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40 years of HARBEC: Part 2

1987-1997… Growing, Transforming and Embracing New Ideas

During Harbec’s second decade, many significant changes and opportunities were in store. By 1987 Harbec had outgrown the barn and it was time to come out into the open and find a real manufacturing space that could offer them a solid opportunity to grow and develop. The pursuit of a better space lead Bob Bechtold to an opportunity in nearby Ontario that was conveniently located and was an enormous, 10,000 square feet of space and coming from the 2000 square foot barn basement, this seemed like more space than it could ever use. Now the business was able to grow and expand and in only a couple of years they were already starting to add on to what would grow to over 50,000 square feet in the years to come.

This was also the decade of plastics for Harbec. During that time the company was called “Harbec Manufacturing”. It was doing general machining, pattern making and model making and enhancing these wherever possible with the strength and precision of CNC. They were also getting a taste of plastics through the rubber molding they did as part of their model making. Bob believed, “the business indicators at that time were offering much more consistent and positive growth in the plastics industry,” so he formed a second company named Harbec Plastics.

This is also the period when they completed their first addition to the building. They had a chance to mold clear plastic boxes for holding baseball cards. Initially they were successful producing a single box cube and from that the customer offered them the chance to mold the ‘triple cube’. The problem was that they did not have a big enough press or a place to put it. In the pursuit of opportunity, they took the job and while they were building the mold (6 or 8 weeks), they added an addition to the front of the building. They bought and installed the new (actually pretty old and used, but new to them) 400 ton injection molding machine and built the mold for the ‘triple cube’ sports card collector’s box.

That 9,000 square foot addition allowed them to put all the molding machines in the new area which meant they could dedicate the complete original front of the building to machining. Around this time they also decided to merge the original Harbec Manufacturing Co. into Harbec Plastics, Inc. and became one company which years later would become the present HARBEC, Inc.

CNC machining continued getting stronger and stronger but the pattern shop was diminishing and eventually faded away. The skills used in pattern making are similar to those used in model making so as the pattern work dried up, they replaced it with a new line of business. They developed their ability to make proof of concept , engineering models where precision and material type were required to be as close to production intent as possible. It was the pursuit of this ability that led them eventually to aluminum ‘bridge’ tooling and additive manufacturing.

Before they developed aluminum tool making, if the customer needed multiple plastic prototypes, the best they could offer them was to either CNC machine them, or to cast plastic parts from silicone rubber molds. This process required a ‘master’ of the needed part to be precision machined and then it was encapsulated in silicone rubber. After it hardened they would remove the machined ‘master’ and then pour liquid urethane into the void of the rubber mold cavity. They could usually get about 25 urethane parts from the rubber mold before it would fail. One of the most significant jobs they ever used this on was a virtual reality helmet. They produced over 100 units for the customer who then gave them to software developers so they could be using them to write the programs and games while the production tooling was being built.

Virtual Reality helmet molded by Harbec in the 90s.

They were constantly trying to find ways to improve their ability to produce engineering prototypes. This led them to investigate the potentials of a new technology that was being introduced called rapid prototyping or 3D printing. In the early days the 3D processes were Stereo Lithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) came shortly thereafter. While these processes were capable of doing some things well, they were not able to use the exact materials or produce the accuracies that you could get from a CNC machined part. Bob Bechtold shares, “We had confidence that these technologies would be of major importance in the future and we wanted to be part of it.”

They purchased their first 3D printing equipment in the mid 90’s and went through several different devices before they got the DTM brand SLS technology machine. This machine was able to produce, as an example, a nylon part to +/-.005″ tolerance and so they were able to use it to produce functional and accurate engineering prototypes. At about the same time they were trying to figure out a way to produce their molds faster and cheaper like the rubber molds but that could produce more parts per tool. Eventually they reversed their rubber mold making. They cut the opposite of the part (the cavity) into an easy to machine material which, after a number of different material experiments, was determined to be aluminum. This success gave them not only the ability to do more engineering prototypes better and cheaper, but it also gave them an excellent way to do low volume molding more cost effectively without sacrificing any precision or quality requirements.

This new ability opened their eyes to a completely new kind of customer. As they were products of their location, being near Rochester, they lived, learned, and grew up in a world of Kodak, Xerox and General Motors, etc. These were companies that made ‘millions’ of cameras, copiers and cars so everything they were involved with was affected by that huge volume kind of thinking. Unfortunately those “millions of” kind of companies did not last and if Harbec was to survive without them, they needed to find this new potential customer and learn how to think and act differently.

