Custom Molder Solves Customers' Problems with Savvy Engineering, Flexibility
"Thinking outside the mold" is a motto that features prominently on Chapman Tool & Manufacturing's (www.chapman-mold.com) website because of the company's dedication to create innovative solutions for difficult assemblies and products. It is with "tireless effort" to get the job done with persistence and follow-through to reach customers' expectations that sets them apart from the competition, said company representatives.
One such example of innovative, outside-the-box thinking was taking a project deemed "un-moldable" by other injection molders because of its die lock design. "It's a flexible material and it's shaped similarly to an accordion, which is impossible to mold," said Chris Kachurick, Chapman Tool's director of engineering. "We found a way that we pull the mandrel off of the core and off the mold, and we actually inflate the part with a blast of air, which allows it to release off of the mandrel. The part then returns back to its natural state, keeping it within the specifications required."
The product, used in the medical field, is required to be flexible and free of debris and contaminants. Because of the products' die lock and tubular design, the challenge was to remove the mandrel without altering the specs of the part. "With knowledge of materials and our own capabilities, we discussed all options with the customer that would meet their requirements," said David Kincaid, Chapman Tool's marketing head and logistics manager. "By taking our experience into consideration, they were able to modify their design slightly and we were able to make their product successfully."
There was a price benefit as well because one of the options the customer was facing before Chapman came up with a solution was to split the part in half and mold it in separate sections before welding it back together. "So we reduced a secondary operation that added cost, and we reduced lead time," Kachurick said.
Serving primarily aerospace, defense, medical, and industrial electronics, Brooksville, Fla.-based Chapman Tool, a division of Kincaid Plastics Inc., is ISO-9001:2008 certified, ISO-13485 Compliant, and CAGE Code 5QK77 & ITAR Registered. The company also has an ISO class 7 clean room. "We're actually looking into expanding operations in the clean room by putting in annealing ovens," Kincaid said. "We'll be able to build an entire part with various processes in the clean room: Instead of just molding a product in there, we'll be able to anneal it."
Chapman makes various handles for medical devices that have pad printing or require an over molded grip. The pad printing enables them to "hold tolerances and get the image where it's supposed to be under the specifications for the customer and the requirements they need. It's very detailed," Kachurick said. Besides pad printing, other secondary operations that Chapman provides includes hot stamping, sonic welding, heat staking, and more. "We do full assembly of parts where the customer will supply us or we will purchase the other inserts and assemble and ship a fully ready product," Kincaid said. "We do trim flash in certain situations where our customers give us very small tolerances on how much flash they allow on the product. We do pretty much everything. We'll take our secondary department and reorganize it for the project, and anything the customer requires, we try to do in-house."
With 16 injection molding presses ranging in clamp force from 40 to 400 tons, the company handles mold design, mold building, clean room molding, and material selection assistance. Chapman assists customers with selecting resins and also works with a specialty glass fiber-reinforced resin called AvaSpire®, a polyaryletherketone (PAEK) from Solvay Specialty Polymers that is extremely difficult to work with because the mold has to be very hot to run it. Conforming to the customer's dimensions and specifications can be challenging because "it's a little sensitive to movement" after the material has finished molding, Kachurick said. "The reason why this resin is required is because they're (customer) actually autoclaving this with the battery cells in it to eliminate a second procedure and a chance of getting contaminants in the operating room, where they can autoclave the entire battery," Kincaid said. "That goes into the operating room rather than a separate battery getting inserted into a case."
For the defense industry, Chapman does the outer housings, outer shells and excursions, and some internal components, such as hard drive cases and board clamps. "We've solved a couple of problems with material warpage in the parts by tweaking the materials a bit and changing the designs of the molds slightly," Kincaid continued. With aerospace, the company has been focused on aesthetics. "To make it more cosmetically appealing, we have to come up with creative ways of preparing our resins and different ways of drying it, as well as different ways of filling the molds," he said. "It involves a lot of creative processing."
One of the parts the company makes—a lens for an industrial electronics customer—uses a resin that's very susceptible to scratching. To keep costs down, the company puts the lens through what Kachurick calls "a very stringent quality process to make sure that the lens itself has no scratches on it." Chapman also has some resins that are capable of being EMI shielded so that they can house electronics. Although the shielding isn't done in-house, the company works with resins that are capable of having that coating, which is desirable for industrial electronics and medical.
The company recently added two electric presses that will allow workers to do better scientific molding and hold tighter tolerances. "Another thing they will allow us to do is get deeper into medical, using clean room molding, because without oils in the machine, it creates a cleaner environment and keeps it qualified," Kachurick said. They're particularly desirable for medical customers requesting parts that will be used inside the body. The company also added a Haas high-speed machine for doing electrodes. "We build molds for manufacturing and it allows us to increase our lead times and get it to the manufacturer quicker, so the customer gets their product quicker," he said.
Lowering the total cost of a product for their customer is utmost on their minds, and begins at the design phase of a project. "We interrogate their part and look at it closely to find ways we may be able to increase cycle times, reduce material in the part, and reduce steps," Kincaid said. "If we can add something to the molding process which reduces the secondary process required, that in turn reduces costs for the customer on their end product. The other thing we do is we strive to keep as much in house as possible. That reduces shipping costs, logistics, and lead times, and that gives us better control over the quality of the product so we can supply them with a quality product—the product they're looking for, if not better."
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