ENGEL Inserts Increase Efficiencies For Matrix Tooling

ENGEL has equipped a growing custom-molding and moldmaking operation with an advanced vertical press for manufacturing a life-saving surgical component housing -- an insert molded needle nearly five inches long.

ENGEL North America, member of the ENGEL group, a world leader in the design and manufacture of injection molding machines and parts-handling automation, recently delivered a new molding system built-up around a 45-ton ENGEL insert 80V/45 vertical injection molding machine to Matrix Tooling, Inc./ Matrix Plastic Products of Wood Dale, IL.

Equipped with ENGEL's sturdy C-frame clamping unit, key features of the new Matrix press include dual core-pulls, a two-station rotary table, and a highly accurate and repeatable servomotor-controlled injection unit that incorporates a high-temperature barrel package. Matrix uses its new ENGEL vertical press to insert mold TPE surgical catheter tubes with stainless-steel needles that are nearly five inches long.

“It's a pretty complicated job,” says Andy Ziegenhorn, Molding Accounts Manager at Matrix. “One of the reasons we chose the ENGEL was the flexibility of the controller. It allowed us to handle the mechanics of the tool and also allows for future improvements to the process, such as cutting the catheter tube to length within the mold."

“Although we're still in the initial stages with this project, and we are hand-loading the inserts at the present time, we have realized there are many automation possibilities.  We plan to automate this process with a side-entry robot as the production volumes ramp up.”

A Flawless Start-Up

According to Patrick Collins, the Molding Operations Manager at Matrix, “The start up on this complicated mold—a mold with removable core mandrels—was flawless. The mold has two ejector halves that rotate on the turntable. As the one side is being injected with plastic, the other is being ejected and loaded.

“At this time, we have three sets of core/insert mandrels that we are hand loading.  The core/insert mandrels have been designed to hold the stainless-steel needles with a detent that can be actuated by a lever on the mandrel. This allows the inserts to be held in place as they are being molded.”

 “We have a great team here at Matrix,“ Collins continues.  “Tom Ziegenhorn, one of our Design Engineers, and I met this new customer while working a trade show.  Tom was able to visualize that the customer needed to replace a costly manual process with a more cost-effective insert molding process.

“The mold he designed was built by our team of skilled tool builders led by Mike Martin and Gary Eckman, and our inspection team led by Gary Johansson qualified everything to exceed our customer’s expectations.”

Deciding Factors

“When choosing the machine vendor for this project – especially as we were bringing a new technology into our facility -- we wanted to limit our risk/exposure as much as possible,” says Ziegenhorn. “ENGEL's reliability and service have always been top notch in our experience, so even though the machine was a little more expensive upfront than some of their competitors, we felt that quality of the end product and service justified the investment.”

“Personally, I think you can tell the difference just by looking at the machines. Our ENGELs appear to be more solid / well built. But more to the point, we end up requiring fewer service calls on these machines than some of the others on our floor.”

A One-Stop Shop

At its 30,000-sq. ft. facility in Wood Dale, IL, Matrix employs about 50, working three shifts. The company designs and builds its own molds, and has done so for more than three decades. It operates a combination of 14 electric and hydraulic molding machines ranging from 5-to-300 tons, including two presses in a Class 100,000 cleanroom. Matrix specializes in running engineering resins, such as PEEK, PEI, LCP, PC, and nylons to produce some 20-million parts per year for its medical/surgical, electronics, military and consumer products customers.

And, since it also processes expensive resorbable materials—like PLA, PLG, and PLC—Matrix understandably makes a consistent effort to minimize shot sizes, and reduce material waste.

Matrix also adds value to the full range of services it provides its customers with such in-house secondary processes as assembly, sonic welding, laser marking, and project-specific labeling. Although pad printing and other secondary operations may be outsourced to approved suppliers of such services, Matrix oversees and manages all projects. Its state-of-the-art quality assurance lab facilitates customized inspection reporting and full qualification services. Matrix is both ISO 9001- and ISO-13485-certified.

For more information, visit: www.matrixtooling.com

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