The Sumitomo 220-ton machine at its booth in Orlando was running a mold designed by one of Canon's junior designers and built by its apprentices, intended to draw attention to the full range of capabilities offered by Canon Virginia Inc. The manufacturing division has been supplying molds for outside customers for just under a decade, and that often turns into a way to incorporate some of Canon's core technologies like imaging products, staff explained.
“We use our mold making business as a foothold. It's normally a first interaction with a customer that's really looking for something more,” said Matt Slothower, program director of the tool manufacturing division.
In particular, Canon is targeting the medical industry as a growth area. The company is investing in exploring those opportunities, and plans to have a full-scale medical manufacturing operation in Virginia within the next two years, said Curtis Hawkins, senior director of the business planning division.
At the booth, Canon displayed a DNA analysis machine, which incorporates Canon optics and inkjet technology, according to Hawkins. Canon also manufactured the cartridges to hold DNA samples and reagents — from making the mold, to molding, to assembly — including a microfluidic transfer mechanism with very fine channels. The component is injection molded in acrylic.
“When you start to talk microfluidics, when you're at the micron level, hydraulic resistance becomes a big problem. Because you can imagine, pushing liquid through those tiny channels, a slight variation in surface finish or anything really dramatically changes how the performance of this is,” said Ronald Kurz, director of research and development. “So there's a huge difference between machined parts and injection molded parts.”
The machine is currently for research use only, with possible commercial applications in consideration for the future.