GRIMM BROS. BUYS MMI PRESSURE FORMER

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CHICAGO — For Grimm Bros. Plastics Corp., adding another pressure former is nothing out of the ordinary. But what's clearly different about its latest machine, a three-station rotary, is the brothers didn't build it.

That is a switch for the brothers Grimm of Wapello, Iowa, who generally build their own thermoforming machines; though they have been known to buy one ready-made and remake it to fit their own specs, leaving behind ``a major part of our fingerprint,'' said Vice President Curt Grimm.

``We're just too busy to take on a project of building a machine,'' Grimm said in a March 10 interview at the National Design Engineering Show in Chicago.

That is why its new rotary pressure former, delivered last week, was custom manufactured by Modern Machinery Inc., a Beaverton, Mich., company that perhaps is better-known in the industry for its in-line, roll-fed thermoforming machines. However, MMI President Tom Pohlman says his firm is working hard to change that perception with a planned expansion of its cut-sheet equipment offerings.

The Grimm Bros.' machine is just the fifth rotary that MMI has built, and its very-first pressure former, Pohlman said recently by telephone. The press has a molding area of 4 feet by 6 feet. He said MMI worked closely with Grimm Bros. to incorporate some special features that neither executive would discuss.

But those features, and the price, also undisclosed, were key selling points for Grimm Bros., which also looked at a similar rotary pressure former from Brown Machine, Grimm said. He said his company needs the capacity to accommodate business, including a 3-month-old job forming polystyrene and ABS enclosures and lids for SerVend International Inc. of Sellersburg, Ind., a maker of fountain soda dispensers, ice machines and other vending machines. SerVend used to do that forming in-house, according to Grimm.

For Grimm Bros., which expects 1996 sales to reach about $6 million, the new rotary is just one piece of a $400,000 investment it has made recently to boost both capacity and services, Grimm said.

That sum also includes the cost of a new computer numerically controlled router, soon to follow the pressure former; a 2,800-square-foot add-on for more office space; and beefed-up decorating capabilities. The firm has added a hot-stamping machine and, under demand from its customers, is working towards offering a Class A, automotive-type finish for its thermoformed parts. And, said Grimm, it is looking at bringing some toolmaking in-house, to gain faster lead times and better control over quality.

The MMI rotary is Grimm Bros.' fifth pressure former — but one of those is a double-ended machine that also does vacuum forming. The new capacity will require at least three new people, one for each shift, at its 85,000-square-foot plant in Wapello. It employs about 85. Curt's brother Kent is president.

MMI's Pohlman said his firm plans to pursue the rotary vacuum and pressure forming market more vigorously, and this spring will expand its Beaverton facility, including constructing multiple pits for building large specialty rotary machines to compete with Brown and Maac equipment.

The company will exhibit at NPE 1997 in June, for the first time, he said.