Carpentersville, Ill.-based Otto Engineering Inc., a specialty switch maker, built a 25,000-square-foot molding shop and will equip it with seven new presses to meet growing demand expected to boost annual sales to $145 million.
The new facility is part of a campus with company offices and the controls and communications divisions. A technical center that handles machining, stamping, and tool and die fabrication is nearby.
Launched in 1961 in the basement of founder Jack Roeser, Otto Engineering manufactures control products and communication accessories for aerospace, heavy equipment, marine and medical applications.
From short runs of one to 10 parts to big government orders, the company produces switches, control grips, headsets, speaker microphones, surveillance kits and tactical communication equipment for first responders, military personnel, astronauts and others.
One of the company's high-profile projects was producing more than 900 switches for NASA's Orion spacecraft.
Otto Engineering also designs its own products, some of them sold under the private labels of other well-known brands.
The seven new presses, ordered from LS Mtron, will help the company keep up with business growth, according to Tony Scianna, Otto Engineering's senior procurement specialist.
Two of the new machines — 35-ton, all-electric presses — were installed in the new molding shop and have been running since October while the other five should be delivered by fall.
Otto Engineering molds 200 to 300 parts in a typical run, but orders can run as high as 1 million parts for customers like the U.S. Department of Defense, according to Ed Trowbridge, senior manager of manufacturing operations.
"Fast changeovers are key and need to be done in minutes," Trowbridge said in a news release. "This applies not only to molding operations but to machining, and assembly as well. We are known for fast deliveries, fast turnarounds and high quality — and not much of what we mold here is standard stuff."
In-house molding is key to Otto Engineering's vertical integration due to the sensitive nature of the parts produced and the high-mix, low-volume nature of many projects.
The LS Mtron presses have been running well and the production staff has realized process improvements, according to Scianna.
"Our LS Mtron molding machines have been reducing our scrap significantly because they offer far more repeatable performance from part to part and job to job" than the 1980s and 1990s machines they replaced, Scianna said.
The efficiency of the machines lets Otto Engineering be efficient about staffing.
"We do a lot of unmanned molding with five people who are responsible for 19 machines over three shifts, so we need to be as efficient as possible," Scianna said.
Otto Engineering has thousands of molds and 10,000 inserts.
"Some molds we built here, and others we purchased. We even have one tool that makes 26 different parts," Scianna said.
Many of the company's molding machines are paired with cranes overhead.
"We execute over 100 mold changes per week," Trowbridge said. "That's not unusual here — we specialize in fast mold changeovers. With our custom cranes, only one person is required to replace molds — and the mold is always over the machine, never the operator, for maximum safety."
The new facility also features under-floor utilities for water, power, compressed air and exhaust.
With 2023 sales forecast at $145 million, Otto Engineering is counting on the new LS Mtron presses to play a vital part of its strategy to continue growing as a global player in custom precision injection molding, the release says.
Otto Engineering has 535 employees and a federally accredited apprentice program through the U.S. Department of Labor with the Tooling Manufacturers of America as the classroom training instruction provider. Otto Engineering employs 17 apprentices.