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TEI operates an in-house metalcasting facility that proves out tooling and produces prototype and low volume castings.


source that either produces every- thing or coordinates it so they are using identical tooling. It takes a slightly different organization than the traditional, small, 50-man pattern shop. In many cases, however, the customer still needs local support for tooling changes or repair or updates. Te industry also demands a strong financial business in terms of being able to support the financing of tooling. We often don’t get paid until a year after we start the tooling, which is challeng- ing. Te ability to finance tooling often


demands larger organizations. MC: Who are your customers—


end-users or metalcasters or both? OJ: We deal with both OEMs


and foundries. We are involved with a lot of prototypes where we deal with the OEMs. For prototypes, we are approached by an OEM with a new product still in a design stage. We try to involve the metalcasting facility at the earliest possible stages to discuss how they will cast the part in produc- tion. If we don’t get input on how it will be cast, we might go down the wrong route. With the metalcaster’s input, processes can be developed closer to


how the parts actually will be cast. MC: How does prototype tooling


differ from production tooling? OJ: It depends on the product and


how it will be made. For example, a cylinder head is made in a steel semi-


30 | MODERN CASTING February 2012


TEI mainly produces tooling for the motor vehicle and military markets.


permanent mold, but the prototype will be made with sand casting. Te sand mold tooling will be developed, and then we’ll develop the steel mold with sand cores. But some cylinder blocks are made in low pressure sand, in which case the prototype approach is the same. We try to make the pro- totype tooling the same way it will be tooled in production, with the same


parting lines and other conditions. MC: Why did TEI bring a metal-


casting operation into its facility? OJ: Initially, it was to test tool-


ing, and it developed from there. TEI bought an existing foundry and recreated it here in Livonia and immediately started making proto- type castings and supplying the major automotive companies. Our customers are interested in the


foundry for two things. One, to make prototypes, such as low pressure thin wall cylinder heads. Two, it’s useful for testing tooling. Typically, we will test a first set of tooling (often there are multiple sets). It is particularly useful when you have a tight time-scale program. It’s much quicker and more efficient to do it here where the tool was made. Often, the customers are here with us when we do it. Plus, there’s an awful lot of


knowledge gained from making castings that helps when you’re making tooling. If you have strug-


gled to cast lightweight cylinder heads with zero internal defects, you learn an awful lot about how to feed the casting and make it solidify. You benefit from this when you make the next tool. We’ve gained an in-depth


casting knowledge. MC: Let’s talk about your global


reach. TEI exports 50% of products outside of the U.S. Who are your


foreign customers? OJ: Mainly we are exporting to Mexico and China. We export a little bit to Europe, but they are fairly well covered by the European suppliers that


support their local industry. MC: Do you see the balance of


domestic tooling vs. exports changing? OJ: It all depends on what hap-


pens to the indigenous foundries in the U.S. and if more foundries appear or come back. Ten our balance may shift exports back to being less than 50%. But if growth continues to occur outside the country, then that’s where our tooling will be. In the case of Mexico, we have the


market well covered and are the larg- est tooling supplier, although there is still competition from the many smaller local companies. In the case of China, many new suppliers will develop but the market is so massive that it will consume their capacity. I expect there will always be opportuni- ties to export there.


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