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Why High-Quality Machinery can Prove Less Expensive – Dave Crone of Omega Plastics

Omega Plastics Group Owner – Dave Crone
Omega Plastics Group Owner – Dave Crone

Specialising in custom, multiple-use plastic injection mouldings and rapid tooling for the automotive, healthcare and FMCG industries, Omega Plastics Group has always enjoyed continued growth since its acquisition in 2005 by Chris Thompson and Dave Crone. The purchase in 2015 of high volume, plastic injection moulding specialist, Signal Plastics, further contributed to the growth of the group.

In December 2016, the Group relocated Signal Plastics to a larger 42,700 sq ft factory unit in Bentall Business Park, Washington and invested over £1 million in new injection moulding equipment.

Additional contracts with new and existing customers, including a recent £3 million contract with an OEM specialising in domestic and commercial heating, has led the company to make a strategic decision to merge its two Omega Plastics sites in Blyth and Hartlepool into one, significantly larger 45,000 sq ft facility.

Omega has always invested in the best equipment available for a particular application, whether CNC milling or injection moulding.  We asked the company Chairman, Dave Crone, why this is the case?

“We are of course, fully aware that there is a myriad of equipment suppliers to choose from, especially now that import tariffs imposed in the States have shifted the focus of Chinese manufacturers to Europe.  Our expansion has required significant expenditure on new toolmaking, injection moulding and ancillary equipment, so we could have easily justified a move to cheaper OEM’s.”

“In some cases, we have had comments from staff members about a particular job being simple to run, so not needing all the ‘bells and whistles’.  They do, of course, have a point, but in my experience, the more costly brands are often less expensive in the long run.  Even when the time comes to replace the equipment, residual values are many times higher, making a significant contribution to our deposit.”

“Despite having the extra space at our new Team Valley site, we need to make sure we get the most out of every square foot of our production facility.  In the case of our mould shop, manufacturers such as Negri Bossi offer superior tie bar spacings and mould height when compared to ‘cost-driven’ machines of similar tonnage.  You would often need to buy a ‘size up’ in order to get a similar specification, increasing the machine’s footprint, as well as narrowing the price differential”

“We also see that a continual R&D programme is a priority with European and Japanese brands, as they need to keep a ‘step ahead’ of less expensive competitors.  In my experience their equipment has superior levels of control and accuracy, and generally, produce more product for less energy”.

“Continuity of supply is a major concern for our customers, so it follows that our equipment must have minimal downtime.  Even the most expensive and well-engineered equipment can suffer a breakdown, so knowing that we are dealing with a genuine UK based subsidiary, rather than an agency is essential.  We also know that all spare components for all machine models can’t practically or economically be held in the UK, so a rapid transit time from the OEM’s primary site is also a factor we consider”

“Finally, we have to think about how we present ourselves to our current and potential customers.  We openly claim that Omega Plastics Group is one of the countries most advanced and technically competent toolmakers and plastic injection moulding companies.  When a customer visits either of our sites, they can see that we have both the people and infrastructure to back this up.”

‘Mould for Plating’ Specialist adds Twin Shot Capability

Originally named Plated Plastic Developments, Birmingham based Quality Plated Plastics, was founded in 1965. Following the installation of a state-of-the-art specialist plastic plating plant in 2008, the company rapidly expanded, allowing it to penetrate the automotive market. Further plant upgrades in 2012 enabled the company to treble the output of satin finishes, meeting the growing demand of major automotive OEM’s.

At the end of 2014, a new ‘mould for plating’ facility was created, allowing some key premium brand automotive companies to shorten their supply chain.  Several Negri Bossi injection moulding machines were installed, all customised for the production of PC/ABS. The specification included polymer specific plasticising screw profiles and smaller than typical shot weights when compared to ‘trade moulding’ machines. This provided:

  • Superior polymer processing and product finish
  • Minimal chance of contamination
  • Reduced residence time
  • Greater shot-to-shot repeatability

The mould shop quickly grew, by mid-2018 having five machines from 55T to 500T locking force.  Sytrama robotic cells were also installed, allowing the company to minimise the handling of components.

