At the moment the latest Not In My Backyard battle between a town hungry for land for factories, which may never come, and residents wanting none of it, is being waged in Tecumseh’s Oldcastle suburb. It is nothing if not ironic to be happening in a place so littered with tool and mold shops that those in the industry call it Moldcastle.
It also suggests the municipality is out of touch with reality.
According to the Windsor Star’s November 14 edition, the town, “hopes to attract more industry along the Highway 401 corridor.” Tecumseh mayor Gary McNamara told the paper it is, “about making sure we have a well-balanced tax base in our community.”
Right there is the problem.
McNamara is looking for more industry at the stroke of one minute to midnight, the exact time demand is about to crash for many, if not all, of Oldcastle’s companies using injection molding technology.
Tool, die, and mold is an industry entering its sunset. In the near future, it’ll be replaced with 3D printing. It is already happening.
Molds are costly and it is hardly likely something expensive will survive once something better, more flexible, and cheaper comes along. Additive manufacturing, as 3D printing is called, needs no molds, no tools, no dies, and has capabilities mold makers could only dream about.
How long will the industry last?
As The Square has reported, Parker Drouillard, a local 3D printing pioneer, expects injection molding will be gone in six years.
He is not alone. As The Square has also reported, Silicon Valley-based 3D technology company, Carbon Inc, has just lowered polymer resin prices anticipating the move will increase the addressable market for 3D manufactured parts.
Carbon is quickly ending the argument about 3D raw materials, at least in plastic-oriented products, being too expensive. Carbon’s chief executive, Dr Joseph DeSimone, talks of German athletic shoe maker Adidas being able to cost-effectively print, “thousands or millions of parts … compared to other manufacturing methods such as injection molding.”
Of course there are those who say 3D printing has no future in auto parts. That doesn’t include Dr Ken Washington, the leader of Ford’s research and advanced engineering. Additive manufacturing, he says, “will likely be used to construct at least a portion of production parts on vehicles.”
The future is obvious.
McNamara needs to change course. His community needs him to figure out how to replace tool and mold jobs that will soon evaporated. As the industry fades away it will leave an ample inventory of empty buildings.