Developing their skills around faster, less expensive tooling capabilities that offered shorter life or lower quantities introduced them to different kinds of companies that had much more variety and product change over and whose products were produced in the thousands or tens of thousands instead of millions. These companies had great depth and variety of products. They also needed Harbec’s quicker lower cost tooling and molding capabilities to help them get to market faster and more cost effectively. This was the niche that they were looking for.

By the end of this second decade of Harbec, while some things ended, new and exciting opportunities emerged. Although the technology and concepts were new, Harbec would develop these new opportunities and potentials, like additive manufacturing and aluminum tooling, to become major portions of its capabilities. Harbec was working to “do it all”. From concept to completion, Harbec would be there every step of the way.

Watch for the next Blog in September discussing the next phase of Harbec’s growth and the preliminary planning that would lead them into their third decade and the 21st century. There’s more expansion and new endeavors ahead!

Making spirits bright throughout the year!

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As 2016 comes to a close, we would like to extend to you our best wishes for a Happy, Healthy, and Joyful Holiday Season & New Year!

The image above represents the efforts we make every day to reduce our impact on the environment and resources. We utilize renewable energy through our existing wind turbines and future solar array. We recycle everything possible– including our water! We reduce our consumption through energy efficient equipment and daylighting.  Lastly, we provide opportunities for our employees and the local community to participate with things like offsetting the costs of employee green power purchases and electronics recycling drives. These benefits are also passed on to the customer- since we pay for and use less, we are able to keep costs low and quality high.

HARBEC will be closed the last week in December. We hope everyone finds a renewed energy spending time with family and friends.

Please make note of the following announcements:

  • We are very proud and excited to announce that we are now ISO 13485 certified. This is an effort to demonstrate our commitment to our customers. It will positively impact all of our customers by expanding our commitment to company wide improvement and quality.
  • We are proud to say we are one of the Rochester Chamber Top 100  business award recipients (number 17 to be exact!)
  • We also received the EPA’s Green Power Partner Award for Direct Project Engagement with our CHP plant.
  • HARBEC’S mailbox has been moved. This means our postal address has changed although the building is still in the same place.  Please  take note and make any necessary changes.

    358 Timothy Lane
    Ontario, NY 14519

Partnerships with a Purpose

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PARTNERSHIPS WITH PURPOSE

HARBEC has demonstrated innovation in the selection and integration of unique partners to help fulfill its ongoing pursuit of energy and environmental excellence. In the past three years HARBEC has worked with the US Department of Energy (DOE), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Enerit, DEKRA, and others to help achieve its goals.

By collaborating with public-and-private organizations HARBEC has been able to align the right interests that could collaborate on the complex task of carbon accounting and neutrality. The partnerships with these organizations has led to constructive solutions for measuring, monitoring, and understanding energy use within manufacturing environments and establishing processes, tools, and solutions to manage and reduce manufacturing energy use.

HARBEC is a U.S. DOE Better Plants Challenge Partner. HARBEC has established a goal to reduce its plant energy intensity 25% by 2021 (from a 2010 baseline).

Learn more about HARBEC Inc’s Sustainable Manufacturing Journey in the links below:

The Future is NOW!

Frequently called upon for manufacturing solutions to challenging projects, HARBEC serves the most discerning customers within the aerospace/defense and security, medical device, electronics, automotive/transportation, and consumer product markets.

HARBEC takes great pride in delivering high performance precision parts to ALL of its customers. “Value indicators” such as speed, quality, performance and cost are top priority to HARBEC’s design, engineering, project management, quality, manufacturing, logistics and marketing teams’ members. In doing so, HARBEC views its role not just as a supply chain vendor – but as an integral member of our customers’ teams, converging capabilities to achieve better products and solutions.

From Robots to Racing

HARBEC never compromises on its integrity or value. Whether our customers are launching rockets to space, exploring the vastness of the deep-sea, or transporting goods across the interstate, HARBEC’s manufactured solutions are delivering unparalleled performance.

HARBEC extends this ethic to the “NOW Generation” – high school, college and university, and trade program students who represent America’s future innovators, engineers, and technologists.

