We see all kinds of new projects come across our desks these days where the client really wants to say to the public at large that his/her product is, "Made in the USA". Why do you suppose this is? Is it the economy spurring some kind of patriotism that forces us to dig deep and "Buy American" or is it simply a quality concern and American pride that assumes "made in the USA" is somehow, someway better than "made in China".
Not too many years ago, 30 to 40 years, Americans were lusting after their own products and slamming the Japanese products (calling them cheap and poorly manufactured). Something happened along the way and now we equate Japanese manufacturing techniques with world class and some of the highest and best in many manufacturing arenas.
Until new device manufacturer's in today’s world economy realize that there is value associated with the cost of American made goods and services, the end user will continue to pay the price of having to purchase substandard goods because the manufacturer went cheep with its methods and suppliers. You know the saying "You get what you pay for!"
In injection molding we have seen a migration of plastics to China. While it makes sense for a great number of products it is certainly not true for all. For example, high cavitation tooling with extremely tight tolerance components coming off of them is still best suited for the United States and its higher class tool making expertise.
While upper management is pushing to save money, ultimately their QC and manufacturing departments will pay the price of substandard molds or parts that will not meet specifications due to the lack of expertise at offshore moldmaking and molding companies.
Everyday there is a Chinese mold being re-worked somewhere in the USA. These molds were built in China to save money. In the end there is no savings and in many cases there is a loss and tough times ahead while they try to pull themselves out of backorder because it didn't meet the "quality" or "time to market" that was planned for.
We have purchasing agents buying molds that know very little about them. They get quotes from stateside and Chinese mold makers and guess who they end up going with. This has put USA moldmakers in the position to match low bids or lose all the work. In the end as in the automotive industry USA sources could all go broke and have no one to blame but themselves for not educating the client about the common pitfalls of offshore tooling.
There is a time and a place for these molds and it is up to us to educate the people. Craftech Corporation has developed offshore tooling sources over the past 15 years and it has not always been easy. We have gone through the school of hard knocks for you. As your trusted advisor we will guide you through the process and identify what makes sense for your particular project. We still build molds in the USA and we also, when the time is right, build molds offshore.
If you are a purchasing agent or someone who has purchasing authority, it is in your best interest to use vendors who have the ISO 9001:2008 registration certification. The ISO 9000 family of standards relate to quality management systems and are designed to help organizations ensure they meet the needs of customers. There are many reasons but most importantly it allows you the peace of mind that this vendor is doing what it should be doing to ensure they deliver products the meet or exceed your requirements and/or demands.
A number of major purchasers require their suppliers to hold ISO 9001 certification. ISO 9000 deals with the fundamentals of quality management systems. ISO 9001 deals with the requirements that organizations wishing to meet the standard have to fulfill.
ISO 9000 was first published in 1987. It was based on the BS 5750 series of standards from BSI (British Standards Institute) that were proposed to ISO in 1979. Today BSI claims to certify organizations at nearly 70,000 sites globally.
Craftech Corporation is ISO 9001:2008 certified and uses the auditing process as a tool to continually improve. After completing our most recent audit I asked our Quality Manager, Frank Pucci to let me know how it went, Here is what he had to say:
"Audit was in 2 stages. The first stage is a readiness audit which involves a review of the Quality Management System (QMS) against the ISO 9001:2008 standard to ensure that the QMS meets the intent of the standard. This stage took 2 days. No issues were found.
The second stage is the certification audit. This is an audit to ensure that we are following our QMS and involved auditing the entire QMS. This audit took 3 days. No non-conformances were found during this audit.
Of all the audits (and companies) that I have been involved with, this is the first time I have had an audit where no non-conformances were found."
To find out more about our ISO 9001:2008 Certificate click here.
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SPI plastic injection mold classifications (originally called "Classifications of Injection Molds for Thermoplastic Materials") have been in place and copyrighted since 1978. They have been updated a few times throughout the years but remain largely the same as the original draft created for the Society of Plastics Industry.
The following is an excerpt from an e-mail received 3-11-2011 from Mike Noggle who helped create the standards we all use to this day.
"The original printing was in 1978 and several other revisions followed. The most meaningful change was in the 1990's and added larger molds as we originally addressed molds intended for 450 ton machines or less."
"The idea originated in the mid 1970's and around 1976 Chuck Brewer Jr. gathered some friends in the industry to discuss problems frequently encountered with losing jobs to shops quoting inferior tooling. Most toolmakers, at that time, acknowledged "Class A" molds to be the finest available but there were no written standards to describe exactly what that meant. As an example, I attended an SPI led forum one night and sat int he audience while a panelist proclaimed he could produce Class A aluminum molds."
"At that point, I knew something needed to be done since most buyers had no moldmaking expertise. I met with Chuck Brewer, Jack Kelly and Jim Atchison on numerous occasions as we hammered out what we envisioned a Class A mold to be. It was nearly unanimous that this mold, intended for high production, needed to be of hardened steel and built to exacting standards. We also recognized there was a need for prototype, low and intermediate volume molds so we discussed standards for those as well."
"After taking copious notes and discussing the need for standards over many months, I took the bull by the horns and wrote the initial draft. I sent it to Chuck for editing since he started this entire process. We recognized Class I through Class IV molds and inserts and gave descriptions for the buyers expectations and the moldmakers reference." (Today known as class 101 to 105).
"After completing our work, we assigned the entire effort to SPI for publishing. It was presented at a national moldmakers conference in 1978 and, to our pleasant surprise, immediately embraced by the membership. It was intended as a guideline so buyers could understand what they should expect when ordering a mold and to level the playing field by having the moldmakers quote similar tools. Later revisions changed the molds to Class 101, 102 etc. and larger molds were recognized as class 401 etc.Though copyrighted it is, as you noted, widely used for reference. And that is how the SPI guidelines came to be."
Here is a scan from SPI's origional book, "Classifications of Injection Molds for Thermoplastic Materials".
SPI Mold Standards
While these standards help level the playing field for those seeking to purchase molds and the moldmaking community at large they do not cover design issues such as gating, the balancing of runners, rational behind hot runner systems and many other concerns which could lead to problems. The standards are mostly used as guidelines for the materials to be used (steel types etc.) and the number of cycles a given mold will be under warrantee.
There are many factors that could lead to molds not acheiving the standards including lack of maintnence, mistreatment and improper mold set-up in a molding machine.
At Craftech Corporation we will help guide you through the process of designing parts that are manufactured, building molds that meet the standards you require and educating you on the rational behind them.
Special thanks to Mike Noggle and all of those involved in the creation and implementation of the SPI Mold Standards.
Click here to get your copy of the SPI Mold Standards.
Go to SPI's website to attain the most recent revision of the standard: Society of Plastics Industry
See the Wikipedia description of Injection Mold for some detailed information and historical background.
See Plastics News forum conversations...