Michigan Molder Cuts Time, Not Corners
At Xcentric Mold & Engineering, software plays a key role in helping the company put high-quality parts in customers’ hands faster.
When you see the name, you can’t help but wonder, “What’s eccentric about this company?”
Well, for starters, Xcentric Mold & Engineering (www.xcentricmold.com) quotes a part within 24 hours, builds the mold within a few days, and delivers short run injection molded parts within 15 days. It guarantees the mold for life. But according to company president and co-founder Brendan Weaver, being Xcentric also means going all out for customers in a manner that is best described as “customer centric.”
“It’s a little bit of attitude,” said Weaver in a phone interview. “We’ve always been innovative, and we make high-end niche products our competitors don’t want to make.”
Xcentric Mold & Engineering, co-founded in 1996 by Brendan Weaver and his brother, Damon, makes low-volume custom parts for industries such as automotive, medical, and aerospace. The company provides quick-turn injection molding, CNC machining, and rapid prototyping at its 34,000-square-foot facility in Clinton Township, Michigan. Its main focus, Brendan Weaver told Design-2-Part Magazine, is to make sure that customers receive their custom-made parts with any required features—from simple to complex—in one to 15 days, without cutting corners or reducing quality.
“We always strive to make the most complex parts faster,” Weaver said.
Xcentric’s injection molding operation can handle internal and external threads; unlimited undercuts; insert molding; custom colors; tight tolerances; and multi-component assemblies. The company is ISO 9001:2008 certified, as well as UL and ITAR certified.
“We help designers, engineers, and product developers get real custom parts in their hands as quickly as 1-20 days, from initial prototype through production,” Weaver said in an emailed response. “We produce all types of parts—plastic or metal, simple to the most complex. If a part can be injection molded or machined, we can do it quickly and at an affordable price. From medical devices, computer and electronics, automotive interior and under-the-hood parts, we have no limitations on what kind of part and application. As long as it is injection moldable or can be machined, we can do it.”
Brendan and Damon are journeymen mold-makers at heart, Brendan explained, and Damon also focuses on computer software development. As they collaborated on the logic of their manufacturing process over the last 20 years, they brought in software developers and explained the logic and steps of the process. The developers wrote the company’s proprietary software.
“Our proprietary software streamlines the entire process. It’s what we have to do—streamline and automate. From marketing and customer management through design and build, we use software to speed up the process. We have a lot of intellectual property in this software.”
Streamlining the process starts with the first phone call or website visit. The customer is encouraged immediately to start the process online with the goal of quoting the part within 24 hours. Upload a CAD file, the site encourages the customer, and let’s get a move on.
“No matter what the industry, and no matter how complex the part, if you have a CAD file ready, we can provide you with an interactive quote in 24 hours or less,” Xcentric states on its website.
As one automated step in this process, Xcentric’s software runs a “Manufacturability Analysis” on the part to assure it can be molded. The analysis simulates the mold being filled at proper pressure, temperature, and time cycle to identify any potential problem areas that might cause unacceptable variations or defective parts. Before anything is made, the simulation reveals opportunities to make design improvements to avoid those problem areas.
“It helps get products to market faster,” Weaver said.
Xcentric Mold & Engineering is nearly doubling in size in 2016 by adding another 30,000 square feet in nearby Shelby Township. In a release announcing its second manufacturing plant, the company said that it understands the importance of speed-to-market as digital, on-demand manufacturing fast becomes “the go-to process for product designers and engineers.” It said that its new facility “will allow its customers to continue to experience some of the fastest turn-around times in the industry while keeping pace with ever-increasing demand.”
Weaver encourages customers to compare Xcentric’s services with those of other companies. In a service comparison on its website, Xcentric states that it designs, builds, and runs production in house; nothing is sent out. The company offers a high-tech platform for designing, quoting, and producing parts. Its team has 20 years of experience, and they are experts at in-house tooling and production. Customers own their tools and can make worry-free engineering changes to them. Xcentric offers unlimited under cuts, tight tolerances, internal and external threads, over molding, insert molding, and custom colors. And customers can talk to a person when they want.
“Customers will come to us to handle some of the most complex projects where our competitors will fail. We are committed to making sure the process, from quote to production, is as smooth as possible, and our customers have acknowledged this benefit,” Weaver said.
In discussing Xcentric’s quality control process, Weaver said that consistency is extremely important to the company and to the quality of the final injection molded part. “We want our customers to have a ‘stress-free’ manufacturing experience, with assurance in knowing their injection molding projects will be done right, on time and on budget.”
To assist customers with their part designs, Xcentric offers its “Injection Mold Part Design Guide,” which offers information relating to injection molding processes and best design practices. For example, in the wall thickness section, the guide states that it’s critical to maintain a uniform wall thickness throughout the part’s design. Maintaining uniform wall thickness enables the development of “stronger, better looking parts,” the guide states, “while also aiding in the overall look and feel by reducing blemishes that may occur from stresses during the injection molding process.”
The guide suggests finding the optimal wall thickness is a balance between strength and weight, with resulting impacts on durability and overall cost. A 10 percent increase in thickness will provide approximately 33 percent more stiffness in most materials, and the use of ribs, stiffening features, and supports are said to provide equivalent stiffness with less wall thickness.
In one case, a night vision technology contractor in the defense industry came to Xcentric with an extremely complex multi-component project. The contractor needed tools built and parts in their hand in 4-to-5 weeks. “They said they came to us because they were told that we are the only injection molder in the country that can tool up the parts and ship in the time frame they needed,” Weaver said in an emailed response. “So we quoted the project, got the job, and shipped parts on time. To this day, we repeat these types of projects, whether it be a medical device OEM, a start-up company, or individual inventor.”
The biggest manufacturing challenge for the project, according to Weaver, was to be able to design and build such complex tooling within the time frame and tight tolerances required by the customer. The Xcentric team was able to meet the design, delivery, and tolerance requirements, he said, because the company’s proprietary technology platform and custom tools supported its highly trained professional staff throughout the entire process.
That type of extra effort on the more difficult parts led the company to develop what it calls its “proprietary process engine,” a scientific approach to plastic injection molding that helps ensure consistency in the manufacturing of stress-free, high quality parts. The process engine is said to guide Xcentric’s technicians to ensure that conditions are optimal for creating “A” quality custom molded plastic parts with a high degree of consistency.
“New employees are trained in the proprietary process engine technique that teaches them to check their work and consistently perform well,” Weaver continued. “We bring our staff up through the apprenticeship program. A “C” or “B” level processor becomes an “A” or “A+” level processor in a month or so. It creates consistency. We run a high rate of quality because of that.”
Weaver added that the training goes beyond processors alone. “It helps in streamlining and guiding our highly trained staff of sales engineers, customer service personal, tooling, machining, and processing experts to assure quality and on-time delivery,” he said.
What does the company’s data show about consistent quality?
“We don’t have the big ups and downs. We don’t have “C” processors who we have to send over to the old guy in the shop to learn the ropes. Our proprietary process engine is a process guide that is a step by step process they have to follow for good injection molding,” Weaver said.
How can the company offer a lifetime mold guarantee?
“We’re journeymen molders. That’s who we are. We’re not in business to remake molds. We Brendan Weaver said. “When partnering with Xcentric, a product developer or designer will get ‘peace-of-mind,’ with a Lifetime Mold Guarantee on every mold. This means that we can run an unlimited amount of parts off tooling and they do not have to worry about being charged for a broken or warn out tool.”
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