Mold friends: Lessons from a custom-building machine manufacturer

Since 1972, Wilmington Machinery has been designing and building high quality custom and standard high-speed rotary blow molding machines, as well as structural plastic machines. By combining innovative concepts with expertise and technology, the North Carolina-based company provides effective, dependable solutions and approaches each project with a positive attitude and sincere commitment. Experienced engineers work with each customer to build a machine that enhances processing methods and improves the bottom line.

EPPM invited Russ La Belle, President, Wilmington Machinery to share that expertise and show what custom building has done for its customers, and for the industry.

“One lesson we have continued to learn over and over since we started building machines in 1972 is that it is important to engineer the right machine to fit the customer’s application. Simply selling a machine is not enough. When you are focusing on only selling machines you aren’t always open-minded enough to consider a better option for their application. What happens next is that they realize the company bought the wrong machine and suddenly you have a disappointed customer. Over the years, we have been lucky to resolve a lot of real customer application problems and engineer great machines to fit their specific applications.”

By way of an example, Wilmington was provided with a new and unique opportunity from an established structural foam injection molder looking for equipment. To understand the machine building process for this particular project, it was important to review the history of building structural foam injection molding, which began in the 1960s.

“Most of these structural foam injection molding machines were vertical acting presses built in accordance with the then patent holder Union Carbide’s licensing and knowhow. Most machines were ‘homemade’ in the sense that a molder would buy a press from someone, an extruder from someone else, and then make the injection components to the Union Carbide recipe.”

Wilmington Machinery offered such a vertical press option when it began business in 1972. However, its horizontal machines proved much more in demand since they did not require a ‘pit’ for the below-floor level components and allowed for multiple clamps from a common injection system.

“We built a lot of these machines over the years and customers were happy. Yet, we have also learned that because one type of machine is in demand, that doesn’t mean it is always the best option for the customer for every application. We discovered that this was also the case during this build project. We were reminded that the industry had been right all along about the potential for the vertical machine options for some situations after discussing both horizontal and vertical press options for this project.”

Because Wilmington spent time with the customer discussing the specific application, plant floor layout, and a variety of other considerations, the customer chose the vertical option for several reasons:· Less floor space,· Lower cost molds,· Ease of mold installation,· Ease of product removal, and· Lower set-up time.

Wilmington Machinery designed and built large 500-ton vertical structural mold presses that can mount between one and six molds and 125lb. total shot capacity. These machines feature direct gas injection, energy saving variable frequency hydraulics, and Wilmington’s proprietary Versafil injection system, providing precise fill of multiple molds and nozzle sequencing of large molds.

“These machines are outperforming their predecessors by reduced cycle times, their ability to process recycled flake materials, and the cost of operation. We were also reminded that you can never say ‘never’ when it comes to engineering the right piece of molding equipment for a customer.”

From this latest example, Wilmington learned the benefits of working with a machine builder focused on engineering, and making sure it fits the application. The benefit of owning a unique machine to produce a higher quality product at a lower cost is value for money in itself.

In the case of other machines, Wilmington has engineered and built rotary blow molding machines since 1979. These lower both machinery and labor costs, as well as maintenance, floor-space use, and utility costs too.

Wilmington Machinery will be among the many machine manufacturers attending this year’s K Show in Dusseldorf, Germany, in October. Russ La Belle invites European stakeholders to the North American Pavilion Hall to visit with the Wilmington team to learn more about customized machine manufacturing and how it can benefit their business.