Mold Craft Inc. is adding a technical center next door to the mold maker's main plant in Willernie, Minn., to focus on building tools for micromolding and advancing the technology.
The 2,000-square-foot micromolding center opened this summer, with a Wittmann Battenfeld MicroPower injection molding machine that has 15 tons of clamping force.
"It doesn't look like a manufacturing area. It looks more like a clean room or white room," said Jim Liddell, sales and marketing manager of Mold Craft.
Liddell said the micromolding tech center has room for about a dozen injection molding machines. The facility also will have offices for use by customers.
Mold Craft, which employs 42 people, specializes in micromolding tools, multicavity stack molds, unscrewing molds and molds for running liquid silicone rubber. Liddell said the company also can build molds that have interchangeable injection cavities and blocks.
Micromolding is a unique process so it needed its own dedicated facility, Liddell said. The Wittmann Battenfeld is for more than just mold sampling. One difference between other types of molds is that, for micromolding projects, Mold Craft will develop the entire molding process for the specific mold and part before shipping the mold to the customer, he said.
Normally, the company uses a 3D model and part print and toolmakers design the mold around the print dimensions. Making molds for micromolding is a more complete, detailed process — even involving exotic materials.
"We are actually running the parts with the same material that the customer could run it in," Liddell said.
Mold Craft claims on its website: "Our Molds Aren't Quite Perfect. They're +/- .0001-inch."
That expertise will be on display at NPE2018, when Mold Craft will do micromolding at its own trade show booth for the first time, using a MicroPower to mold a POK filter screen that weighs .007 grams.
Liddell said Mold Craft has exhibited its molds at past NPEs but never before done molding at the trade show.
At the Amerimold show, held in June at Rosemont, Ill., Wittmann Battenfeld ran a Mold Craft mold in its 15-ton MicroPower. After the show, the machinery maker shipped that same press to Mold Craft for its micromolding center.
At the NPE show in 2012, pressmaker Sodick Plustech ran a Mold Craft tool in the Sodick booth.
Mold Craft is owned by Tim Bartz and Justin McPhee. Bartz was named Mold Builder of the Year in 2015 by the American Mold Builders Association.