From micro-base components to longer flow length electrical connectors
Matrix Tool is a full-service family-owned injection molding business that prides itself on a unique combination of technical skill, high-end equipment and dedication to providing cutting edge solutions to today’s toughest challenges. This is accomplished by utilizing a shared forward-thinking mindset within their Mold Design, Tooling and Injection Molding Divisions. The key ingredient to Matrix Tool’s success is their personnel, according to Tim Lewis, President of the Fairview, PA manufacturer. In fact, his father chose the name “Matrix” in 1972 due to its meaning of “something formed from within”. He liked the name because it represents two keystones of the business – a part formed within a mold and a family of employees formed by working collaboratively together to satisfy customer needs.
Since the Company’s start in 1972, Matrix has always “invested” in its people. The company employs (12)-degreed Plastics Engineers who have all graduated from the nationally recognized Plastics Engineering Technology program offered locally at Penn State University, the Behrend College. Several are RJG certified Master Molders, all are trained in RJG and each plays a key role in managing a different functional area of the Plastics Molding Operation. This unique organizational structure has positioned Matrix to better respond to the ever increasing demands of today’s ultra-high precision manufacturing challenges.
The Tooling/Engineering Division is also staffed with a significant number of capable and qualified master craftsmen. Mold design activities are coordinated by (3)-toolmakers that have adopted mold design as their primary work activity. This supports the company’s belief that the most successful full service programs are the result of best design practices derived from tool manufacturing experience and knowhow. In addition, Matrix also employs (22)-talented toolmakers who focus on building new, complex tooling and (4)-dedicated debug and conditioning toolmakers. The latter focuses on qualifying transfer tools, coordinating debug / conditioning activities and managing mold maintenance activities to keep tools in a production-ready state. The tooling team includes a mix of seasoned veterans and youthful journeymen who have completed a state approved apprenticeship program. Overall, a typical Tool Maker at Matrix has an average tenure of seventeen (17) years of service with the organization. It is not uncommon for employees to start and end their career at Matrix Tool, a rarity in today’s workplace, and something the Lewis family prides itself on.
The company’s unique combination of technical expertise has become a differentiator in today’s custom mold building marketplace. It has allowed Matrix Tool to offer an unprecedented life-time guarantee on the full-service molds that are designed, built and qualified to run production at their facility.
Their diverse “expertise” allows the Matrix staff members to incorporate sound and proven design, tooling and molding practices to any project with minimal, if any, conditioning loops during the approval process. Each custom project awarded to Matrix is assigned a Project Manager that is responsible for overseeing project activities and keeping customers informed on the status of all work in-process. Project Managers have access to a fully integrated / data rich ERP system (IQMS) that helps ensure deliverables are met and customer’s time-to-market is minimized.
In addition to investing in qualified staff, the company also takes its equipment purchases very seriously as a means to maintain a competitive advantage. They invest in technology across all manufacturing divisions to enhance capability and maintain a niche in today’s challenging markets. In fact, numerous equipment purchases and infrastructure investments have supported this mindset over the years. Most recently, Matrix purchased several pieces of state-of-the-art equipment to support the micro molding and tooling market trends. The equipment included a Sodick UH650L High-Speed Milling Center and a Sodick AG-40LP Sinker EDM. The Sodick AG-40LP EDM, while gaining popularity in Japan, will be the first unit of its kind placed into service in the United States.
Matrix Tool makes components for many industries including the electrical, computer, medical, and automotive markets. About seven years ago, a decision was made to re-evaluate the company’s molding equipment capabilities. This was done as part of a strategic review of their long term business plan given the company’s specialization in highly complex molds using a vast array of engineering grade resins, particularly LCP based products. “We are a cutting edge, technology driven company and are always looking to be positioned for tomorrow”, stated Tim Lewis. “While we evaluated various machines, the Sodick stood out because of the brand’s unique abilities”, he added. In fact, this “strategic review” was conducted because Matrix Tool recognized the need for specialized equipment that would better meet the market needs and trends of the connector world. They were not looking for a machine that would be good at everything, they wanted a machine that would be great at one thing – ultra high precision molding with exact repeatability. “Everything is getting smaller and smaller, electronics on a board keep becoming even more micro in size”, stated Dave Moyak, Molding Division General Manager. “We needed equipment that would take us to the next level in micro-molding – so we sampled different machines across the country and Sodick won hands down. The Sodick machines have allowed us to expand our manufacturing capabilities to help solve our customer’s toughest micro molding challenges.”
Since the addition of the first Sodick machine, Matrix has further expanded their small part molding capabilities. “We continue to push the molding envelope as we realize what works today will not work tomorrow. Therefore, we’re constantly evaluating ways to improve our service offerings and position ourselves to offer capabilities most full-service companies struggle with” added Tim Lewis.
In fact, Matrix Tool is now able to run both shorter and longer fine pitch thin-walled connectors with greater efficiencies. As examples, they run a multi-cavity .4mm centerline component with a part weight down to .027-g, and alternately, longer flow length bodies with greater circuit core densities. Meaning, Sodick IMMs allow them to mold both micro-base components and longer flow length connectors that traditional horizontal molding machines struggle with.
Since their initial evaluation, Matrix has invested in facility and auxiliary equipment infrastructure to support micro-molding operations. The company has purchased a total of six 20-ton Sodick injection molding machines and one 60-ton machine, all with the fast “LP” response option and specialized small injection units. All seven of their Sodick machines offer the fastest response time in the industry and excellent process repeatability – all key ingredients in their manufacturing process. These machines have proven to be able to meet the ever-growing miniaturization trends in the electronic connector and data transfer markets; whereas traditional horizontal molding machines cannot due to their mechanical design differences in plasticizing, check ring assembly, and screw injection. Dave Moyak adds, “The Sodick machines allow us to achieve better part-to-part consistency and higher product quality to our customers with minimal part and process variation. Our data collection software, either through RJG or Sodick’s proprietary option based solution, allows us to track as many or few process parameters as needed on an individual shot basis”.
Over the past 47 years, Matrix Tool has evolved into a customer-centric company with a full array of capabilities to provide complete turnkey solutions to the most difficult projects involving design, tool construction, tool qualification, production molding and dimensional inspection. All of the Matrix service offerings reside under one roof, allowing for seamless collaboration between manufacturing divisions, ultra-fast turnaround times and improved time-to-market for customer products. Many of Matrix Tool’s projects start as new product launches requiring initial mold design and tool manufacturing. However, it is not uncommon for the company to inherit existing problematic tools from customers seeking expedited tooling and molding solutions to mitigate long term production risk. Through continued investment in its specialized equipment, its technology, and its highly skilled workforce, Matrix Tool is positioned to stay competitive and offer a niche service that few are able to match. Have a difficult and challenging tooling and/or molding project? “Connect” with Matrix Tool, Inc.!