Christopher Buse, 27
Lead Manufacturing Engineer, PTI Engineered Plastics
Christopher Buse graduated from Ferris State University with a bachelor's degree in plastics and polymer engineering technology.
His first full-time job out of college was as a process engineer, then manufacturing engineer and now lead manufacturing engineer, for custom injection molder PTI Engineered Plastics of Macomb, Mich.
"My interest in the industry started back in high school when a guest visited our science class and talked about different types of plastics and polymers and explained the basics of polymerization. The very next week a recruiter from Ferris State visited my high school and mentioned their plastics program," he said. "I took a special interest in this engineering field because of all the pertinent careers available in the industry. Plastics span from thermoforming to rotomolding to injection molding. The avenues to explore seemed limitless."
Buse said he is fascinated by organic polymers that are 100 percent recyclable.
"Nonoil-based polymers are still in their infancy, however, I am hopeful the technology advances to the point we can start replacing current popular resins with fully recyclable alternatives that have the same physical characteristics and comparable prices per pound," he said.
Buse is active in PTI's Technical Academy, "which is a function put on by PTI to help promote manufacturing knowledge to local high school students."
He also attends robotics and automation expos. "PTI prides itself on being on the cutting edge of plastics technology, so staying informed on the expanding automation market, such as Industry 4.0, is critical," he said. Buse has also been in several music groups throughout the years in his spare time.
Buse said he admires his father, who has a master's degree in mechanical engineering, and how well he has succeeded in his career. "He has certainly taught me about having a strong work ethic and persevering to achieve your goals," Buse said.
Buse was nominated for Rising Stars by Peggy Whitaker, PTI's marketing manager.
"I started my career off thinking I would be a process engineer working directly with injection mold machines, and now I build robots and develop process flows and processes for plastics assembly such as ultrasonic welding, spin welding, thermal insertion, pad printing and laser marking," Buse said. "You can start out in one facet of the industry and wind up somewhere completely different, and that is OK."
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Buse: With prototype and low volume runs, automation becomes very difficult to cost-justify. Most presses are run with an operator, so as a result of the labor shortage, we are unable to keep up with demand. I developed a unique automation solution that turns almost all 1.0 operator jobs down to 1/4 operator or even less. Essentially the system is a collaborative six-axis robot that is on wheels and has an electric telescoping stand to change the robot's overall height. This system can roll up to any of our IMMs (60 in total), locate to the IMM and machine-tend products that used to take an entire person in order to run. This system effectively added 24 operators to our manufacturing floor and the capital investment ($600,000) is estimated to have an ROI of less than one year.
This is the largest automation requisition in the company's history. The entire project was conceived, researched, pitched to stakeholders, ordered, built, wired and integrated by myself and my small department of three. Reception of these systems (eight in total with more on the way) has been positive throughout the entire company. Executive management is excited to see our throughput increase dramatically, and our technicians and operators are excited to learn how to use these systems. The ultimate goal is to have operators be able to do basic setups, restarts and teardowns.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Buse: The idea of owning my own business way down the road piques my interest.
Q: What has been the biggest impact/challenge on your career from the coronavirus pandemic?
Buse: The biggest challenge during the pandemic by far has been supporting manufacturing ventilator parts for both the U.S. and Canadian governments. Products needed to be produced on such an aggressive timeline, our in-house toolroom worked around the clock 24/7 in order to build tools as fast as possible. We had a few hiccups during an ultrasonic weld assembly operation, but we pulled through and got critical ventilator components out the door to help combat the coronavirus.