Leaders and Innovators in Advanced Manufacturing.
Parts suppliers and mold makers across the Windsor-Essex Region are at the forefront when it comes to using innovative technology to remain competitive in an ever-changing global marketplace.
The area is home to the largest machine, tool, die and mold cluster in North America. In fact, four of the top 10 mold makers in this hemisphere are located in the Windsor-Essex region.
It also boasts one of the largest automation sectors in Canada, several area companies specialize in light-weighting technologies and the majority of the auto industry’s original equipment manufacturers engineering and design offices are located within one hour’s drive of Windsor-Essex.
And many area businesses have developed their own cutting-edge research and development programs, all designed to help them reach out to customers across the globe.
CenterLine (Windsor) Ltd. is a family-owned business closing in on its 60th anniversary, PTooling is a small but aggressive company using laser technology to produce custom machine work and Crest Mold is among the leaders in developing innovative conformal cooling technology.
CenterLine is enjoying continued business success and cementing its reputation among industry leaders in designing, manufacturing and supplying products and services for the aerospace, defence, mass transit and automotive sectors.
Three years ago, CenterLine invested $7.3 million to expand its manufacturing space, hire and train new employees and establish the Donald Beneteau Centre of Excellence, named after the company’s founder who started the business as a two-man tool and die shop in 1957.
“The impact of the investment has far exceeded our expectations,” said company CEO Michael Beneteau. “The business is booming and we’ve been lucky enough to pick up our fair share.” But there’s more than good fortune involved. There is also planning, innovative thinking and financial investment.
“We have invested in new detection technology for our welding products and we have overhauled our welding gun product line so they are faster and take up less space on our customer’s shop floor,” said Beneteau. “Everything we do is designed to help our customers become more successful and when that happens we become more successful.
“We are continuing to invest in research and product development so that we can continue to grow both domestically and globally,” said Beneteau.
CenterLine, which has plants in seven countries, now has 650 fulltime employees and about 150 contract workers at its three Windsor-area plants. It has recently leased another 60,000 sq.ft. manufacturing facility in nearby Amherstburg.
PTooling, meanwhile, recently spent more than $2 million on a German-made hybrid CNC machine which can both subtract and add materials during the manufacturing process at its Amherstburg plant by using state-of-the-art laser technology.
“It is brand-new innovative technology which allows us to achieve internal designs within a mold which we couldn’t do before,” said company president Marv Fiebig. “It opens up new opportunities for our company because of its revolutionary technology.
“There is no limit to what we can do because of our investment in this innovative technology,” said Fiebig. “Our clients love it because we can provide products we couldn’t have provided before.”
PTooling had been manufacturing products for the oilfield industry since 2003 but has since diversified into aerospace, spaceflight and automotive sectors in order to ward off further downturns and remain competitive in an ever-changing industry.
Using conformal cooling, in which the cooling channels follow the shape of the molding surface, along with dynamic mold temperature control which heats and then rapidly cools the mold, Crest Mold is pioneering plastic processing advancements which promise to revolutionize the industry.
“By heating up the molds and then rapidly cooling them, we are also able to manufacture products that are lighter, thinner and stronger,” said Ed Bernard, Crest’s director of research and development. “In many ways, this technology is a genuine game changer.” Crest is working in partnership with Contura MTC GmbH of Germany and Regloplas Corp. of St. Gallen, Switzerland to further develop and utilize the cutting-edge technology.
“This region is recognized as a world-renowned cluster in the mold making industry and we have never reached out before to the senior levels of government for innovative support,” said Bernard. “But with the help of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers, now affiliated with the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, we are looking to establish a collaborative network of area mold shops to develop complex innovative processes while, at the same time, maintaining their own proprietary technologies.”
“This collaborative network with pooled intellectual property amongst niche cross-sector mold makers will empower a new generation of parts designers to create concepts previously impossible to manufacture,” said Bernard. “The technological advancements that the mold making cluster is capable of will provide the ability to dominate this manufacturing sector.”
A long-standing partnership between the Dr. Denis Green at the University of Windsor and Ford Motor Company, supported by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, examines the use of high-strength steels and lower density materials to reduce vehicle weight.
And the university’s Tribology of Materials Research Centre is focusing on understanding and improving the friction and wear of lightweight materials such as aluminum, magnesium and their composites.
The development corporation has also launched a website – BuyWindsorEssex. com – which provides a database of area suppliers in manufacturing, agri-business, information and communications technology and logistics and warehousing. With more than 100,000 visitors annually, it’s an essential resource for anyone looking for new suppliers or for local companies to expand their products into global markets.