Manufacturing Week Helps Spur a Competitive Edge

Nov. 7, 2008
As companies try to squeeze more efficiency out of existing processes, they are increasingly tasked with finding technologies that give them a competitive advantage.

National Manufacturing Week (NMW), just held in Chicago, provided a way to “kick the tires” of such technologies. The three-day, 400,000-ft″ event showcased IT, quality, assembly, materials, electronics, automation, design engineering, plant operations, and green manufacturing.


Bosch Rexroth,



IR Photonics,

Solid Concepts,,


For example, micromolder Accumold, Ankeny, Iowa, molds plastic on and around tin, copper, silver, gold, and other materials. The company says in some cases thermoplastics can replace ceramics as a packaging material. Thermoplastic also provides 85% of the performance of ceramics at 25% of the cost. The company molds parts that measure from microns up to about in. “Conventional” small parts range from to 3 in., at most about a 1-oz shot on a 35-ton machine. These parts can hold tight tolerances and have complex features.

Rapid manufacturing is hot because companies use it to fabricate just about anything they can imagine. RP service bureau Solid Concepts, Valencia, Calif., which provides rapid tooling, direct digital manufacturing, and injection molding, has added an online RP service that it says ships parts the next day.

The site,, is said to be quick and easy to use. Just upload an STL file, select a shipping option, and click the Order button. The service has been running in beta mode and providing PolyJet white plastic parts since early August. just announced it will add SLA and SLS white plastic parts at the end of October.

PolyJet prototypes are reportedly suited for applications that demand accurate details and good surface finishes. PolyJet parts can be 5 5 5-in. or smaller, although larger PolyJet machines permit build volumes up to 19.3 15.4 7.9-in. SLA and SLS parts can be still larger. Of the two, SLA is less expensive and SLS builds stronger nylon parts.

On the metals side, FisherTech, Peterborough, Ont., Canada, says its injected-metal assembly (IMA) uses a molten-zinc alloy to replace welding, soldering, press fitting, and crimping. The technique avoids peeling and thermal degradation that can plague traditional joining methods. IMA has good stress-distribution properties and performs well in harsh environments. The zinc cures in milliseconds and ensures close tolerances and part-to-part consistency over large volumes.

For applications where heat- and UV-curable adhesives are best, IR Photonics’ iCure (Hamden, Conn.) is said to apply software control and atomic-level physics to speed curing. A PC-sized device focuses midinfrared light through a fluoride glass lightguide which transmits 95% of the light to the curing surface. The small IR spot focuses energy where it’s needed, cutting power use and keeping the rest of the assembly cool. Software lets users tailor beam intensity and duration based on an adhesive’s cure profile. iCure handles commercially available adhesives in sealing or backside joining of silicon chips and permits localized solder rework. Applications include semiconductors, microelectronics, medical devices, and optoelectronics.

Bosch Rexroth, Hoffman Estates, Ill., designed its newest conveyors with large products in mind. The TS5 conveyor carries 300 kg/m on rollers driven by a side-mounted king roller. Disengaging the drive from selected rollers keeps workpieces stationary until the next station is clear. Users can specify conveyor width, length, and cornering configuration, and the conveyor can move palletized or unsupported loads. The machine is scheduled to hit markets in January. A 650-kg/m TS6 conveyor will be available starting in the third quarter of next year.

The company also displayed its new TSSolar line, designed for Class 1,000 clean rooms and lowimpact environments required in photovoltaic cell fabs. Servos drive polyurethane/fabric-reinforced nylon belts that carry work pieces with minimal wear or vibration. The servodrive slows the belt as delicate parts approach conveyor edges, and pneumatics lift and lower parts without touching critical surfaces.

Alternative energy is behind products Dexmet, Wallingford, Conn., displayed at the show. The company’s precision-expanded metal and plastic parts are making their way into fuel cells as current collectors, membrane-support screens, flow-field screens, gasdiffusion electrodes, and barrier layers. Dexmet is also extending the reach of its expanded metal products into oil-free bearings, air-bag filters, and diesel-engine scrubbers.

Medical bobbins are molded in a multicavity mold on a continuous strip. Cavity-to-cavity variation averaged between 0.0002 and 0.0003 in.

The desktop-PC-sized iCure unit focuses and controls mid-IR light to rapidly cure adhesives.

A king shaft drives TS5 conveyor rollers via low-maintenance 90° gearing to carry up to 300 kg/m. Rollers can be disengaged for vibration-free idling of workpieces.

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