Anaheim, Calif. — Arlington, Vt.-based injection molder Mack Molding Inc. has invested $5.5 million to add five new injection molding presses, robots and infrastructure to its headquarters and Inman, S.C., molding departments to meet demand in medical, heavy truck, recreational vehicle and industrial markets.
The two locations' "business is growing pretty dramatically," Jeff Somple, president at Mack, told Plastics News at MD&M West 2022 in Anaheim.
The investment includes two 1,433-ton Wittmann Battenfeld presses with 60-ounce shot sizes at its Vermont headquarters, with one unit in place and the other expected to arrive in early summer.
The 1,500-, 2,000- and 2,500-ton Milacron presses are expected to arrive at the South Carolina plant in the fall.
Medical demand "has gone through the roof" for Mack in the last few years, Somple said. "All of our medical accounts have almost doubled in the last couple of years. … Part of it is supply chain concerns. [Customers] want to make sure, if we have the resin, let's mold ahead and get the product."
For one customer, Mack is making "very large medical units that require large presses" to support COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, he said.
It also started molding parts for Synexis LLC, which makes a device that uses dry hydrogen peroxide to purify air.
"Colleges wanted to put this into dorm rooms to get kids back on campus," Somple said. "We have them installed at work and no one seems to get sick anymore."
"Throughout the pandemic we have experienced increased interest from customers, whether it was because they were on the front lines in the fight against COVID or they were trying to get ahead of lockdowns and supply chain issues," Somple said in an April 12 news release. "That demand did not go down as the pandemic has receded, and this infusion of technology will ensure we have the capacity to deliver for our customers."
Mack Prototype, Mack Molding's subsidiary, also invested $750,000 in three 3D printing machines — a Carbon CLIP DLS, an HP Multi Jet Fusion and a Formlabs SLA — and electrical, HVAC and internet infrastructure.
The investment will help Mack Prototype scale products into production in-house, using 3D printers, or through injection molding at a Mack Molding location, Greg Cebular, president at Mack Prototype, told PN.
"These machines can be used for prototyping, but they put out production parts as well," Cebular said. "In fact, customers can go immediately into production, speeding up the product development life cycle and ultimately reducing time and cost."
The machine additions also allowed Mack Prototype "to get into production without spending a lot of investment dollars on tooling," he said.
The 3D printing services could be used for orders of "just a couple parts to as many as a couple thousand," Cebular said. "The machines help bridge production requirements until it makes sense to invest in tooling, should volumes warrant it."
Customers are also asking for "quick changes" to parts, Cebular added. "Having four different technologies allows us to match production solutions to customers by considering their cost, material and end use.
"If our engineers notice an issue while working on a product, we can develop design changes in-house alongside the customer, print it and test it," he said. "It means having a solution in a day or two rather than weeks. The process is flexible and repeatable, giving customers the versatility needed to lock in their designs.
"We're already using 3D printed parts, so we've been able to reduce time and cost for our customers by bringing this" capability in-house, Cebular said.