Background: Serving a Diverse Customer Case from Design to Production
Based in Amherst, New Hampshire, Poly-Ject is a custom plastic injection molding shop, providing end-to-end services that include design, rapid prototyping, mold making, and plastic injection molding.
The company was started in 1982 by Larry Thibeault in the basement of his house. Growing up with molding machines all around him, his son Steve is now the company’s co-owner and president, running the day-to-day business.
Today, the company has 17+ employees working out of a 25,000sf facility, serving a diverse customer base that ranges from medical and military equipment to packaging and sporting goods, to name just a few.
A large portion of the business is repeat orders from existing customers, who keep coming back to Poly-Ject for the high quality products and the one-stop solution provided by the company. “Our strength is in the integration of the services we provide,” says Steve Thibeault. “We can do everything from the part design and the tool design to the actual manufacturing. When we do the design we think ahead to how the tool is going to be built and how the part is going to be manufactured, so that the mold can be made very efficiently.”
Challenge: Delivering Competitively Priced Tools at 2/3 of the Time
Despite the current economic downturn, Poly-Ject’s tool making business has not seen any slowdown. “Many of our customers’ sales are down 30-40%, but they are still making new products and need new tools,” says Thibeault. “At the same time, with sales down, customers are more cost conscious so the pressure to keep costs down is greater than ever.”
“The biggest change we have seen over the years is the reduced lead time,” adds Thibeault. “That’s also the biggest challenge today: how do you deliver tools that are competitively priced at two thirds of the time you were taking to build them two years ago?”
Solution: from Part Design to Tool Design and NC in One Package
To address these challenges and stay competitive, Poly-Ject has been searching for ways to streamline its processes. “Our primary software for over ten years was Mastercam. Overtime, we came to realize that it was not keeping up with the pace we needed. It was inefficient and really slowing us down,” says Thibeault.
“We had a lot of money invested in Mastercam, so it took a long time before we even started looking at other software, but it just came to a point where we really had to stop thinking about how much we had invested and start thinking about how much we could save in the future,” adds Thibeault.
“When we looked at Cimatron, we could immediately see that it was a perfect fit for us. Cimatron enables us to do everything we need—from part design to tool design and NC—in one package. It matches our philosophy of providing customers with a one-stop solution to their needs.”
According to Thibeault, the transition to Cimatron was quick and smooth. “I found it to be fairly intuitive. In addition, Cimatron’s tech support is the best in the industry. Being ex-tool makers, they understand how molds and tools work. I have often called them just to get their opinion on how I should proceed with a project if I have two different ways of going about it.”
“In retrospect, we should have made the switch sooner,” admits Thibeault. “Working with Cimatron has opened our eyes to a new way of doing things. We would not have been able to keep up with our work had the software not been as efficient as it is.”
Results: Streamlined Process Cuts Delivery Time by 40% and Wins More Business
Thibeault estimates that Cimatron has helped Poly-Ject slash about 40% of the time required for design and machining. “Having one integrated package where everything is created in a single file has significantly streamlined the design process,” he says. “It has cut down on a lot of errors and mistakes that had to be corrected in the past.”
Cimatron’s ability to produce high quality tool paths is another major advantage. “Mastercam’s cutter paths didn’t have smooth motions and transitions, which required us to do more polishing and more EDM,” says Thibeault. “With Cimatron, we are able to use more high-speed cutting and get better quality finishes in a fraction of the time.”
Running machines unattended is an important part of Poly-Ject’s strategy for maintaining efficiency and speed. The quality of the toolpaths that come out of Cimatron enables Poly-Ject to operate its machines in an unattended fashion with greater confidence. “Cimatron keeps track of what has been cut and what still needs to be cut so well that I feel very confident leaving the machines unattended at night,” says Thibeault.
One of the recent projects delivered by Poly-Ject provides a good example for how it is able to step up to customer demands and even bring to the US work that was supposed to be done overseas. “It was a two cavity injection mold, and each part required three separate side actions or pulls, with one of these pulls on a compound angle. Our customer’s sister company in Germany was trying to do the job but could not get it done in the timeframe needed. They asked for help from their US counterparts, and they came to us and said they needed the mold built in four weeks. This was just the second project we did with Cimatron, and we were able to do it in 3.5 weeks. The customer was thrilled. We could not have done it in time without Cimatron.”