Kruse a 'circle of knowledge' to plastics

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Torsten Kruse is known for his injection molding simulation company, Kruse Analysis Inc. of Naples, Fla. But at this year's NPE, he also had a new focus: Kruse Training Inc.

"My business has always been through word-of-mouth, which says a lot for the loyalty of my customer base," he said in an interview before NPE2018. "But this year I wanted to take it step further by exhibiting at the show to spread the word about our new initiative.

"Training is an important tool for our industry, and I truly believe we have a unique product that can benefit many companies and individuals. NPE is the ideal venue for getting it out to as many people as possible," he said.

Kruse is a graduate of the Plastic Technology Institute in Braunschweig, Germany. Before starting his own companies, he had a 10-year career at Arburg Inc., working on various molding applications and developing and delivering training programs.

Q: How many NPEs and Antecs have you been to?

Kruse: My first NPE was in 1994 when I was working for Arburg as the application manager of North America. I have been involved with NPE either as an exhibitor or attendee every year since! I have also not missed an Antec since 1994.

Q: Any memories of your first NPE?

Kruse: My first NPE experience is memorable for me in several ways. First, it was the first time I got an inkling of the scale of this industry. Second, I was a main platform speaker — sharing a presentation called "The Advantage of Small Molding Machines and Small Cavitation Tools" — which was my first experience presenting before a large audience. This tremendous learning experience lead to the first seed sown in mind for what would eventually become my own business, Kruse Analysis. The first NPE inspired me to want to accomplish more in this industry!

Q: What's your main aim in coming to this year's show?

Kruse: Our main objective for this year's show is to launch and share our new online training program, Kruse Training. We will also be focusing on the simulation business with Kruse Analysis and continuing to promote our partnership with Moldex3D. We will be running informational slide shows and doing live demonstrations throughout the day in our booth and also at the Moldex3D booth.

Q: You're introducing "circle of knowledge" at this year's NPE, a training program for injection molders. What is circle of knowledge?

Kruse: Simply put, the "circle of knowledge" is a way for a part designer, mold designer and process engineer to better understand the work of others. If each member of the team understands what the others are doing, the team can make effective design decisions. We are not suggesting that part designers become molding experts or molders become design experts, but having a team that understands each other's expertise even a little better will result in improved overall workflow and productivity.

I will give you a scenario where the "circle of knowledge" would be applicable: Say a part was designed, the mold was built, and then when the molder begins to work the process, it can only be optimized in a narrow window, which is too small — a common occurrence. Then the part and mold need to be reworked. This is obviously not efficient or cost-effective and could be avoided by each team member understanding the other team members challenges.

Kruse Training uses 3D simulations to show cause and effect behaviors on part, mold design and the molding process. Our lessons encompass the entire molding process, not just a specific subject focused only on part design or mold making or processing.

The idea for the "circle of knowledge" came to me because for years I have been using simulation technology at Kruse Analysis to show part and mold designer "cause and effect." I recommend changes to optimize part and mold design, so the molder has a robust and wide process window to mold a quality part. I have first-hand experience in how collaboration and interaction between these three "stand-alone" areas create a more successful outcome.

We did a prelaunch show at MD&M in Anaheim earlier this year. This was a great opportunity for us to introduce our program to a smaller audience for feedback and reactions. We were thrilled with the response that we received and are now confident ​ and ready for our official launch in Orlando.

Q: How is it different from other training programs? What need does it address?

Kruse: Our training program targets cause and effect behaviors. All aspects of injection molding, from design to finished part, can be analyzed through these behaviors. Each of our lessons concentrates on one subject, making the content easy to understand and allowing the student to continuously build on their knowledge. This "focused learning" is the basis of our training program.

Another way our training is different from other programs is in the media and delivery format. We are using multimedia tools that truly engage the student in the learning process. The lessons are short enough to hold a learner's attention yet long enough to relay the necessary information. We use actual simulations and real parts to reinforce the learning outcome and our students' overall understanding of interactions within a real-life molding environment.

Q: Who are the potential customers?

Kruse: Because of our multilevel approach, our online training program is valuable for a wide array of professionals, from entry-level to experienced engineers. We have targeted part designers, mold makers, and molders — basically everyone in the injection molding industry.

We expect our customers to include both large companies that will invest in training their engineers and individuals who are interested in developing knowledge to enhance their careers. The program will also appeal to individuals and companies interested in continuing education. We expect to appeal to an international audience because we'll shortly be launching the program in Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin.

Some of the topics we have or will develop include: part design, mold design, polymer materials, processing, special molding techniques (e.g. silicon LSR molding, rubber molding, thermoset, MIM/PIP, MuCell, over-molding, insert molding, two-shot, gas assist, co-injection, chemical foaming, injection compression, etc.). As you can see, there are endless topics for us to grow the program.

Q: Your company is known primarily for injection molding simulation. What are the latest trends in molding simulation?

Kruse: Yes, Kruse Analysis is primarily known for injection molding simulation services. Since 1995, we have performed countless simulation projects for a wide array of industries. Simulation has become a must-do — or at least a should-do — for companies that design and build molds and process polymers. Because the demand for simulation technology is high, today's software is built to optimize the user experience. For example, simulation software calculation speed has increased significantly in the past few years, so now an engineer is able to extract a lot of data very quickly. For this to be practical, the engineer must understand how to interpret and analyze the results, which leads us back to the software developers who are now increasing their own training efforts. This is the rationale behind us collaborating with Moldex3D on Kruse Training.

Q: What do you think will be the main talking points at NPE this year?

Kruse: I think some topics will still be on the forefront this year although they've certainly been covered in the past. I can imagine the 4.0 movement, recycling, 3D printing and robotics will still be talking points. But I get the sense that training is a hot topic right now and not just because we are launching a training program.

The higher educational system certainly has less plastic-focused graduates than say, mechanical engineers. There are a number of training providers in our industry, and I think all of us have a challenge ahead to develop new systems that can be implemented throughout our industry, from the molding floor to the corner office, to produce well-trained and competent employees. Our industry needs this.

Q: What are injection molders looking for?

Kruse: Molders are looking for flexible molding systems that can be adapted to their production needs, more innovative robotics and ways to reduce manual labor. And all of us are looking for more skilled labor.

Q: How will you gauge whether this show is successful?

Kruse: Just through exhibiting at the show we are already successful. We have worked hard on our branding, tying together Kruse Analysis and Kruse Training in a bold, unmistakable look that is completely encapsulated in our booth, our presentations and our marketing materials. Every person that stops by the booth and sees our brand will be impacted, and I consider that to be a success. Every person that takes a brochure, or bag, or mousepad, I consider that to be a success. And certainly, getting some POs [purchase orders] in [the] hand won't hurt!

Q: Do you do anything for fun at the show or is it all work all the time?

Kruse: When you love what you do, work is fun! There are three of us "working" the booth and so we will be able to take turns to explore the show floor. In the evenings, we will break bread with some of our industry friends and clients. We are looking forward to seeing many familiar faces and meeting lots of new people.

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