In the past year HARBEC proudly served students of three regional technology design and development teams just as we would any customer: with 100% commitment to quality, performance and satisfaction. These included:

  • TAN[X], Canandaigua’s FIRST Robotics Team
  • Rensselaer Motorsport, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s (RPI) Formula SAE Team
  • RIT Clean Snowmobile, Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) SAE Clean Snowmobile Team
Rensselaer Motorsport
 Competition_Team_Photo  Roll_Out_Top_View
RIT Clean Snowmobile Team
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TAN[X]
 2016 Robotics Team Photo A2_Med  Harbec 3D Wheels_Med

In each instance the student-led teams sought out HARBEC for its ability to provide high-value technical expertise, precision manufacturing, agile innovation support, and very fast turnaround time.

For example, RIT’s SAE Clean Snowmobile Team sought a way to redesign their air intake system which would eliminate flow restrictions and improve overall engine performance. Project Manager Anthony NaDell shared his experience:  “From the moment we contacted HARBEC about potentially helping us out, everyone was very helpful. They guided us with things like figuring out the best way to make our product and what material we should use to handle the rigorous operating conditions.  HARBEC’s customer service was excellent and we would love to work with the company again in the future.​ For a single part prototype the small lead time was very impressive.”

TAN[X] designs and builds robots to meet demanding challenges established by the FIRST Robotics competition each year. Launched in 2008, TAN[X] teams’ now average about 35 students per year representing grades 9-12. Further, TAN[X] has brought together dozens of local sponsors and team mentors to support their annual challenges. HARBEC supported the team with quick turnaround parts, as they managed frequent modifications depending upon the needs of each design challenge. Specifically, TAN[X] had complications with their robot’s tank treads falling off. In response, the team designed a new pulley using CAD that was cogged with teeth, enabling the treaded track to stay in place. HARBEC 3D-printed the pulley for TAN[X]. Steve Schlegel, one of the mentors of TAN[X] stated, “HARBEC’s ability to quickly respond with a 3D printed part made a HUGE difference, and took our team up a couple notches in how well we could compete.”

Each year more than 30 student members of Rensselaer Motorsport, the official name of RPI’s Formula SAE team, design and build an open-wheeled formula race car from the ground up. The competition is regarded as one of the world’s largest intercollegiate design series. The experience enables students to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world hands-on high-technology applications. The process expands upon students’ knowledge and continued development of career-critical skills including team building and communication, engineering and systems design, data analytics and problem-solving.

HARBEC has supported Rensselaer Motorsport for many years of competition, particularly in the areas of 3-D design and analysis, materials evaluation, and production of custom precision parts.

Nicholas Debono of Rensselaer Motorsport reflects, “Rensselaer Motorsport depends on the generosity of sponsor donations to complete our yearly goal. For years, HARBEC has been one of the teams most generous and critical sponsors.  Working with HARBEC has always been a great experience. Parts are always provided with the shortest possible lead times, and professionals are always willing to help our students when advice is needed. Simply put, without HARBEC, Rensselaer Motorsport would not be able to achieve our design goals.”

For example, HARBEC supported RPI’s team with their intake assembly. Formula SAE rules require that the engine’s design teams, like Rensselaer Motorsport intake pull air through a circular restrictor 20mm in diameter. This design constraint greatly affected the power and performance of the engine. In order to compensate for the restrictor, RPI FSAE has, over the years, developed the intake assembly pictured below. It is one of the most developed systems on their racecar, earning them valuable design points during competition.

Intake_Rendering

Figure 1: Solidworks Rendering of Intake Assembly

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Figure 2: Sectioned View of Intake Assembly

Prior to working with HARBEC, leveraging its in-house 3-D design and printing capabilities, RPI’s SAE Formula Team relied upon much simpler designs, limiting the range of materials and performance of the intake. Many of the features of RPI’s current design were not able to be used with the older carbon design. For example, the rifling seen in figure 3, and the spike in the center of figure 4, would be almost impossible to recreate without 3D printing technology.

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Figure 3: Section view Throttle Body

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Figure 4: View of Runners

Because the intake is exposed to very harsh environments, material selection is also crucial. Fuel is continuously injected into the intake assembly, requiring materials to be chemically resistant. Further, the intake assembly needed to be strong, compliant, and heat resistant to ensure high performance in a combustion environment.  HARBEC engineers worked with RPI’s designers to select a glass filled polyamide material that performed extremely well in their unique application. The end result was an extremely efficient, lightweight intake assembly that added technical performance on the track and brought unique design points from the judges.

Why investing in the NOW Generation is So Critical to Business Success

The future is NOW. And in HARBEC’s experience, investing in students is critical to business sustainability and success. Just like the three examples described, every customer of HARBEC comes to us with unique technical requirements, design, engineering and manufacturing challenges. In our experience, overcoming technical challenges requires teamwork, problem-solving, and ingenuity.

