Wisconsin Company Sees Uptick in Demand for Injection Molded and 3D Printed Parts
Reported growth in demand for injection molding and 3d printing has enabled Advantage Prototype Systems Corp. (APS) to recently expand double fold, allowing for the addition of new machinery and the streamlining of production.
Advantage Prototype Systems now has 20 employees and 8,000 sq. ft. of production area, where it houses five stereolithography machines and four injection molding machines. The company handles both injection molding and has been offering SLA 3D printing for the past 17 years. Company president Michael Burg sees an uptick in demand for both processes. For SLA, demand has been strong and the company mostly builds models for form and fit so that a design engineer can test out a part before it goes to production.
"Attention to detail is our strength," said Burg, who cited one recent project where SLA models require tight dimensions for the facets of the reflectors on automotive mirrors for side angle and rear detection. "Automotive mirrors are one of our biggest areas of growth right now because more and more cars are being built with these safety devices. On the car mirror, there's an icon that lights up if there's a problem, and the little parts behind the mirror are the parts we make and they're getting more and more popular," he said.
Advantage Prototype Systems (www.advproto.com), based in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., mostly serves the automotive, plumbing, recreational, medical, and household appliance industries, along with new inventors. But Burg cited the bicycle industry as a growth industry because of the demand for trek bikes and motorcycles. Design engineers are asking for parts to be made using SLA with a chrome finish.
The company recently purchased a new injection molding machine to handle increased demand in a product line for the hockey business. APS makes parts for a training device that enhances stick handling training. "We bought the bigger machine mainly because of the expanded use of this product, which one of the larger Canadian chains is picking up for their catalogue," Burg said.
The company's niche falls within the "five to 10,000 parts or less" range. "I think our uniqueness is that we have the modeling ability and then the ability to take those into short-range production," Burg said. SLA models can be used for stand-alone form/fit/function pieces, fully detailed and finished show and photography pieces, or patterns for casting urethane or metal parts. The casting of metals is done by one of several foundries with which APS has working relationships.
The company's machine capabilities range from 40 to 360 tons, giving the flexibility to meet customer's needs of varying sizes. The addition of an 80 ton Engle e-motion all-electric molding machine has allowed APS to increase parts production while decreasing delivery time to customers. The e-motion provides high-precision and reproducibility, and the added x-melt feature provides the perfect platform for precise, thin-walled parts, Burg said.
Recently, a new product for the housing market was brought to APS with problems for making a strong production-capable part because the parts were to be outside in full sun and would need some structural integrity. The company, with its three product development designers, redesigned the part to remove thick sections and undercuts that would make the molding difficult.
"The part was redesigned for proper molding techniques and retaining the original design intent and structural requirements. Material selection was also a part of the project to have a material that was suitable for full sun without warping," Burg explained.
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