Windsor, Conn. — Burteck LLC is getting ready to break into liquid silicone rubber.
The firm has installed an Engel LSR molding work cell, complete with a Graco pumping station that can handle 5- and 55-gallon drums at its technical center and headquarters in Windsor.
The investments have led to it develop more than a dozen LSR molds in the last year. Program Manager John Eastham said LSR tool building likely will become a business of focus for Burtech going forward. The firm plans to feature an Engel 60-ton machine at NPE2018 (Booth S30045) in May, running a two-component thermoplastic/LSR overmold.
"All of our projects have been done with existing customers," Eastham said of the LSR business. "We're viewing NPE as our official launch of LSR tool building as an offering. We feel at this point we've done enough projects, seen enough run time on the tools we have built and have the work cell in place to test the tools that we do build. We feel very confident that we're ready to do this."
While most of Burteck's business still is focused on the thermoplastic elastomer side, Eastham said the firm has been building up its LSR capabilities to the point where it feels confident about its ability to both construct and test the mold.
The perfect opportunity came when Burteck was approached by an existing client that needed a three-mold package with different sized parts for LSR and was seeking a local option. At the time, Burteck had not built an LSR mold, but Eastham brought experience with the material from other companies he worked with.
And with the customer ready to provide support thanks to an already-established relationship, Burteck seized the opportunity.
"It seemed like the best time to jump in," Eastham said. "We had an existing customer who was willing to work with us, so we did it. The results were very good. It gave all of us here confidence that the craftmanship of our tool build would meet the LSR test. We used our same design flow to build the LSR mold. We have a lot of customers who we build thermoplastic tools for who need both."
Burteck didn't want to fully jump in until it could test the mold, hence the aforementioned investments to its technical center. It has now built molds for about seven different customers and is ready to showcase its capabilities.
"We're confident once our customer gets the mold, it's going to perform to their expectations," Eastham said.
Quality is huge for almost any company, but Burteck goes beyond the typical focus. Eastham said the firm has developed a 30-point checklist prior to testing and then puts its molds through the ringer — a four-hour dry cycle, water flow test, a rheological study and a number of other standards. The ultimate goal is to deliver a complete package to the customer — a process development workbook, video of the mold running and the mold itself.
"One of the big things for us is we want to be able to test every mold that we build," Eastham said. "We feel what's going to separate us from the competition is delivering a mold to our customers that's production ready. We don't want any question marks."
Burteck is a relatively new company, founded in 2010 by Pete Burgess, who at the time had just one other employee at a 2,000-square-foot facility. Now the firm employs 25 at its 16,000-square-foot site in Windsor.
The firm builds a portion of its tools in China. At its founding that accounted for more than 90 percent. Now that Burteck has built up its domestic capabilities, Eastham said that figure sits at 60-40, with the majority still in China.
"One of the benefits of working with our China partner on the thermoplastic end is we can do higher volumes of tooling within the same timeframe," Eastham said. "We can do 10 molds in six weeks, and the same would apply for an LSR package."
During the last five years, Burteck has made a number of other investments in addition to adding LSR capabilities thanks to growing business.
"We're busting out at the seams right now," Eastham said. "We're trying to optimize the space and even considering moving into a larger facility at this point."
Burteck has an exclusive agreement with one toolmaker in China. Eastham said Burteck only builds tools for them in the U.S. market and they for Burteck in China. The firm does all mold designs for its China builds domestically. And once the mold comes back into the shop, Burteck subjects it to the rigorous quality control process.
"All of the tools that get built in China come into our tool shops and we fully disassemble the mold," Eastham said. "We go through our 30-point checklist prior to testing. The testing aspect has been a game changer for our business."