Anyone who voted in the 2017 UK General Election and last year’s American Presidential election is likely to have slotted their paper into ballot boxes manufactured for the Government election solutions provider, Pakflatt, by Irish injection moulding specialists Crossen Engineering.
Operating from a 22,000 square foot facility in Belfast with 32 employees, Crossen produces all its own tooling, ranging from aluminium alloy moulds for small to medium batch production through to fully hardened hot runner mould tools for larger runs of 500,000+ components.
Servicing a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, medical, construction, household and materials handling, the company can ship up to quarter of a million moulded parts a month produced on its Romi, Fanuc and Demag machines.
As well as mould design, for which it uses mould and die software VISI, its success is built on strategic partnerships with clients, assisting on project needs from initial design concept through to prototyping and production, tailored to meet individual budgets and timescales.
Range of projects
In addition to the ballot boxes, other notable products include: components for the award-winning Bloc Blinds; plastic mouldings for Resusannie medical CPR mannequins; release mechanisms for the Euro fighter pilots; interior solutions for Porsche; and helmets for the Irish national sport of hurling.
Crossen’s business development manager, Peter Crossen, says that the company likes to be included at the start of the design stage, and is geared up for a quick turnaround of its aluminium alloy injection mould tools for low volume to medium production.
“Every mould we make is designed in VISI, and manufactured on our range of 3-axis and 5-axis Hurco CNC milling machines. We’ve also recently invested in a Röders high speed machining centre, mainly for the quick turnaround of complex mould inserts.”
VISI – Press tooling
The other side to the family-run operation is press tools. The company has 13 presses in place, ranging in capacity from 50 to 500 tonnes, and all press tooling for that is also designed exclusively with VISI and manufactured in-house.
“We work with companies who have an idea for a product but need assistance with design, a low cost tooling option and rapid turnaround. We frequently find that a customer has a 3D printed part and needs to start running at volume, but it can be costly for them to see it through to fruition, independently. However, with VISI we can quickly design inserts to turn around a simple injection mould tool in less than two weeks.
“We review a customer’s CAD file in VISI and then design the mould around that file. We can easily make adjustments to aspects such as wall thicknesses, part radii, and draft angle,” explains Peter Crossen.
Although the company has used the VISI CAD module for several years, it has only recently installed VISI Flow, which is now playing an increasingly important part in its process. The “preventative analysis” software optimises the tool design and moulding parameters by detecting a wide range of potential manufacturing issues such as warpage, weld lines, air traps, filling issues and hot spots, while determining the optimum gate size and position, along with runners.
“It gives us total confidence that the parts are achievable, and the gates are in the right place. It highlights any warpage and filling issues, and means we can see potential problems which may occur further down the line while we’re still at the mould design stage. The cost of changing a mould to correct a preventable quality issue only adds up to wasted time and money.
“Customers are extremely impressed that we can accurately forecast these issues and back it up with facts from the flow simulation. All moulding variables and results are reported and fed into a report that can be shown to the customer. We couldn’t do all that without VISI,” says MD Paul Crossen.
The engineering team import the customer’s CAD file directly into VISI then undertake a draft analysis and carry out the basic mould design before running it through VISI Flow. “When everything has been proved out we’ll continue with the full mould design, importing the steel or aluminium and bill of materials directly into VISI. Then we’ll cut the cavities and add in the injection system,” adds Paul Crossen.
Training apprentices in VISI
Crossen has a number of apprentices within the company and all are trained how to operate VISI at an early stage of their development, as the company believes it is something they’ll need to be highly proficient in throughout their careers, complementing traditional engineering skills.
Third year apprentice James makes extensive use of VISI for extracting electrodes, and modifying parts for machining. “If I’m starting from scratch with 2D, I’d import that into VISI and start to build the relevant geometry. However, if a colleague provides me with a 3D model I’ll open that directly and make any machining adjustments on that,” he explains.
He began using VISI in the first year of his apprenticeship and says his job would take considerably longer without it. “It’s a very powerful system, and means we don’t have to manufacture a mould only to find it doesn’t perform as expected. By simulating the entire process in VISI we can be sure the mould is going to produce perfect plastic products before we start cutting the metal.”
Crossen Engineering’s use of VISI