Mold Maintenance & Repair

OCT 2014

Mold Maintenance & Repair

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October 2014 15 Mobile laser welder after sending a team to Stone to see what all the fuss was about. Paragon's repair and maintenance operation occupies 4,000 square feet of the company's 165,000-square-foot general machining and mold manufacturing facility. Brooks says the laser welder's role is essentially the same as at Stone: laying beads that might measure no more than 0.005-inch thick along sharp, 90-degree edges or other intricate features without marring highly fnished or tex- tured portions of the surface. Yet, the company also uses the HTS Mobile for operations that that go beyond repairing surface cracks, dam- aged gates, worn sealing edges and the like. Examples include precisely flling in scribe lines (engraved text) on mold surfaces after a design change, adding small amounts of material to the tops of ejector pins, and adding material to round off the interiors of small holes. As is the case at Stone Plastics, the laser welder gets plenty of use. Brooks estimates that it runs consistently for 30 to 35 hours every week. At that rate, the ROI on the unit is only about a year. Another notable similarity to Stone Plastics is that one of the chief operators of Par- agon's HTS Mobile, Dan Dixon, is an apprentice. Expanding Capacity and Capability After considering the myriad options on display at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in 2012, Hoffer Plastics Corp. also chose a welder from O.R. Laser, albeit a different model: an ECO160 Eco Laser. The machine is smaller than the HTS Mobile, but that was just fne with Long and his team. Floorspace where the unit is housed—one of two toolrooms at the 365-em- ployee molder's eight focused factories, all contained in a 365,000-square-foot building—is at a premium, he explains. Regardless, the unit's joystick-controlled, 150-kg-capacity table (X, Y and Z axes) and tiltable, boom-mounted laser provide suffcient fexibility for the vast major- ity of the company's mostly high-cavitation, high-volume tooling, Long says. Although O.R. Laser touts the system as an entry-level, "cost-effcient" option, Long says the Eco Laser is perfectly capable of precisely applying beads measuring only 0.005 inch—the same fgure cited by the other two companies for some of their most diffcult work. That said, the unit isn't always confned to such demand- ing applications. It's also used for jobs that might otherwise be handled by the outside partners the company still employs for gener- al TIG welding. Although laser is slower than TIG, he says performing this work in-house has made the difference on more than a few urgent projects. "There's a lot of training involved to learn to weld, so we wanted our frst machine to cover everything," he adds. Before long, however, the company ex- pects to have enough talent in place to justify expanding its use of welding in the future, if need be. As this article took shape, apprentic- es Shannon Duffy, Tony Ward and Nick Elston were undergoing additional training from O.R. Laser to increase their skill and effciency. Duffy, who's quickly risen to become one of the com- pany's most prolifc welders, says she's looking forward to exploring the full range of the Eco Laser's capability. "I didn't initially sign on to be a welding apprentice, but I'm the happiest person in the world when I'm doing it," she says. "It's hard to explain, but there's something almost artistic about it. I can't wait to learn more." For More Information: O.R. Laser / 800-815-4412 / Stone Plastics & Manufacturing / 616-748-9740 / Hoffer Plastics Corp. / 847-741-5740 / Paragon D&E / 616-949-2220 / Learning to laser weld has made employees like Gabe Ensign, an apprentice and one of the machine's frequent operators, better at other work—and better at limiting the need for other work.

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