What American molder will take the leap and be the first to buy Engel’s newest injection molding machine—an e-motion 110 specially fitted to process amorphous zirconium alloys?
Injection molders, particularly in the United States, are not generally big risk takers on new technology.
One exception—and potential candidate—is Phillips-Medisize based in Hudson, Wisconsin, which grew and prospered as Phillips CEO Robert Cervenka felt he always had to be one step ahead in technical development. He was one of the first to embrace reciprocating screw technology when the common knowledge among American molders was that plungers were the best. He built a unique technology innovation center where he hired engineers and scientists to investigate new technology, even diving into areas such as composites for medical implants.
Metals always intrigued him. He was one of the first to buy a Thixomolding machine for the molding of liquid magnesium. He became one of the leading contract manufacturers for powder metals, which are finding important applications in medical devices and other high-value areas.
He and Debra Cervenka sold Phillips Plastics in 2010 to Kohlberg & Co. a private equity firm that has continued to invest in technology and took Phillips global with the acquisition of European molder Medisize. CEO Matt Jennings takes pride in continuing the leading-edge tradition of Phillips.
Last week, Phillips-Medisize announced that it will buy 10 additional metal injection molding (MIM) machines for its plant in Menomonie, Wisconsin, which was also expanded two years ago. The site will also now have four continuous and three batch furnaces for the MIM process. The company is also expanding clean room space in New Richmond, Wisconsin, and adding additional design staff.
The addition of an amorphous metal molding machine to produce Liquidmetal parts would be an important commercial development for financially struggling Liquidmetal. Apple and Swatch have already embraced the technology for consumer electronics and watch components, respectively. The field is wide open for medical device applications, which is Phillips-Medisize’s forte.
Amorphous metals would be a good fit for the types of high-precision metal components used in medical devices. The zirconium alloys originally developed by researchers at Cal Tech are extremely tough with high tensile strength and flexibility combined with excellent elastic recovery.
I’m just speculating here, but Engel, Liquidmetal and Phillips Medisize seem like a pretty good fit.