Sil-Pro LLC has branched out into thermoplastic injection molding, but more to complement its silicone product manufacturing than to pursue plastics only business.
The Delano, Minn.-based firm spent an undisclosed sum on two Sodick-brand presses, one a 30-ton machine and the other a 60-ton model, according to Brian Higgins, Sil-Pro vice president of sales and marketing.
The machines give Sil-Pro the capability of thermoplastic molding of implantable and disposable medical-device components to work in conjunction with its current silicone overmolding onto plastic components. The company said the additions also will allow it to offer value-added services to the final assembly, including welding, testing, printing and packaging.
Sil-Pro said the new electric/ hydraulic hybrid injection molding machines combine the accuracy and efficiency of high-resolution servo drive with advanced hydraulic clamping design. The equipment is engineered to meet the increased demand for micro-molded medical applications and will minimize part variability on difficult geometries.
In addition to accuracy, we increase productivity with significant cost reductions, giving customers the highest yields possible, Higgins said in a news release.
The new presses will be housed in an isolated area in the firm's Class 10,000 clean room, he said. The company added 5,000 square feet to the clean room about six months ago, and the thermoplastic machinery is in that addition.
We still have more room for production cells and presses for thermoplastics and silicone within that area, he said in a telephone interview.
Methods fit together
Sil-Pro is by no means looking to get into commodity plastics molding. But many of its silicone seals and valves often go inside some type of plastic housing, Higgins said. Some of the plastic parts are outsourced by Sil-Pro while some customers source the silicone part with Sil-Pro and the plastic item elsewhere.
In other cases, he said Sil-Pro has thermoplastic molders as customers who send the Delano company their part and have it overmold the silicone and send it back. It's probably not the most efficient manner, Higgins said. If we do both here, we can offer the [original equipment manufacturer] a better price.
Sil-Pro also sees a continuing trend of customers looking to shrink their supplier base. That's why Sil-Pro continues to add various services such as slitting and bonding. Eventually the company may even add sterilization and packaging, he said.
This is not to just do plastics molding for plastics [molding's] sake not to say we wouldn't do a plastics-only part here or there, Higgins said. But the goal is to do more assembly manufacturing.
Sil-Pro also will benefit by having its own tool shop. It makes its own molds for silicone and its staff is qualified to do the same for plastics.
We can build both the tooling and parts in parallel to make sure it all works together, he said. More plastics molders are getting into silicone. We're doing the opposite and silicone is the hard part.
Sil-Pro didn't have any business lined up for the machines before making the purchases, and will first look to its current customer base for potential orders, according to Higgins. We're open to work with new customers, but initial business will come from existing silicone customers.
The company put out its first prototype in early October, and put out six to eight quotes in recent weeks, he said.
So far the company hasn't done much active marketing or promotion of its new capabilities. The first rollout was scheduled for the Medical Design and Manufacturing show Oct. 13-14 in Minneapolis. The firm also plans to attend the Medical Silicone Conference in Anaheim, Calif., from Nov. 3-4.
Looking at expansion
Sil-Pro has been on a strong growth curve since its founding in 1999. Higgins said the company is evaluating whether to buy a building down the road from its current 35,000-square-foot facility or expand the current site.
We have room here at the present facility for 18-24 months of projected growth, he said. We kind of are making plans for the next level.
The company doesn't release sales, but said it posted growth of 47 percent in 2009. Revenues are projected to grow another 15 percent or more this year.
No new staff have been added at this point because of the new machinery. Higgins said the firm bulked up its engineering and tooling staff last year. It currently employs about 120.