and o;en end up piercing the sheet metal with our [plastic injection molding]
die. We get the tight tolerance we need, but we create it with our tool. We don’t
expect it to be in the sheet metal part when it comes to us.”
Metal or Plastic?
Tenere does sell itself as a single source for both metal and plastic, which has
advantages. Purchasing more parts from one supplier makes managing the supply chain simpler. And from an engineering perspective, Tenere experts can suggest design changes to ensure both plastic and metal components fit and work
together as they should.
The firm does not o;er plastics machining, but it does o;er metal milling and
turning in its Wisconsin facilities. Depending on the machined part, it may be
more cost-e;ective to develop a tool to mold a piece out of plastic, if it can meet
or exceed strength requirements and the designer’s original intent.
Volumes also play a role. For instance, Tenere may have a high-volume stamping job that requires a secondary operation. In this case—and, again, depending
on the part design attributes, its complexity, and its strength requirements—it
may be less expensive to mold the part out of plastic. Tenere’s metal presses are
large enough to stamp two to three identical parts side by side, but engineers in
Colorado may be able to design an eight-cavity mold.
Harris described a print the company received for a deep stainless steel box.
The box could have been formed on a press brake. “But some of the curvatures
on the radii would have been a nightmare,” Harris said. Sure, those wide radii
could have been formed with bump-bending, but that would have added time
and cost. The box also needed to be welded, which required a lot of grinding
Tenere engineers looked at the print, saw the volumes requested, and immediately suggested that the entire box be made in a plastic injection molding
press. “All the radii and contoured surfaces made much more sense in a plastic
mold,” Harris said.
Harris has worked at Tenere for 17 years, and he’s worked in metal manufacturing—machining, stamping, and
fabrication—since 1983. Jesteadt
started his career in production machining, and before long he jumped
over to moldmaking and tool design
for plastics. He joined Tenere as a lead
moldmaker in 2001.
Sheet metal fabrication, stamping,
machining, moldmaking, plastics—
their background exemplifies the evolution of process diversification and
the quest to put a company in a unique
competitive position. Their employer’s
process mix theoretically wouldn’t be
too di;icult to duplicate; the shop isn’t
full of proprietary equipment, a;er all.
But the mix of expertise, in engineering and in the shop, is another story.
Therein lies Tenere’s competitive advantage.
Senior Editor Tim Heston can be reached
Photos courtesy of Tenere Inc.,
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