DETROIT - Tier 2 auto parts maker Polymer Technologies Inc. of Cambridge, Ontario, is working with a Canadian steel manufacturer to develop laser-welding for injection molded plastic parts.
'Laser-welding could be a real cost saver since you don't need to do two-shot molding and you don't need gaskets and screws,' Polymer Technologies' Michael Ritchie said at the SAE World Congress in early March.
'We'd be creating value in the design step, and that's where 70 percent of your cost savings usually is.'
There are challenges to adapting the technology from steel to plastic - including the need for transparent parts and the need to break the weld to make any alterations to the part - but adding laser-welding to the lineup also could enable Polymer Technologies to do more work in the medical and electronic markets, Ritchie said.
'There's a need for us to diversify because of the cyclicality of the automotive market,' he said.
Ritchie declined to identify the steel fabricator that Polymer Technologies is working with, citing confidentiality agreements.
If laser-welding and projects in climate control components and sensors pay off, it will enable Polymer Technologies to continue its impressive five-year growth streak.
Since 1996, Polymer Technologies' sales have grown from $9 million to $40 million, its number of employees from 90 to 300 and its number of injection molding machines from 17 to 47. The firm still has room in its 63,000- square-foot plant for expansion.
Polymer Technologies' primary products are decorative interior parts and electromechanical components such as switches, relays and connectors. The company also does some work in metal stamping, mold and die making, contact welding and contact riveting.
Polymer Technologies will move into more high-end molded parts.
'We can make 10 million knobs at five cents each or a million more complex parts at $2 apiece,' Ritchie said. 'It's a pretty easy decision.'