Back on the metals side, in 2016 Tenere opened
a greenfield plant in Monterrey, Mexico, in response
to customer demand—not for stamping (at least in
the short term), but for laser cutting, turret punching, press brake bending, and other so;-tool fabricating, as well as painting (there aren’t many low-volume painters in the area).
Although the company did transfer some machines from Wisconsin to Mexico, it hasn’t moved
any work from the Midwest to south of the border.
Instead, the Monterrey plant is serving nearby customers or customers who previously sourced work
to Asia or other low-labor-cost areas.
For instance, historically the Wisconsin operation
has landed a lot of part development work, then lost
the job as the customer sent production to Asia. The
idea is that the Monterrey location will allow Tenere
to prevent that production work from going across
the ocean. The company also plans to add stamping
in Monterrey in the coming years as customer part
Tenere has its own toolmaking capacity, both in
sheet metal stamping and plastic injection molding, but it also o;ers customers the opportunity to
source tooling elsewhere, including partners in Asia.
“Regardless, we’re going to support that tool from
start to finish, whether it’s made by us or by someone else,” Hamilton said, “because we eventually
have to run those tools, and they have to be good.”
Tooling development in plastics injection molding is critical, which is one reason that having rapid
prototyping under the same roof in Colorado works
so well. In 2013 Tenere bought rapid prototype
company Protogenic and has since invested heavily
in 3-D printing, including laser sintering and fused
deposition modeling with resins. Most important,
tooling experts for plastic injection molding work
hand in hand with experts in prototyping. A;er all,
what’s the point of prototyping if it can’t be manufactured cost-e;ectively?
One process in the Colorado plant perhaps best represents how the plastics and metals divisions work
together. A piece of sheet metal is placed into a plastic injection molding die. The sheet has several strategically placed holes, but otherwise it looks like a
plain laser-cut blank. The press cycles, and a sheet
metal part overmolded with plastic emerges.
Overmolding usually results in a mechanical bond
between the substrate (which at Tenere could be
sheet metal, a machined metal part, or a di;erent-durometer plastic) and a plastic overmold. For
instance, with a sheet metal substrate, plastic can
flow through holes or other features in the sheet
metal, which create a mechanical connection that,
with the right design, will be invisible in the completed workpiece.
Why overmold? It’s sometimes done to create a
desirable surface feel for a product, to ensure a cer-
tain feature isn’t electrically conductive, or to add a
complex feature to the part surface.
It can sometimes make assembly much easier and
less costly, as well as increase the strength of the mechanical connection. Typically, an overmolded connection is much more secure than a plastic component fastened to sheet metal during final assembly.
Say an original part design involves a sheet metal
blank with a half-dozen shallow plastic flanges fastened along one side. Thing is, these flanges aren’t
all identical, but instead must be fastened in a certain order. Alas, these flanges are intrinsic to the
product’s function, so their shape and number can’t
be changed. One design-for-manufacturability option would be to error-proof the assembly using
tabs and slots. If the assembler grabs a part, it won’t
fit unless it’s slotted into the right place.
This may work, but it still requires that the shop
Tenere o;ers 3-D printing of resin material. Rapid prototyping is under the same roof as the company’s plastic injection molding operation.
In 2016 Tenere consolidated its plastics operations to a plant in Westminster, Colo.