When Linear Mold & Engineering launched in 2003, the economy in its native Michigan was on shaky ground. Nevertheless, the company’s founders believed there would always be a need for manufacturers who could perform rapid tooling for the automotive industry. More than a decade later, Linear has been proven right, as it has grown to become one of the most successful providers of tooling for molds in North America. Director of New Business Development – Tooling & Manufacturing Lou Young says the company has become a leader in the industry through its dedication to upgrading its equipment and embrace of innovation as well as a solid reputation for handling customers’ requests in a timely fashion.
Young says the company’s initial focus was on serving the automotive industry, but ever since then it has entered new markets including aerospace, medical and consumer products. Expanding the company’s tooling capabilities as it has over the last several years has been crucial for its growth. “It was because of those added manufacturing machines that we were able to do that,” Young says.
Although there is some strong competition out there, Linear has created a good niche for itself in the marketplace. Young says this is due in no small part to the company’s diverse services as well as its ability to combine knowledge bases to deliver products that no other manufacturer can match. As manufacturing returns to the United States after many years of overseas operation, Linear is in a good position to continue gaining market share, and Young says the company’s dedication to innovation will be a key element of that success going forward.
One of the company’s greatest strengths is its technological capacity, and this is evident in the advanced equipment and processes Linear brings to the marketplace. The company operates out of three buildings totaling 57,000 square feet, and from there it specializes in rapid prototyping, tooling and manufacturing.
According to the company, its engineering capabilities allow it to take any design a customer provides and turn it into a reality to the customer’s exact specifications. From that design, Linear’s rapid prototyping capabilities create a prototype with speed and precision. The company is the largest private provider of 3-D metal printing services in North America, and its use of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology allows it to build functional metal prototypes that are equivalent in strength and quality to cast or billet prototypes.
On the manufacturing side, Linear has a capability to produce low-volume injection molding runs of about 150,000 pieces or fewer. One of the company’s greatest advantages in this regard is the incorporation of conformal cooling into the manufacturing process. Young explains that this is a direct result of the company’s use of DMLS technology, which allows an engineer to design cooling lines into the piece from the design stage, rather than adding them in after the fact.With this technology, Linear can create 100 percent accurate inserts that feature the cooling lines precisely where they need to be, which lowers the cost of the finished product as well as achieves the highest quality for the customers.
Young says customers have started requesting the integration of this cooling line technology into their injection molding operations, and Linear remains the only provider on the scene that can provide the seamless combination of the two.
“And they’re coming to us to do that,” he says, adding that this capability is expected to give Linear a significant advantage over the next several years.
As it stands right now, Linear is in a strong position to benefit as more manufacturing returns to the United States. Young says the company has witnessed a major push to bring back to America many manufacturing operations that had fled overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor, and Linear has been asked to numerous conferences on the matter. “We seem to be the leader in that field right now,” Young says.
As long as Linear continues to hold true to its guiding principles of innovation and technological superiority, Young adds, the only thing the company should have to worry about is keeping a handle on its growth. “The biggest challenges are probably being able to grow quick enough to capture every bit of the market as we can safely,” he says.