Miramar, Fla.-based Simtec Silicone Parts LLC is starting a production process that integrates parts made of three materials — a metal, liquid silicone rubber and a thermoplastic — into one component within one manufacturing cell.
A breakthrough in LSR tooling technology enables the combination of multiple materials in a single production cell and the company is about to use it for a new application, Simtec President Enrique Camacho said in a telephone interview.
“A revolutionary approach for the integration of functions and materials is starting production at Simtec. It's the first of its kind in the world for this particular application,” Camacho said.
He said he can't identify the product or customer because of a confidentiality agreement but he could talk about the technology that is moving the company beyond overmolding LSR onto a thermoplastic substrate to also incorporating a metal part.
“We are redefining the LSR two-shot manufacturing process to LSR multi-shot,” Camacho said. “The key for us is how we combine all the elements together in such a way that it's an efficient operation with innovative solutions that push the boundaries of technology. Previously, components of a similar nature would have to go through an assembly process using extensive manual labor, necessitating multiple tools, assembly lines and large capital investments — all of which have been mitigated.”
Founded in 2002, Simtec is a research and technology-driven manufacturer with Fortune 100 companies among its customers, according to its website. Camacho opened the business in Madison, Wis., with a laser focus on LSR and a fully automated manufacturing floor. That was years before all the talk about smart factories and Industry 4.0.
“Since the inception of the company, we've been trailblazing development and adoption of production methods optimizing the interface and interactions of human beings with robotics,” Camacho said. “We're seeking to ensure consistent quality and repeatability of processes. Our company doesn't aim to reduce labor but rather to combine the skills, experience and know-how of talented team members with innovative technology.”
In 2013, Simtec moved to a larger, built-to-spec 80,000-square-foot facility in Florida, added high-precision LSR two-shot molding machines, expanded post-curing capabilities, and went on a hiring spree. The company also enhanced its quality assurance lab and shop for mold construction and maintenance. More than $8 million in new technology has been invested at the site.
Simtec now has about 50 employees who design production systems, monitor manufacturing and make sure no substandard parts or components are shipped to customers.
Camacho said Simtec is one of only a few U.S. companies to provide “true” LSR two-shot injection molding where the parts produced are ready to go and need no secondary operations. He is optimistic about the prospects for LSR multi-shot molding, which allows thermoplastics and metals to bond to LSR without complicated, time-consuming assemblies.