Collaborative R&D Project Boosts Tooling Life and Sales for Manufacturing Startup

Byron Selorme

Byron Selorme, co-founder and president of Press Lock Technologies standing at the company’s warehouse.

In just a few short years, Press Lock Technologies has emerged as a trailblazer in the manufacturing industry, transforming the way metal is joined with its cutting-edge cold metal joining presses and tooling. Founded by Byron and Chrissafo Sandy Selorme, the startup designs and builds presses for businesses across North America.  Despite fierce competition from larger manufacturing companies, this innovative Hamilton-based startup has emerged as a formidable force to be reckoned with.

As Press Lock Technologies captured a larger market share, the startup developed a need to produce its tooling internally. This prompted the startup to embark on a collaborative research project that not only resolved its manufacturing challenge but also supported the launch of four products in the market, expanded its workforce by five employees, and generated substantial sales revenue.

“This research and development (R&D) project was a nice stepping stone,” notes Byron Selorme, the co‑founder and president of Press Lock Technologies. “Shortly after the project, we secured approximately $100,000 in machinery sales, which we used to build up our company and expand. Later we received more sales due to the project.”

Press Lock Technologies leveraged support from the Southern Ontario Network of Advanced Manufacturing Industry (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led network of post-secondary institutions, who, through their respective Research and Innovation Centres, collaborate with small- and medium-sized companies to tackle their manufacturing-related challenges. The startup partnered with McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI), SONAMI’s institutional member on a collaborative research and development project.

The company faced a manufacturing challenge when attempting to extend the tooling life of a punch utilized in a particularly demanding application that joins stainless steel. The punch presented a considerable design limitation as the material adhered to it during operation, causing a sticky manufacturing challenge.

“Tooling has a lifetime and by extending that lifetime we are able to lower costs, bringing Press Lock Technologies a distinct advantage over our competitors globally.”

– Byron Selorme, the co-founder and president of Press Lock Technologies

Press Lock Technologies prides itself on its development of innovative, energy-efficient presses that provide an environmentally friendly substitute to welding through its use of eco-friendly metal joining technology, known as clinching.

Clinching is a method of joining sheet metal and other materials without the use of welding, rivets, or adhesives. It involves using a special tool to deform the materials in such a way that they interlock, creating a strong and permanent bond. Clinch tooling, also known as punch and die sets, are tools used in clinching. They consist of a punch, which is a cylindrical tool with a flat end, and a die, which is a specially engineered receiver with a precision pocket in the center. The punch and die are used together to deform the material being joined, creating the interlocking joint that forms the bond.

To address the challenge within a tight timeframe, MMRI partnered with Press Lock Technologies to evaluate the tool’s coating, improve its longevity, and resolve issues with the surface finish that were adversely affecting its performance.

“How the tooling is manufactured is critical for the connection,” explained Byron Selorme. “Tooling has a lifetime and by extending that lifetime we are able to lower costs, bringing Press Lock Technologies a distinct advantage over our competitors globally.”

MMRI was quick to respond to Press Lock Technologies’ challenge and offered specialized coatings developed in-house and post-processed the samples with a unique polishing method. As a result, the sticking problem was solved. In addition, the manufacturer was able to trial new and innovative physical vapor deposition (PVD) coatings, developed by MMRI’s research team, for their mechanical clinching technology.

Several pieces of equipment used in the clinching process are shown on the left. Top left, a sharpened and polished die blade (lighter-coloured die blade) next to the original die blade (a darker-coloured die blade).  Bottom left, two clinch dies. On the right is physical vapor deposition (PVD) equipment which was used to coat the Press Lock Technologies samples. PVD coating can help improve performance and tool life.

“Fortunately, we were forced to develop the tooling internally, which ended up giving us a competitive edge,” said Byron Selorme. Based on the success of the project, the manufacturer plans to explore the use of coatings in other areas of the company’s operations and continue reducing the manual labour involved in various projects. In addition, the collaborative research and development (R&D) project proved to be a mutually beneficial partnership.

“I want to express my gratitude to Press Lock Technologies for collaborating with us on this applied research project,” said Bipasha Bose, PhD, program manager at MMRI, who also leads the Materials Property Assessment Lab (MPAL) of MMRI. “Our PhD students gained valuable insights from applying their knowledge to a real-world challenge. This project provided a great opportunity for our students to work under a deadline to solve a real-life business challenge, and we were thrilled to see them rise to the occasion.” Two PhD students were part of the project research team and were essential to the success of the project, assisting with coating deposition and sample polishing. Mohammad Chowdhury and Majid Abdoos, started as PhD students in Mechanical Engineering during the project and later became postdoctoral fellows at McMaster University.

“The applied research project gave us confidence in the technology we were applying, and it was encouraging to see its real-life impact,” said Chowdhury. “We also learned a valuable lesson in time management, because we often had to work on a tight schedule, balancing our studies and the project.” After the completion of the project, Chowdhury was inspired to pursue a related research project and is currently working with a graduate student on the project. The partnership between Press Lock Technologies and MMRI was a great success, leaving both parties highly pleased with the outcome.

From top to bottom, Mohammad Chowdhury is seen working at the Materials Property Assessment Lab (MPAL) of McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) with Bipasha Bose.    Mohammad Chowdhury, started as PhD student in Mechanical Engineering during the project and later became postdoctoral fellows at McMaster University. Bipasha Bose, PhD, is a program manager at MMRI, who also leads the Materials Property Assessment Lab (MPAL) of MMRI.

“As a startup launched during the COVID pandemic, we were in danger of not being able to survive. The costs associated with starting a manufacturing company are enormous and greatly amplified by such complex challenges that we addressed in this collaborative applied research project,” explained Chrissafo Sandy Selorme, co-founder and vice president of Press Lock Technologies. “Having the help of SONAMI and MMRI for this project has allowed us to grow, hiring five employees, as we develop intellectual property that puts us in the forefront of cold metal joining manufacturers.”

SONAMI provides innovative solutions, such as process optimization, designing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing and commercializing new or improved products. SONAMI leverages faculty, students, and state-of-the-market equipment, together with funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), to support manufacturing in Canada.

If you would like to discuss your organization’s needs with a SONAMI representative, please contact [email protected].