker Advanced Special Tools Inc., hired Yamazaki in February as president, to move the company into new markets. Yamazaki's 20-year career at Japanese injection press builder Sodick Plustech included responsibility for the U.S. market. He worked out of both the headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, and the U.S. operation in Schaumburg, Ill., where he most recently was vice president.
My goal for this company is to bring medical business, and also, I want to bring high-precision LSR tooling to the U.S. market. That's my goal, Yamazaki said.
He said the new 40-ton LSR machine should arrive in Battle Creek by the end of October and begin molding parts by mid-November. Right now, the press is undergoing trials at PRC Corp., an LSR mold maker in Niigata City, Japan.
Yamazaki wants to promote PRC in the U.S. He said Sodick has worked with PRC to supply turnkey LSR systems. In addition to molds, PRC supplies cold deck systems and valve gates for liquid silicone molding.
To utilize the precision molding machine, we need good, high-precision tooling, Yamazaki said.
Instead of a reciprocating screw, Sodick presses feature a two-stage injection system that separates the functions of melting and injection. An electric-driven screw, mounted at an angle on top of the injection barrel, plasticizes the resin and feeds the melt into a chamber, where a plunger sends the material into the mold.
Liquid silicone rubber is a thermoset, meaning the material gets pumped through a water-cooled nozzle and gets cured inside a heated mold in many ways, the opposite of thermoplastic molding. LSR molds must have special venting and a tight fit to prevent flash.
Advanced Special Tools, APM's parent company, makes injection molds but does not make molds for LSR.
Scott Brown, APM sales and marketing manager, said the LSR machine will mold parts for a maker of science products. APM is not identifying the customer. A robot will place parts into the mold cavity for LSR overmolding, then remove the finished parts and place them on a conveyor, he said.
Brown said hiring Yamazaki from a trusted supplier, Sodick is a key part of the strategy launched in recent years to get into medical, as well as science and technology products.
We're looking to positioning ourselves conservatively and gradually into this market, Brown said. We want to grow the market carefully. We don't just want to jump into it.
Advanced Plastic Manufacturing will exhibit at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Midwest show Sept. 28-30 in Rosemont, Ill.
APM was born in 2005, when Advanced Special Tools created a separate molding subsidiary.
Advanced Special Tools had been founded in Battle Creek in 1989 as a subsidiary of Katayama Corp. of Kani, Japan.
Brown said Advanced Special Tools started out as a high-precision tool and die maker serving metal stamping and die casting for automotive. AST added injection molds for plastics, serving the Big Three automakers and Japanese transplants.
Then about 10 years ago, Advanced Special Tools branched out into molding by purchasing five Sodick presses.
We had made a commitment to the electrical-part-customers sector that we could build the tool, and then run the tools to make parts here in the United States, Brown said. The focus, then and now, is on tooling and molding of small precision parts. Brown said that gives Advanced Plastic Manufacturing and Advanced Special Tools an edge in medical and science-oriented products.