MINNEAPOLIS—ProMed Molded Products Inc. recently added Rapid Prototype capabilities because of demand in the medical market.
“There was a void in the industry for very fast turnaround of molded silicone parts made from the specified material,” said Connie Laumeyer, director of sales, marketing and customer service for ProMed. “We identified this need and moved forward first with offering silicone molding, then added plastic molding later in the Rapid Prototype area.”
One area in prototyping that has been given a lot of attention is 3D Printing, but Laumeyer said silicone is not conducive to the process.
With ProMed's Rapid Prototype capabilities, the company can turn around parts in three to seven days.
“We started about a year ago doing this rapid prototyping and we're pretty much up and running at full speed right now,” said Bryon McCoy, NDP/prototype engineer.
“So we've been able to achieve that quick turnaround that the customers are looking for,” he said. “We offer it in a wide variety of silicones, even some plastics that we have in stock to be able to mold those quick turnaround prototypes and get them to the customer out of the material that they want.”
Being able to work with a customer during the early stages of part development gives the customer an opportunity to receive first-pass feasibility parts in a matter of days. ProMed's tagline of “Start with us, stay with us” bridges the gap between prototype and production, Laumeyer said, which speeds up the time to market.
“If a customer started out with a prototype beforehand from Company A and then they went to production with Company B, there wouldn't have been an interface,” she said. “So the struggles that Company A had, Company B would also have and probably lengthen their process time.”
If the project evolves into production status, ProMed can take that knowledge acquired during the development stage and take it through the production process of the project. This can have a positive effect on the ease of manufacturing, cost effectiveness and delivery.
“They can get their development done, make sure the part interfaces and reacts as it should and then they can stay with us when they go to production,” Lau-meyer said, noting that the Minneapolis-based firm has brought in nearly 40 new customers with the program.
The benefit for the customer by working just with ProMed on the project, McCoy said, is that ProMed can work out the quirks through the process in the Rapid Prototyping program. Then ProMed has a better idea before production with how the part needs to be molded or any other processes that would need to be worked out beforehand. That is why this process can help with efficiency, he said.
Typical mold prices range from $800 to $2,500 with part pricing in the $1 to $10 range. Laumeyer said some customer feedback has been that “they are surprised at how inexpensive it is,” and ProMed thinks it is competitive in pricing.
Customer feedback overall has been positive.
“It's been fantastic. Customers really received these new capabilities well and we've done a number of projects now where we start off in a rapid prototype situation,” she said.
One other way that ProMed is catering to its customers is with its ProMed prototypes website—www.promedprototypes.com.
“We started our ProMed prototypes website, and customers are able to go to that website and request a quote without having to talk on the phone. ... It speeds up the process for the customer,” McCoy said.
Customers can go to the interactive website, click the “Get a Quote” button, provide necessary information, download a part model and then get a quotation, in most cases, in one day.
The website has been a success for ProMed, McCoy said, with it having its highest website visit rate in March. “We've had the highest we've ever had on that site so I think a lot of customers are starting to turn to that because it is so easy for them,” he said.
While ProMed is not trying to take the human element out of it, Laumeyer said, some customers just want to go through the website for a quote to get an idea for what the pricing will be. However, customers do not have to use the website to get a quote.
“We think we are offering the both of best worlds,” she said. “Those who want to use the website can. If they don't choose to, they can call the sales department and we'll work with them as well.”
While 95 percent of ProMed's business has a medical application with it, Laumeyer said with this capability, “our hope is that we can go ahead and diversify into other industries.”
McCoy added that he has had some opportunities in the aerospace and constriction industries so this is helping the company to branch out.