It’s been a pleasure for HARBEC to have been a part of these three student design and competition teams. The students are the NOW Generation, focused, eager, competitive, creative, and willing to learn. They displayed technical prowess and grace under pressure as they functioned as a team, and collaborated professionally with mentors and technical solutions providers.  The individuals of these teams represent the future of design, engineering, product development, and innovation for HARBEC as well as our global customers in the aerospace, defense, security, automotive and transportation, medical device, consumer products and goods industries.

We congratulate TAN[X], Rensselaer Motorsport, and RIT Clean Snowmobile on their accomplishments, and stand ready to serve them and all of our customers with continued excellence.

History of Innovation in Manufacturing Spans Nearly 40 Years

We Embrace the Future . . . Today

HARBEC Plastics Inc. was established in 1977 as a contract Tool and Die/general machine shop. Its founder, Bob Bechtold, understood that opportunities existed in that market for innovative solutions and problem solving.

Initially these solutions were primarily implemented through the application of CNC and CAD/CAM technologies. Today these capabilities are enhanced with the state-of-the-art high-speed CNC, multi-axis CNC milling, and solids-based modeling and programming.

Also, many leading edge technologies are employed to allow HARBEC to offer the best and most contemporary capabilities to their customers. This evolution of potentials, especially as they apply to the field of plastic part injection molding, enables HARBEC to offer a complete solution in one location.

From initial design and concept modeling stages, through advanced production tooling requirements, to low or high volume production injection molding and secondary processes, HARBEC takes full responsibility for meeting our customer’s requirements.

Endless Possibilities

Since its inception, HARBEC has always been found at the forefront of innovation and trends in injection molding. If it’s being done, we’re doing it here. If it’s not, we’ll be the first.

Bob Bechtold was the first dealer in the Rochester area to sell CAD/CAM and, as a result, he taught the competition how to be successful. He knew that, in time, the toolmaker would embrace CAD/CAM for mold making.

While many in the industry initially considered the advent of CNC to be the death of the toolmaker, HARBEC realized immediately that it was a powerful extension of the toolmaker. Now, one-of-a-kind, complex shapes and forms were possible and HARBEC could achieve end-product results that were previously unimaginable.

This passion for innovation continues today with HARBEC’s:

 

Delivering Value to the Toughest Customers Requires Trust, Ingenuity, and Teamwork

The aerospace/defense and medical industries have very discerning requirements. Customers in these sectors value precision engineering, and manufacturing. With that comes adherence to very tight part tolerances, superior performance, speed, agility, efficiency, and for many, 100% inspection. HARBEC has manufactured precision parts for customers in these fields, meeting the most stringent customer requirements and demanding applications.

In the medical sector HARBEC manufactures parts for:

  • spinal implantsblood-pressure
  • MRI and imaging components
  • surgical robots
  • dialysis and IV components
  • medication disbursement devices
  • reagent closures
  • blood pressure
  • surgical head lamps
  • blood and DNA collection and analysis devices
  • a diverse array of other components used in surgical, emergency, laboratory or clinical office applications

In the aerospace/defense sector HARBEC manufactures components such as:24589505473_74c0268b7e_o

  • electronic and battery housings
  • measurement devices
  • lenses
  • precision poppets
  • valve housings and covers
  • heat sinks, display modules
  • robotics, engineered solutions for thermal management
  • additional applications spanning space, sea, terrestrial, and soldier-readiness applications

These examples represent a small sample of the hundreds of critical end-uses that HARBEC’s parts have been entrusted to support. Although the application demands and part features between the aerospace/defense and medical sectors are different, there are some similarities with regard to the attention to detail they demand of manufacturers.

Often, customers in medical and aerospace/defense specify difficult to mold or machine materials including engineered polymers, titanium and magnesium. They also request full traceability for our parts, requiring us to have a disciplined project management and documentation process. Commitment and adherence to production and quality processes have been instrumental in keeping HARBEC a trusted partner for all customers, including aerospace/defense and medical customers.

As our customers have come to trust in HARBEC’s core competencies (quality, speed, performance, and value?) and capabilities (customer injection molding, prototypes, 3D printing, CNC machining) they’ve also realized they can obtain better results by extending their relationship with us. Here are two examples, one in medical and the other in aerospace/defense, where customers are realizing the full potential of HARBEC.

