The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is taking its silicone elastomer course on the road again to Anaheim, Calif., letting newbies in the plastics industry earn credits toward certification and others collaborate with experts about their molding challenges.
The unique four-day program runs Feb. 12-15, right after the Medical Design and Manufacturing West trade show, so attendees of North America's largest annual medical technology event can stay for professional development or insight into a work problem.
With business leaders as instructors and a day of hands-on training in a nearby model facility, the $1,490 course attracts a wide audience of rubber chemists, process engineers, lab managers, technicians, quality control managers and sales personnel. There's often a waiting list to learn the latest about processing, dispensing systems, injection equipment, molding parameters, automation, flow analysis, venting, gating, cavitation, adhesion and surface modification.
"I don't know of another university that offers a course like this. People come from every state and all over the world — Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico," Marcia Gabriel, program director for the Center for Sustainability and Continuing Engineering Education at the UW-Milwaukee, said in a phone interview.
"Of all my courses, and we believe we have 100, this is the crown jewel of my program area for UWM because it appeals to people from all over the world and it's more like a conference," she added.
Gabriel isn't sure how long the course has been offered, but she has been director for seven years and has seen interest grow along with applications. The university prepares new training materials every year to reflect the latest technology and practices. Mel Toub, former application development manager of Momentive Performance Materials, chairs the group of instructors. He has four patents in the area of silicone heat-cured elastomers and is now a consultant.
Other instructors are John Timmerman of Stalim North American Corp.; Bob Pelletier of Elmet; Rick Finnie of M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp.; Stefan Scheiber of Arburg US; and Craig Lustek of Shin-Etsu Silicones of America. Gabriel describes the instructor team as energetic.
"They're dynamic and play off each other," she said. "It's not a boring course where you sit for lecture after lecture. It's very interactive, and there's a chance at the end for everyone to ask any question on their mind."
The course puts emphasis on liquid injection molding and LSR, which can be used to make everything from heat-resistant baking pans to soft and pliable prosthetic ears.
"The crowning jewel of the class is Day 3. I rent a tour bus and take everyone to M.R. Mold for hands-on experience. They can see what it takes to create these products of silicone elastomers," Gabriel said.
Based in Brea, Calif., and founded in 1985 by Finnie, M.R. Mold has built up a global customer base for LSR molds, gum stock silicone, plastic injection, compression and transfer molds. The business has a technology center with company-owned machines to analyze products with customers or send them samples before mold shipping.