Cashmere Molding Inc. is seeing a resurgence in the economy in general — and in its business, specifically.
“The manufacturing economy is coming back — at least for me,” said Greg Herlin, president, CEO and 80 percent owner.
The Woodinville, Wash., company focuses on two-shot molding, water-transfer printing and opportunities in the market for noninvasive medical products.
The company adjusted and survived the 2005-08 “down economy” and has invested in equipment, pursued certifications and trained workers, he said. “We are reaping awards.”
Speculating in 2007, Cashmere purchased two used Engel two-shot presses with 300-ton clamping forces and attached a Wittmann gantry robot to each machine. With 35-second cycles, “two-shot has made us competitive,” Herlin said in a telephone interview.
“Whatever the overmolding application, we take 60 percent of the labor and machine time out of the cost of making a two-color part,” Herlin said. “We usually save the customer 40 percent and improve part quality,” rather than having separate substrate and overmolding processes.
On April 26, a BSI Group representative completed a three-day final audit relating to ISO 13485:2003 certification for medical devices. The approval arrived on Herlin's desk May 31.
“We have gone through the medical product development cycle requiring [Food and Drug Administration] certification,” he said. Cashmere molds polycarbonate components for a disposable pressure transducer from Mirador Biomedical Inc. of Seattle. An anesthesiologist or other medical professional can use the Compass-brand, vascular-access device to sense point-of-use pressure during insertion of a central venous catheter.
Cashmere also makes a handle for a Clarisonic-brand brush from Pacific Bioscience Laboratories Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., by molding thermoplastic elastomer over ABS.
“The ABS is still hot and sterile when we shoot the TPE on, and the materials shrink together,” Herlin said. “Usually, the substrate is already cooled and shrunk” if molding and overmolding occur on separate machines.
In another two-shot job for a different medical customer, Cashmere molds a PC/ABS-blend housing with a TPE overmold for a hand-held, automatic machine that counts red blood cells. The product has a medical-grade PC tip.
In February, Cashmere Molding began operating automated continuous-flow, water-transfer printing equipment for automotive panel wood-grain imaging or for parts with camouflage, paisley, polka-dot or other patterns.
“The printing equipment was almost $200,000,” and Cashmere is installing used, late-model, automated paint equipment costing another $200,000, he said.
With automated printing and painting, Cashmere will have the ability to produce more than 5,000 parts per shift, Herlin said.
“We run one of the only automated [water-transfer printing] lines in the country,” he said. Cheng Feng Chih Hui Co. Ltd. of Taichung, Taiwan, also known as CCH, manufactured the printing equipment, which Cashmere purchased through Liquid Print of Tyler, Texas.
Herlin said Cashmere's turn time to print 11 parts is 16 seconds. A competing manual water-transfer system can have a turn time of four minutes for 11 parts.
In the U.S. market, TWN Industries Inc. of Princeton, Fla., distributes equipment of CCH competitor Yuan Heng Tai Water Transfer Printing Co. Ltd., also of Taichung.
Cashmere employs 76 people, up from 53 on Dec. 31, and may use as many as 25 temporary workers.
In 1991, partners Herlin and Michael Gadwell acquired the Kirkland, Wash., plastics processing operations of aero-structure-oriented Cashmere Manufacturing. Now, Cashmere Manufacturing in East Wenatchee, Wash., is a division of holding company Thomas James International LLC.
In Kirkland, “We took over this small company doing maybe $4,000 a month,” said Herlin, who was 24 at the time.
In 2007, Gadwell reduced his Cashmere Molding ownership stake to 20 percent from 50 percent. The graduate of Western Washington University's plastics program continues as Cashmere Molding's engineering director.
The business' recovery contrasts sharply with 2005 when Cashmere was operating six presses in Everett, Wash., and after seven years there, lost its lease on 10,000 square feet. The solution in 2006: move about 18 miles to Woodinville.
For $1.2 million, Cashmere acquired 1.85 acres with two structures totaling 20,000 square feet. For funding, “we self-finance with some bank support,” Herlin said.
In January 2011, across the street, Cashmere rented 17,000 square feet for warehousing and offices.
Cashmere had 2010 sales of $7.93 million, vs. 2009's $4.55 million.
The company operates 16 injection, coinjection, insert and multishot presses with clamping forces of 40-1,000 tons. Kuka six-axis robots operate on Negri Bossi 600- and 1,000-ton machines.
Herlin purchased a 200-ton multishot press with a rotary platen from Haitian International Holdings Ltd. and expects it to be operational in Woodinville by late September.
Herlin also is acquiring a 110-ton vertical press with a rotary platen. The machine will be Cashmere's first vertical model. The company added new Branson sonic-welding equipment in May.
In 2010, the Puget Sound Business Journal ranked Cashmere as Washington's 19th fastest-growing private company during 2007-09 and its No. 2 manufacturer. Seattle Business magazine named the molder its 2010 midsized manufacturer of the year.