Aerospace/Defense Customer Example

For an aerospace/defense customerHARBEC is providing 3D printed components that are part of a valve assembly. The components, grown in HARBEC’s ESO 290 machine,are made out of stainless steel andwill be used in space-flight applications.3D printing provides tremendous design and manufacturing flexibility that simply is not available from other traditional manufacturing processes. But, as this particular customer has realized, 3D printing is not the be-all end-all solution for every part. In many cases, 3D printed parts need further processing, whether it’s precision machining, cleaning, over molding, heat treating, and so on.

While many customers (this one included) are attracted to HARBEC for one solution (in this case 3D printing), they are typically very pleased to discover that HARBEC’s expertise in CNC Machining, Custom Injection Molding, and Prototyping can complement and provide additional value to their part and the relationship they have with HARBEC.

Once completed, the component that was 3D printing for this aerospace/defense customer was inspected and shipped. The customer would then open the shipped part, conduct their own in-house inspection, and then proceed to a series of additional manufacturing steps including machining, cleaning, and assembly. This was adding expense and prolonging the completion of their final component. Once we were aware that these operations were occurring after we shipped the parts, it was proposed that we could reduce valuable time, cost, and materials from the process.

Medical Customer Example

A longstanding medical customer of HARBEC had a need for cleanroom molding of custom prototype parts. HARBEC worked with the customer on a design for manufacturing strategy that included mold making, implementation of a self-contained cleanroom manufacturing cell, integration of an automated labeling fixture, and hourly air monitoring to ensure particle count was well within the desired threshold.Achieving project delivery success for this multifaceted project required collaboration, coordination, and commitment from a multi-faceted team comprised of representative from project management, sales, engineering, plastics, models, quality, and maintenance.
cleanroom

In manufacturing it’s easy to get fixated on “the part.” The final and physical form of the “part” after all, is the culmination of hours of engineering time, creativity, teamwork and focus. The part is the embodiment of value. But the value does not end with the part. Where the part goes next, whether it has additional manufacturing operations, how it will be assembled and integrated into a system, and what happens in-service and at end-of-life, these are each critical points of value-creation for manufacturers. As cutting edge additive manufacturing technologies like 3D printing continue to expand, other capabilities like machining will not go away. Rather, a complement of manufacturing tools, capabilities and integrated processes are increasingly necessary to meet the stringent needs of aerospace/defense and medical customers. By focusing on the total solution, and not just the part, manufacturers can assess and determine how best to derive the greatest value for win-win supplier relationships.

Delivering on Quality for High-Performance Parts

With the school year in full swing, we are reminded that, even as adults, we are always learning, sharing and growing. We are also challenged, tested, evaluated, even praised and rewarded for our efforts. Sometimes the reward is the sheer accomplishment and successful achievement due to the skills acquired and challenges overcome. One example is a medical device project that HARBEC ran since 2013 with 100% inspection.

Due to the tight tolerances for the medical product, the typical method of verifying the process could not be used. This endeavor took a great deal of teamwork (internally and with the customer), and lot of dedication. New inspection methods were created and verified, employees were trained, space was dedicated, and new machines purchased. In the medical world, mistakes are unacceptable. This requires an experienced team and companywide dedication.

As shown in the infographic, this project produced over 30 different medical parts for a total of 140,000+ machined pieces.

Quality InfoGraphic

All these parts required 100% inspection and with an average of 30 dimensions per part. That is over 4,200,000 inspection points taken. A very daunting task indeed and with most dimensions having a tolerance of +/-.002” and some dimensions as tight as +/-.0005” the precision and processes of the toolmakers had to be spot on. Every part needed to be 100% inspected visually, and there could be no burrs, cutter marks and anodizing flaws. Quality manager Kevin Ralg reflects, “at times this seemed like it might be difficult, but at HARBEC we do not back down from challenges, we welcome them and figure out how to get it done. By purchasing the right inspection equipment, along with the correct software to record the results, we were not only delivering quality parts, we were also meeting the production requirements on time.”

With so much inspection needed on these parts, both dimensionally and visually, and tolerances being so tight, there would also be a greater risk for returned parts. Not only did HARBEC do a 100% inspection both dimensionally and visually but the customer was affirming the same task. “That’s quite an accomplishment. HARBEC shined bright on this project and it took a total team effort to make this happen” says Ralg. From kick off to send off, quality is the priority throughout the company.

To learn more about HARBEC’s Quality Department,  visit our website.