The investment included laboratory facilities for the testing of plating chemicals, applied plating thicknesses and thermal cycling and humidity testing to PV1200. The net result was the creation of class-leading product quality.

Recently installed 500 tonne MULTIMAT machine

In January of this year, an additional 130T Negri Bossi CANBIO machine and 500T MULTIMAT machine were delivered.  This followed the construction of a new 14,000 square foot warehouse that subsequently allowed the mould shop to be expanded into a newly vacated area.  A new chilled water system and a dedicated in-house tool maintenance department was implemented in the major upgrade.

The new MULTIMAT machine, as well as adding additional large tonnage capacity, is specified to handle a variety of future twin-shot projects.  The machine has an additional vertical injection unit that will allow the production of components with two distinct material types, removing the need for assembly. By combining plating grade ABS with non-plating polymers such as nylon and TPE, part finished components can be produced without the need for product masking.

The machine has an integrated servo-powered rotary table with multiple water circuits. It is also specified with oil circuits for core pulling functions and part ejection.  In addition, a frame-mounted Sytrama robot can service ‘tool transfer’ type moulding and de-mould finished components.

When asked about the recent mould shop expansion, QPP Managing Director John Timmins commented,

As around seventy percent of our ‘Mould for Plating’ work is automotive, we need to cater for the steadily increasing trim specification of premium brand models. As well as offering faultless gloss and satin chrome finishes, we have now prepared for an increased demand for partly finished dual material components.  OEM recycling targets mean that these components are best manufactured within a single moulding operation and plating process, i.e. without the need for an assembly stage

NEGRI BOSSI UK and GB Asset Finance Celebrate a 15-year Partnership!

Greg (left) and Richard, back in 2004
Greg (left) and Richard, back in 2004

In 2004, our summer newsletter featured Richard Briggs and Greg Hopping from the then, newly formed GB Asset Finance Limited.

Richard, via his employment in the finance industry, had already built a strong presence within the plastics sector, having helped both new and established Negri Bossi customers to find the best finance facilities for their particular circumstances. The formation of GB Asset Finance Limited helped to further cement what has become a very useful and productive long term relationship.

Today the company are well recognised by funders in the UK  as specialists in providing asset finance to the plastics sector. The company offers a diverse portfolio of finance products from a wide range of providers.  Their extensive knowledge of our industry, coupled with a flexible and speedy approach, allows them to secure the best possible solution for each individual client.  A prime example of this would be their understanding of machine residual values, which are typically much higher than other types of capital equipment. In the case of Negri Bossi equipment, they can assure lenders that there is a buoyant market for second-hand equipment that further bolsters resale values.

Richard Briggs commented:

“ Our relationship with Negri Bossi has been the foundation on which our business has grown, and we continue to be very proud to be part of the Negri Bossi team. I believe the key to our success over the years is not only our knowledge of the asset finance market, but also making sure we understand our clients business”.

“This expertise allows us to quickly identify the most appropriate funder to match an individual finance requirement. We always prepare and submit our own funding proposal and ensure we obtain the best available terms and rates. The end result is that we save our client time, frustration and lost opportunity, and of course provide a first-class service.”

GB Asset Finance logoYou can call Richard Briggs to discuss any Refinance or Hire Purchase requirements involving your machines or any other capital expenditure.  Telephone: 01159 699340 or email enquiries@gbassetfinance.com

Five Machine Investment for OnePlastics Group

Part of the OnePlastics Group, Tamworth based AAC Structural Foam is a large, modern, trade moulding production site.  As part of a combined expansion and machine replacement programme, a circa £1.5 million order for five machines and automation was recently placed with Negri Bossi. 

Following the decommissioning and replacement of older equipment, the mould shop will now be 100% equipped with Negri Bossi machines.  As always, machines supplied to the site are extremely well-specified, including options for the moulds such as special water distribution systems, valve gate control and integrated soft-start hot runner controllers.  The machines are also equipped with Sytrama automation cells and the AMICO Teleservice facility. This enables advanced remote connectivity for diagnosis and worldwide assistance.

