When Viking Plastics was approached by one of their automotive customers about manufacturing a new component, they knew they needed a specialized machine to achieve this new request from their customer: the capability to overmold a small volume of resin onto a metallic component with efficiency and consistency.
Viking Plastics has served the industry since 1972 as a global supplier of engineered, injection molded, and assembled sealing solutions. They are a privately owned, American company whose goal is to build trust and relationships while being a partner to their customers that provides solutions, not just products. They are headquartered in Corry, PA but have a global footprint with plants in Brazil and China and over 400 employees world-wide. They primarily serve the automotive, HVAC, fluid handling, battery, filtration, lawn & garden, appliance, and general industrial markets. When one of their big automotive clients came to them needing a solution they were ready to jump at the opportunity – and they literally had to jump as their customer had an immediate need.
While Viking offers several types of molding, ultrasonic welding, assembly, metal to plastic conversion, and FDM-3D prototype services – this opportunity was one that required investing in new equipment and expanding their capabilities since it was a very machine specific application.
The application, utilized in the automotive industry, provides real savings on the OEM customer production lines. It’s a new product that offers global savings for the customer. The technical challenges included the volume of material (less than 1 gram per overmold cavity), high volume production (required 16 cavity mold), and the need to keep costs competitive (high efficiency, 0 defective parts permitted, and low cycle times). Viking worked through design iterations and prototyping and yielded successful trials with their automotive customer prior to purchasing any new equipment. During the trial phase, Viking set out and reviewed offerings from a variety of manufacturers but quickly landed on a new Sodick injection molding machine. “We felt that Sodick had the right combination of technologies vs. the competitors,” stated Shawn Gross, Corporate Engineering Manager at Viking Plastics. Additionally, Viking needed their new equipment fast, Sodick could expedite a machine directly from Japan to get it to Viking quickly – they ordered it in November and had it installed by the first week of January. “I was very impressed how this program came together so quickly, and Sodick was able to deliver within our timing even though the expectations were very high. I appreciated their team working with us to expedite the machine,” Gross added.
The team at Viking worked through a list of technical needs for the program. The mold size drove a 100 ton machine size, yet the shot volume required a smaller injection unit to both reduce residence time and provide shot to shot control. In addition, the machine needed to easily integrate with upstream and downstream automation to provide the efficiency and quality needed. Sodick was able to accommodate the technical needs of the program with a custom machine and yet met tight timing expectations from the OEM customer. Viking is particularly impressed with the smooth operation of the machine, consistency, control of shot volume, and ease of use.
“The product helps our customer significantly reduce time on their engine manufacturing lines and saves them money,” Gross stated. “We expect to produce 10’s of millions when at full production rates.” Viking is up to an excess of 80,000 pieces per day and their automation and inspection cell yields zero defective parts per million.
When adding any new machine with a new control, companies are worried about operator adoption – as was the case with Viking. However, after a short training the easy to use Sodick control was quickly adopted without issue by operators.
As Viking looks towards the future, they consider Sodick a “go to” supplier for molding machines requiring small shot volume, low residence times, low shear rates, and exceptional control. “Sodick is at the top of my list for providing solutions to tough molding challenges.” Gross added.