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Plastic Chips Fly Employing the Latest Technology

(l-r) Bruce Manthey, Hurco North America General Manager, and Lou Ferriero, Owner of PlasTech, discuss the capabilities of the TMXMYS mill turn lathes at the Hurco Showroom in Indianapolis, IN.

PlasTech machines in 5 axes using the integrated trunnion-style, 5-axis Hurco VM10U.

Plastic parts machined by PlasTech.

Plastic parts machined by PlasTech.

PlasTech's Hurco VM10U 5-axis machining center.

Plastic Microwave Components machined by PlasTech.

Lou Ferriero was working in a plastics vacuum-forming house when he identified a market that was not being served. When he decided to start PlasTech Machining and Fabrication Inc. in 1997 he had one employee (himself) and one manual machine. Today, PlasTech has nine employees, six vertical machining centers, one 5-axis machining center, three turning centers, and Ferriero is thinking about upgrading to a Hurco TMX8MYS multi-tasking turning center with live tooling and a sub-spindle.

With more than 35 years of experience in the machining and fabrication of plastics, Ferriero is proud that 80 percent of PlasTech's business is from repeat customers and referrals.

"We focus on high quality and precision and our goal is to produce high quality plastic components on time at a reasonable cost to our customer," said Lou Ferriero, owner of PlasTech. "We do not waste time trying to be the cheapest machine shop out there. Our prices are usually in the middle of the road compared to our competitors. We are the best at what we do and pride ourselves on delivering quality parts on time." It appears PlasTech's focus on quality versus price is working. According to Ferriero, companies that shipped jobs overseas for cheaper rates have started bringing the business back to PlasTech. "We lost jobs to overseas suppliers about five years ago and most of that work has come back," said Ferriero.

With much of his business devoted to medical equipment, some of the plastic stock is extremely expensive. The company works with hundreds of different types of materials such as Acetal, Delrin, Acylic, Ertalite, Polysulfone, Peek, Polycarbonate, Phenolics and much more. Many types of stock require diamond tooling because the plastic stock is filled with glass. PlasTech also machines plastic components for the defense, semiconductor and consumer products markets.

PlasTech machines parts from sheet and rod stock, and Lou acknowledges that machining plastic has its unique challenges. "Many of the principles are just like metal machining, but it has its challenges," said Ferriero. "That's where our experience machining plastics makes a difference. We can quickly figure out the best cutting strategy for a particular part, do the programming and understand what type of tooling will provide the best results."

A big part of PlasTech's success is due to Ferriero's commitment to stay current with technology by investing in new equipment. As PlasTech has grown, so has his investment in Hurco machine tools and technology. His latest investment is a Hurco software feature called UltiMotion. Ferriero said this continues to provide benefits beyond his expectations. As just one example, Ferriero cites a part used for head restraints. "In the past we machined parts that took 30 minutes per part. On our Hurco with UltiMotion, it takes 20 minutes and the surface finish quality improved significantly," said Ferriero.

"UltiMotion is able to simultaneously decrease cycle time and increase surface finish quality due to the underlying motion control algorithm Hurco developed that uses software-based motion instead of conventional hardware-based motion," said a Hurco spokesperson. "UltiMotion software has rapid cornering capabilities that allow the spindle to travel through corners at high speed with negligible deviation without overshooting or stopping. Therefore, cycle time is significantly reduced when machining parts with complex geometries and/or repetitive tasks, such as drilling and tapping and surfacing. Customers with UltiMotion also see improvement in surface finish because UltiMotion minimizes vibration, which results in smoother motion overall."

Recently, PlasTech was challenged to cut down the operations and time it takes to manufacture plastic components for prototype parts for de-icing the C-130 aircraft. To meet this challenge, Ferriero's latest machining center investment was a Hurco VM10U 5-axis machining center instead of a traditional 3-axis machine. "Without the VM10U 5-axis machine this would have been nearly impossible to get done on time for our customer," said Ferriero. "After offline programming, the setup time on the machine was done in a few hours. The part surface quality and time comparison was much better than expected. It would have been a minimum of 2 days just to make fixtures to machine these parts on a 3-axis machine."

Ferriero bought the VM10U to cut down on setups and has realized numerous productivity benefits. Set up time on the VM10U is much faster and more efficient than setting up a 3-axis machine with multiple vices and fixture offsets. Less handling of the part translates into less handling mistakes, less machining time and a better profit. "The Hurco VM10U has exceeded our expectations. It has cut down on cost, time, labor and material," said Ferriero. "For plastic components that are fluid sensitive I added air blow coolant."

The Hurco VM10U is part of the integrated trunnion-style, 5-axis machines from Hurco. It has X/Y/Z travels of 21x16x19 inches, a 20-station ATC and spindle speeds up to 10,000 RPM. Ferriero said, "I see the next size VMX30U 5-axis machine on our floor in the very near future. We have just added a 6,000 sq. ft. addition to our shop to make room for future equipment."

Also on the horizon for PlasTech is the purchase of a Hurco TMX8MYS CNC turning center with live tooling. "To stay competitive in this market we need to stay efficient in our machining process," said Ferrierro. "To do that we need to produce parts with a minimum amount of setup time and maintain consistency throughout the run of parts with the least amount of handling of the part. With the TMX8MYS we can not only turn and bore a part, we can also do the milling operations all in one setup."

While PlasTech finds the conversational programming of the integrated Hurco control useful to quickly make a fixture, Ferriero says he uses the NC side of the control for all of his jobs. Keeping his CAM system current is another technology investment that Ferriero continually makes to keep his company up to speed. PlasTech uses Mastercam X6 CAD/CAM software with Mill Level 3 and solids, Mastercam Lathe, verification software, Solidworks and E2 Shop Systems for shop control. PlasTech also has a full quality control department that includes a Brown and Sharp Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM).

For more information contact:

Lou Ferriero

PlasTech Machining & Fabrication Inc.

25 Dunklee Rd.

Bow, NH 03304



Hurco Companies, Inc.

One Technology Way

P.O. Box 68180

Indianapolis, IN 46268

800-634-2416 / 317-298-2622



Joe Klier

Brooks Associates, Inc.

300 Longwater Dr, Unit A

Norwell, MA 02061

800-458-6607 / 781-871-3400

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