1100t Negri Bossi Injection Moulding machine equipped with a Sytrama cartesian robot
1100t Negri Bossi Injection Moulding machine equipped with a Sytrama cartesian robot

A new 1100 tonne Vector machine was the first machine of this recent order to be commissioned and is primarily producing 40% glass filled fan blower bodies.

The machine is located in an area of the facility with reduced headroom, making it an impractical location for the majority of larger moulding machines on the market.  Fortunately, Negri Bossi’s Vector series machines have a low-level design as standard, which when combined with sister company Sytrama’s S20-s telescopic enhanced stroke robot, provided the ideal solution.  

Letter Tray Cell.  As part of a modernisation and efficiency drive, two new CANBIO ST 500 tonne machines will produce letter trays using two brand new mould tools.  The machines are specified for high levels of productivity and material throughput, with barrier screws for improved melt quality and increased plasticising rates. Mould/product cooling is also critical to the achievement of new target cycle times, so is assisted by the specification of platen mounted large-bore chilled water distribution manifolds.

The two individual machine cells sit side by side, with robots stacking mouldings on a dual central conveyor system.  This means that one robot is offloading to the operator side.  To maintain easy access to the operators/control side of the IMM, additional robot traverse stroke supported by a vertical leg is provided. The floor-mounted guarding includes a roof for operator protection.

This configuration of the cells allows large quantities of trays to be produced without operator intervention. When the conveyor system is almost filled to capacity, the operator is signalled via a visual and audible alarm to empty the belts.

Each Negri Bossi cell incorporates a fully integrated label applicator to which the robot presents moulded parts with a positional accuracy of +/- 0.2mm. The applicator applies a waterproof barcoded adhesive label into a dimensionally critical window.  The system also verifies the presence of the label in the window, as bar code presence is critical for tracking the tray and its contents in use.

Continual high operational efficiency, with minimum labour content, is the end result of this economical, autonomous solution.

2 x 500t Negri Bossi Injection Moulding machine equipped with Sytrama cartesian robots
2 x 500t Negri Bossi Injection Moulding machine equipped with Sytrama cartesian robots

Two additional 330t servo-hydraulic Negri Bossi machines will replace older and less energy-efficient equipment.  The machines will be fitted with Sytrama robots with associated conveyors and guarding.

A total of 7 Sytrama robots are being supplied, as two older machines also benefit from upgrades to their automation cells.  Negri Bossi’s UK based robot specialist ensures that all associated downstream automation and guarding/safety systems are correctly specified and quality monitoring systems between the injection moulding machine and robot are optimised and implemented.  This means that robots are supplied to AAC’s exacting requirements and able to optimise floor space and work in areas of restricted headroom.

One Plastics Group Managing Director, Conor Sugrue commented,

We did not take the decision to make the Tamworth Industrial Moulding division a ‘single machine shop’ lightly.  There were a number of factors considered, including proven reliability over many years, energy efficiency and the benefits we have seen from Negri’s preventative maintenance schedule.”

“We also appreciate the merits of being provided with a complete solution, so the fact that Negri Bossi has its own in-house specialist robot manufacturer, in Sytrama, is a major advantage.  Their UK team are able to specify a complete, tailored solution and fully manage its installation and fine-tuning.  On an ongoing basis, we are also aware that all of their service engineers are fully trained on both product lines.”

50+ Years of Combined Service Expertise

Ian Thorpe & Andy NealeWe firmly believe that excellent service is directly related to product knowledge combined with the job satisfaction of key personnel.  A good measure of our success would, therefore, be the length of service provided by members of our office-based spares and service team.

25 Years continual employment is a major landmark event, and two members of our team have already surpassed this mark.

Based at our facility in Rugby, Ian Thorpe and Andy Neale demonstrate their ‘encyclopaedic’ levels of product knowledge on a daily basis.  Whether it’s an early NB series machine, or the latest All-Electric model, customers are able to tap into this valuable resource, most issues being diagnosed and/or fixed over the phone.