by Joseph Pryweller January 13, 2003
Former Papago Plastics Inc. owner David Bank is back in business with a new company that will attempt to further his work in aluminum injection molds.
Bank plans to open Aluminum Injection Mold Co. by early February at the former Papago site in Rochester, N.Y., he said in a Jan. 7 telephone interview. The company will make production molds from aluminum and serve as a technical center for companies wishing to develop products using aluminum molds, he said.
Bank will be challenged. While aluminum tools are standard for thermoforming and blow molding, less than 1 percent of injection molds worldwide are made from the material, said John Perryman, marketing manager for plate products with mold-material distributor Copper and Brass Sales Inc. in Eastpointe, Mich.
Misconceptions and resistance to change have dogged the growth of the soft aluminum for injection molds, Perryman said.
"One of the problems is getting people to understand high-strength aluminum mold alloys and how they can replace P20 tool steels," Perryman said. "The big concern is that they won't hold up. Very few mold shops are actively selling aluminum."
But Bank and Perryman said aluminum is less expensive than P20 tool steel - a material of choice for higher-volume parts - and the molds can run cycle times 20-30 percent faster than steel. Perryman plans to take Bank with him to visit customers and sell them on converting to aluminum.
Bank, a consultant, has spoken at numerous industry events extolling the virtues of using aluminum in mold making.
"Our goal is to teach [original equipment manufacturers] how to manage, run and maintain aluminum injection molds," Bank said. "With time-to-market being crucial to compete against China, aluminum more than ever has a place. It's our chance to help keep this part of the business stateside, instead of watching more work go offshore."
Bank sold Papago, a maker of prototype and short-run injection molds, in 1998 to Rochester-based Foster Group. Until early January, Papago continued to lease space at Bank's 17,000-square-foot site.
After being offered a good price to get out of its lease, Bank said, Papago moved operations to another site in Rochester shared by Asmat Inc., another Foster Group company that specializes in production injection molds.
While Papago could compete with Bank's company in making aluminum injection molds, group President Gary Foster said he wishes Bank the best with his new venture. When selling the company, Bank signed a two-year, noncompete clause that expired in 2000, he said.
"We're glad to have him back in the community," Foster said. "In the economic times that we're in, it's good that he's able to start a new business. That can only help the area."
The Rochester area has lost mold-making jobs at Xerox Corp. and Eastman Kodak Co. Kodak recently said it would close its Rochester molding plant and move production of single-use cameras to Mexico or China. Bank owned his own consulting company and did work for Pittsburgh-based aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. before opening the new company. He is hoping to gain Alcoa's support in the new venture.
Bank bought four high-speed milling machines for Aluminum Mold and plans to buy several small-tonnage presses to sample parts, he said.
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