Ask the Experts

The right tool every time: Custom tooling at Apple Rubber

Wire EDM - Apple Rubber custom tools

Since Apple Rubber was founded in 1971, the dynamic of the company has gradually changed. While we were once mainly a distribution company, we have evolved into a respected manufacturer and research leader in the specialized niches like O-rings, seals, composite materials, and engineering services. Our products and teams are integral parts of American and international industry.

One of our advantages at Apple Rubber is our ability to make custom tools in-house for our various client jobs. Fifteen-year Apple Rubber veteran Matthew Lewandowski manages our five-person tool shop, and he recently took some time to answer questions about this specialized component of our Cemetery Road operation.

Apple Blog: Apple Rubber does 95 percent of its tooling in-house. What advantages does this provide for the company?

Matthew Lewandowski: Lead time and money! Outside sources have extended lead times and also we have the ability to rework a tool, if it needs to be touched up either for customer changes or molding purposes on our end.

AB: How long does it take to cut a tool?

ML: For typical O-ring tools ranging from four to thirty cavities, about eight hrs. Anything beyond that cavity count that involves production type numbers is about two-and-a-half to 3 days at eight hours per day. Custom parts can run anywhere from one to five days, depending on complexity.

AB: Is it unique in the industry that Apple Rubber does its own in-house tooling or is this a common practice?

ML: Don’t know — I have not had the opportunity to visit other molding competitors to know that answer for sure. As far as what I am told, yes. We are unique in this type of support system to our production line here in Western New York.

AB: It’s been noted that the ability to cut tools in-house results in shorter lead times. Can you explain how this works?

ML: Every tool we cut is basically a one-off. With that, we are able to look ahead and respond faster to what is needed to cut the tool. I work closely with engineering to make sure that if there are any problem areas, they can be worked out before getting to me to cut. This saves in the end when it finally hits the production line.

AB: What equipment do you use in Apple Rubber’s tool shop? What are their roles?

ML: We are kind of the United Nations of machine tools. Some of the manufacturers are Okuma, Mazak, Mori Seiki, and Charmilles. It boils down to three vertical mills, a lathe, and a wire EDM.

Learn more about Apple Rubber’s manufacturing capabilities or submit an engineering assistance request at our website.