in Vol. 10 - September Issue - Year 2009
High End Masking Solutions for the Surface Finishing Process
Mark Schanze, Founder of Maxol Studios LLC
Recently MFN had a chance to sit down for an interview with the founder of Maxol Studios LLC, a new company providing custom masking for shot peen, thermal spray, blasting and or any surface finishing process. Maxol Studios LLC is based out of Chandler AZ, a suburb of Phoenix and has been in business since ’08. A small company, Maxol Studios is growing rapidly under the careful guidance of its founder and CEO, Mark Schanze. The following is that interview with Mark Schanze.
(?) MFN: We’ve noticed your masks are quite precise, sometimes you can’t see where the parts split, how do you make the masks fit together so well?
(!) M. S.: Well, it all comes down to our tooling technology. Our precision silicone molding allows us to duplicate geometry extremely accurately. Our understanding of the technology and over 25 years experience in silicone molding allows us to consistently duplicate the accuracy over a long period of time. This means we can spend a lot of effort on very precise master geometry knowing we can duplicate it over and over and for a long time. So we do spend a lot of time perfecting the surface shut offs and seamless parting lines. Our proprietary surface duplication technology works so well that we can keep the cost of perfection economical for the customer.
(?) MFN: So far Maxol Studios has produced custom masks, any plans to produce off-the-shelf masking for job shops that don’t have a lot of repeat business where custom masking is inappropriate?
(!) M. S.: We do see a need for a way to replace taping with simple molded geometry masking. We are working on a number of products that will be ready for purchase off-the-shelf. One of these is a molded strip for masking outside geometry rings. It works much like a belt with snaps to keep it closed and self adjusts for any outside diameter. The molded strip incorporates a design detail that allows our armored fabric wraps to be attached to protect the metal ring below or above the masking strip. We mold a spring steel inside a mask strip to make the mask stick to the inside geometry of a ring also.
(?) MFN: Your masking technology seems to be creating a lot of buzz in the industry from all the innovative designs you guys are coming up with. What new technologies are you working on now?
(!) M. S.: Our newest technology, which I’m very excited about, is our new large format masking. This is where we fabricate durable large masks with "target" inserts that are replaceable. This is great for shot peening or grit blasting jobs that are large parts with relatively isolated areas to be peened or blasted. This technology allows large part masking at the same economic rate as small parts. We construct a large molded in place conformal mask that we can snap the disposable masking geometry into. This way the customer only has to purchase small inexpensive inserts when they wear out instead of the whole large mask.
(?) MFN: How has the economy affected Maxol Studios?
(!) M. S.: We definitely have been required to work harder at getting new customers. The economy has definitely impacted the surface finishing industry. It seems just about everyone has cut back a little so we have had to allocate more resources to landing new customers to compensate. We also make sure we work hard at keeping our existing customers. Luckily our principal business concept is based on saving the customer money while increasing production and quality.
(?) MFN: We understand you have had a long career in the Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing industry. How did you go from there to the surface finishing industry?
(!) M. S.: All the work I did in the Rapid Prototyping industry was based on molding in one way or another. It seems like everything came together perfectly to allow me to make the jump into the masking industry. It’s like everything I have done up to this point has led to my success at masking. I realized this when I was asked to create a mask for turbine blade by a local shot peening shop. I did such a good job they showed me the surface finishing industry as a potential market. After some market research and a quick business plan we pulled the trigger, quit our jobs and started working hard.
(?) MFN: For someone who might not be knowledgeable about masking but might need to buy some, how does your masking work?
(!) M. S.: Our masks start with Maxol Studios receiving a sample of the part to be masked and logging and labeling it for quality procedures. Engineering immediately creates our document files and starts working on the 3 dimensional model of the actual mask to be molded. Once engineering constructs the molding master, utilizing our proprietary surface duplication process, it’s turned over to production for molding. Production in turn creates the first article silicone mold and produces the urethane, silicone, or epoxy first article of the mask. After engineering inspects the mask it’s shipped out to the customer. Sometimes we really need the customer to spray the mask to help define the tolerances, but usually we hit them right out of the gate. And then when the customer accepts the mask, production increases the mold count to fulfill the customer’s production requirements in a very short time.
(?) MFN: When talking to you about your company, you are very passionate about your masking technologies. Why do you feel so strongly that you can help industry with your masking?
(!) M. S.: I guess it comes from when I go into finishing shops and I see men and women spending hours applying tape to endless lines of parts. I get great satisfaction seeing their positive reactions when I show them my masks and how effective and easy they work. It’s great to see the gears in their heads start spinning as they figure out how effective masking can work and how they can use it.
(?) MFN: So why custom masking?
(!) M. S.: The influence of custom masking is twofold:
Being able to accurately control your spraying technology can give your surface finishing company a competitive advantage. Being able to compete for more demanding tolerance jobs eliminates competition and custom masked parts have a higher profit potential. A well molded mask gives you consistent placement and repeatable masking lines for consistent results. This is what customers are demanding and this is what customers are paying for.
Secondly, saving labor costs and increasing throughput while maintaining high quality output can dramatically impact the bottom line and the ability to support the customer. Now the cost of tooling and sometimes replacement masks does require ROI investigation. There needs to be multiple parts obviously but low cost tooling greatly impacts the ROI when all of the equation is looked at. Maxol studios uses silicone tooling to keep the customers ROI in the 20% to 50% range on complex parts with as little as 40 parts required. Large quantity part runs can easily achieve 30% to 40% ROI.
(?) MFN: What are Maxol Studios long term plans?
(!) M. S.: We need to quickly grow the business so we can implement technology that will allow us to grow to our goal size of around 15 to 20 employees. We feel masking will get us to this level, but we are looking at other business elements where we can leverage our superior surface duplication process and accurate, low cost tooling. One of these is a specialty tooling technology that will replace the cerro metal encapsulation process for the machining of turbine blades. Right now most turbine engine OEM’s encapsulate the blade in a low melt temp metal to hold the blade during the machining of the root area. This process is necessary to secure the difficult clamping geometry of the blade while compensating for the casting differences between all the blades. The process creates a number of problems including infiltration of the metal into air cooled blade holes and inconsistent clamping effectiveness. We are currently working on three approaches to improve the clamping process. One concept is to create a second generation cerro metal silicone tooling with built in cavity or hole sealing. Other issues like overheating the blade during encapsulation can also be addressed with the new silicone tooling. The other two technologies that we are working on are based on replacing the cerro metal completely with a resin composite material. So developing new and innovative manufacturing technology and processes that we can take to our existing customers will be an important aspect to our continued growth as a business.
MFN would like to thank Mark Schanze for this interview!