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NZ manufacturing start-up bucking convention, taking on the world

By on May 27, 2016

Manufacturing is in decline in much of the Western world. However, New Zealand-owned start-up PGE Injection Moulding is bucking this trend. The company is already exporting its expertise with its first products being used in marine safety applications by a US-based company.

Established three years ago, PGE specialises in titanium injection moulding – a complex method with few competitors in the global market.

Titanium is very light but also very strong, making titanium alloys ideal metals for many manufacturing projects. However, titanium alloys are also very expensive. Rather than using solid titanium, PGE uses titanium powder for easy transportation and far less waste.

“Titanium is expensive but has such strength and versatility that if you can nail titanium injection moulding you can lead the market in high-value industries such as aeronautical, health and marine,” said Brian Breading, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for PGE. “While our competitors typically make parts up to 20 grams in weight we can build parts up to 120 grams creating more opportunities in larger scale manufacturing.”

PGE took two-and-a-half years to perfect its process. The company uses 3D design software SOLIDWORKS to handle the design of the parts and moulds. PGE is working with Intercad, the largest reseller of SOLIDWORKS solutions in New Zealand and Australia, for specialist technical support and to provide flow simulation services.

One of the critical parts of the process in injection moulding is the creation of a mould which will maintain the integrity of the titanium part during the sintering process. During sintering, the moulded titanium part – which is actually a mixture of titanium powder, wax and other elements – is removed from the mould and heated to a point where those other elements melt away leaving the pure titanium part.

If the mould is not designed correctly it can cause the part to collapse or warp in the sintering process. PGE’s use of SOLIDWORKS has resulted in it minimising such problems and has allowed the company to design and produce multiple parts faster.

“There is a lot of trial and error testing that goes on when it comes to injection moulding,” said Breading. “You have to see what works in a real-world scenario, and then you go back and make the changes required. It is very expensive to do so.

“But SOLIDWORKS makes that process more efficient and less costly. It enables the design of the mould to be done quickly. We can then verify the design using software like Solidworks Plastics. It gives us a way to use plastics as a basis and see how things flow geometrically. Because the software is user-friendly, any modifications we need to make to our mould designs can be done very quickly.

Brian Breading will attend the upcoming EMEX event as a guest of Intercad, to be held at Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds from May 31 – June 2.

Jason Gannon, Intercad’s New Zealand Country Manager, will be available at Intercad’s stand (number 2026/6) throughout the event.

“PGE is a start-up with the smarts to do something that only a few companies in the world can do,” said Gannon. “By using their expertise in titanium and metal injection moulding and drawing on our Solidworks expertise as well as our specialist services, Brian and his team can concentrate on the actual manufacturing of these titanium parts while they ramp up production.”

PGE manufactures the moulds and undertakes the injection moulding in New Zealand, but uses external companies to supply the titanium powder and to handle the sintering process. PGE hopes to expand its business soon and bring those processes in-house – to New Zealand – as well.

www.intercad.co.nz

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