FAIRLAWN, Ohio—Business continues to grow at a record pace for ViscoTec-America Inc.'s 7-year-old North American operation. That's the good news.
The better news?
Sales Manager Brandon Vaughan believes the manufacturer of high precision dispensing systems has secured just a small fraction of the business available.
“Business has been steadily growing ever since the company was founded, and since we have had a firm presence in the U.S., every year exceeds the previous year in sales,” Vaughan said. “We're a relatively small company in the U.S. ... and there's only so many of us that can get out to sell to industry, or spread the word to industry. That's the only limiting factor at this point. We have barely scratched the surface in terms of potential customers here in North America.”
That's one of the reasons that Vaughan attended the International Silicone Conference, held May 20-21 in Fairlawn. “We do a lot with silicone sealers already, so we want to see what applications are out there that we're not aware of.”
ViscoTec sells these specialized machines, which are built at ViscoTec Pumpen- u. Dosiertechnik GmbH, the company's headquarters, located near Munich, Germany, to a variety of industries, including automotive, electronics, pharmaceutical, aerospace, food and consumer goods—”just about any manufactured product,” Vaughan said.
Customers include many original equipment manufacturers—including Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Co., Magna International Inc., Denso Corp.—as well as several electronic manufacturers. He said his company's machines apply material to most of today's smartphones.
“There are so many applications and offshoots that we don't even know about yet,” Vaughan said.
The company employs about a dozen in two North American facilities, one in Detroit and another in Atlanta. The firm's ambitious five-year plan, he said, is to double its staff, expand its customer base and implement a service and sales office in Detroit that covers the West Coast.
According to Vaughan, ViscoTec's machines are different than others, as they use a servomotor drive. They can be programmed to dispense as much or as little material as an application needs.
“We have integrated container-emptying systems, 55-gallon, five-gallon, one-gallon bucket emptying systems, with integrated degassing and agitation systems,” he said. “Degassing is a fairly important issue in dispensing silicone. You don't want to have any air bubbles in your dispense, so our systems allow for that.”
He said ViscoTec's pumps are able to dispense one-component and two-component products, as well as shear-sensitive material, without wearing out the material or damaging the pump.
“Our range of pumps covers roughly the two-liter per minute to micro-liter dispensing levels,” Vaughan said. “Micro-liter is the size of the period at the end of this sentence.”
He said servomotor machines prevent waste, reduce labor costs and downtime, and extend the life of the machine.
“Manufacturing in the last 15 years is dictated by lean processes,” Vaughan said. “Everything is leaned to the nth degree through the entire engineering manufacturing process. Every new manufacturing process that is being built is being built with a very lean mentality from the get-go.”
The cost of the machines can range anywhere from $3,000 to more than $70,000.
“We have systems that will pump tiny, tiny quantities. Sometimes it's a single pump; all it needs to do is dispense a tiny bead. So that would be a pretty inexpensive system,” Vaughan said.
“You can work all the way up to higher-volume pumps that need to have a deep gassing pretreat ... maybe a two-component system with dual pumps, and it may need to have an emptying system to empty a drum or a bucket.”
While the machines are manufactured in Germany, he said the goal is to warehouse more product in the U.S. The lead time, depending on the complexity and size of the system, is usually 10 to 12 weeks, “generally comparable to those sourced domestically.”
Precision dispensing is the key component of ViscoTec's machinery. “The beauty of our pump is that the pumping is linear, not time and pressure,” Vaughan said. “It doesn't blob stuff out or leave gooey strings at the end of the pump process. ... You can program our pumps to write in cursive, with thicker lines where they need to be thick, thinner lines where they need to be thin.”