96-employee injection molding pioneer Parmatech leads industry
[caption id="attachment_29389" align="alignright" width="324" caption="Bob Lopes, Parmatech project engineer, uses CAD to ready products for manufacturing."][/caption]
PETALUMA – Companies are being told from the president on down that they have to innovate, but that is not news to Parmatech Corporation.
At 96 employees, Parmatech pioneered metal-injection molding, but continual innovation has allowed it to battle a wave of competitors and lead the industry.
[caption id="attachment_29390" align="alignright" width="324" caption="Parmatech’s automated molding machine and work center"][/caption]
“We never stop looking at the process and thinking how to improve it, even in its smallest details,” said Brian McBride, Parmatech’s general manager.
It was during the 1970s that Parmatech engineers combined the new plastic injection molding technology with the furnace process for forming metal parts from powder.
[caption id="attachment_29395" align="alignright" width="324" caption="Joel Martinez operates the Parmatech furnace"][/caption]
The combination represented a significant advance for the powder metal industry, which was and is still using techniques such as casting and compaction to create two-dimensional shapes such as gears.
During the 1980s, Parmatech patented its process, which turned out smaller, denser, three-dimensional shapes.
[caption id="attachment_29391" align="alignright" width="324" caption="Laura Vasquez, production operator, with a Parmatech automated rivet assembly work cell"][/caption]
“Those patents have run their course,” said Mr. McBride. “There are about 80 metal injection molding companies now, mostly OEMs. We’re still one of only six or seven custom makers of metal and porcelain parts from the injection method.”
Parmatech has managed to stay at the very top of its peers. It has won seven Grand Prize awards from the Metal Powder Industry Federation, five Awards of Distinction and two Awards of Achievement.
“They were one of the original innovators and patent holders in the industry,” said Jim Dale, vice president of the Metal Powder Injection Federation.
“They keep on improving how they mold and what they mold, and expanding their product lines.”
Parmatech was not only the pioneer in metal powder injection, it has extended the range of the industry by integrating the technology with others, said Mr. Dale.
The company’s customer list includes the biggest names in the high tech, medical diagnostics and device, aerospace and telecommunications industries.
According to Parmatech Sales Manager DJ Lauck, the company supplies Agilent Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, Conmed Corporation, DuPont, Textron and Smith & Wesson, among other Fortune 100 clients.
“We’re weathering the downturn fairly well, mainly because the medical industry is still strong,” he said.
Parmatech makes internal parts for laparoscopic (minimally invasive) surgery, surgical jaws and other devices.
“We continue to reformulate alloys on a regular basis,” said Mr. McBride. “In the early stages there were only a handful of alloys. Now we have much better materials to work with.”
Another recent innovation involved the setting of objects in the furnace: a minor tweak that resulted in a better product, he said.
Currently Parmatech is working on a feature to streamline the production of new parts, a time-consuming, complex process that involves working closely with client engineers.