There are advantages to buying from a smaller company. Customers gain more personalized service and more attention to their specific needs. Small companies tend to value their patronage more, and to remain competitive with larger firms, strive harder for quality.
These are advantages understood by Chuck Malnar, who is president of a small company that thinks big. Modular Packaging Technologies (MPT) makes automatic packaging systems for specialty medical devices. Malnar designs the table-sized equipment himself at MPT’s San Diego-based facility, which handles all of the manufacturing in-house.
“What we do is manufacture automatic pouching systems,” explains Malnar. “The systems are the first step in automation for small- or medium-sized companies that are migrating from filling product pouches by hand. The bagging goes way beyond a typical Ziploc, as the machines produce a seal that helps maintain an environment inside the pouch free of vapor or moisture. The majority of the systems we sell are used to package medical devices that require sterility through the products packaged life.”
Just as Malnar helps smaller companies move towards automation, MPT recently went through its own technological upgrade — from 2D AutoCAD to 3D modeling. For this transition, Malnar chose a smaller software vendor, Alibre.
“Alibre is a small company, and I’m in a small company,” he says. “It becomes easier to justify working with people like that because they go the extra mile. I’m very familiar with that attitude. They do whatever it takes to make you a customer.”
Malnar had performed his design work in 2D since the company started but always wanted to make the jump to 3D. He was all set to purchase Autodesk’s 3D package, Inventor, before he did some further online research. “When I discovered Alibre Design Expert, started looking at what they offered compared to Inventor and looked at the cost of ownership, it was essentially a question of ‘why spend that money if you don’t have to?'”
The choice was not based on pricing alone, Malnar maintains. “The modeler had to do what I needed it to do, and Alibre delivered that.”
For MPT’s situation, Alibre Design Expert matched its modeling, material, and production needs better than the bigger competition. Alibre Design’s parametric modeling and its ability to do top-down design fit well with MPT’s workflow, which involved adapting standard equipment designs to the customization requests of each client.
“Going to 3D with Alibre Design Expert gives us advantages in our ability to change a design effectively,” explains Malnar. “We can have models with features that are associative. That is, we can change one portion of the design, and all the features associated with it change to those new dimensions. I can’t tell you how much easier this makes designing.”
Beyond the 3D basics, Alibre Design Expert also contains specialized features that applied directly to MPT’s materials. “At the time that I purchased Alibre Design Expert, we were pulling away from aluminum framing in our machines toward using stainless steel in a uni-body construction,” recalls Malnar. The software comes with a wide palette of tools especially for modeling the folds, joints and edging of sheet metal. “The sheet metal features in Alibre were just fantastic. I’ve been using the sheet metal modeling tools for all my design work and custom fixturing, and it’s done an excellent job.”
The third factor for MPT was interoperability, the importing and exporting of files from system to system. “I’m constantly downloading STEP files from suppliers for things like pneumatics. Any part files I can get from my suppliers go into my design,” he says. “Importing them has been very easy.”
In the MPT production shop, data from completed designs provide instruction for fabrication machines, such as the plasma cutter that carves out the products’ sheet metal patterns.
“What we had in the past was kind of a quirky CAM package for our machining. We’d export DXF of most of our designs, which was a considerable amount of work,” Malnar explains. “We just upgraded to Alibre’s CAM add on, where I can send a design to fabrication directly from the modeling interface. The way I have my sheet metal cutter dialed in, it goes from the first file to the next one, and I’m cutting with my plasma cutter within 10 thousandths of an inch. For our process, that’s just phenomenal.”
Overall, switching platforms to 3D given a competitive advantage to this small company. “Simply the ability to show our customers what we are proposing as far as design changes,” he says, “has brought us to a new level. Now we can communicate with the client very quickly.”
Malnar made his choice of platform carefully, and Alibre’s friendly support staff, clear software instruction, and special package offers — like a 15-day money back guarantee –gave him the same sense of the small company treatment that he values in his own business.
“We have done a lot of research to seek out the appropriate equipment and software to achieve big results out of a small company. And what we’ve chosen so far has put us on the right path.”
Modular Packaging Technologies, LLC was founded in 1999 to address the industry need for smaller, more affordable pouching machinery. The MPT line of PouchMan Automatic Pouching Systems serves the automation demands of small to medium-sized businesses that utilize pre-made pouches. MPT strives to produce top-quality packaging equipment that is truly productive and affordable. For more information on MPT’s products, please visit www.go-modular.com .