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Tracking Injection Mold Tools

A major manufacturer of small parts for the electronics industry was having difficulty managing the tooling it uses to create the molded components for its products.

In a high volume/high mix manufacturing environment, they needed to be able to locate tools quickly, verify that the tools identified were the right ones for a given product, and manage their tool maintenance and inspection processes to ensure they were consistently hitting the company’s high quality production standards.

The old system for managing tool information was time-consuming and error-prone. Metal stamps or barcode labels had to be read manually or using a reader that required specific alignment with the tag. In the harsh, dirty environment of the injection molding process, labels were frequently scratched or covered in soot and would quickly become illegible. Tools could easily be misidentified. And because the labels were not always positioned for easy reading, locating the proper tool in the storage area was challenging.
Strategic Systems & Technology and Vizinex worked with the customer to develop a new RFID-based system that would dramatically reduce cycle time and error rates, while providing operators and tool and die shop personnel with real-time access to the data they needed about the tools they were working with.

Tag selection was a critical part of the solution. Given the high temperatures and repeated cycles of the injection molding process, the Vizinex Sentry line of products stood out as an ideal match for this demanding environment. As an added precaution, the customer decided to mill a recess for the tags directly into the tools in order to protect the tags from the high forces involved when these heavy, bulky objects are moved, permanently shielding them from most impacts and shear forces. Even when embedded in metal, the Sentry tags performed well. After significant testing, it was determined that the tags provided the read range and the longevity the customer required in this tough application.

In parallel with this testing, Strategic Systems developed a mobile application for reading the RFID tags, which made locating the correct tool much faster and error-free. Strategic Systems also made it easy for operators and tool room personnel to update the use history, so that each tool’s life cycle history could be edited quickly as operators completed their work. This greatly reduced the time and effort required to manage and ensure proper maintenance of these expensive assets. Errors in both acquiring asset data and recording new information were practically eliminated.

The system was piloted in one facility and proved to be a major success. The company is now rolling out the solution to its worldwide network of factories, harvesting the benefits of RFID across their entire operations.

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