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Polymer Design Corp. of Rockland, Mass., which last year survived the deaths of its two founders and top executives, has found new, growth-minded owners.

North American Fund III, a holding company based in Chicago, purchased Polymer Design from the widows of its founders, Jim and Sam Snyder, who died in a plane crash in March 1996.

Terms of the deal, which was announced April 2, were not disclosed.

All of Polymer Design's current employees will remain with the firm during the transition, as will the management team headed by President Martin Hanley. The privately held company does not disclose employment or annual sales figures.

The Snyder brothers founded Polymer Design in 1979. The company has created a niche as a low-volume producer of engineering-quality parts using its trademarked Liquid Resin Casting system. The system provides lower tooling costs and shorter turnaround times than competing injection molding methods, according to the company.

Polymer Design's current customers include manufacturers of medical equipment, scientific and environmental instrumentation and computer and electronics equipment.

North American Fund III is part of a family of partnerships that acquires small companies and tries to grow them into ``significantly larger enterprises,'' David Bergonia, a partner in North American Funds, said in a telephone interview.

The acquisition was the first for North American Fund III, and was made possible by a $65 million pot developed in 1996 from investors like Ameritech Corp.'s pension trust and the University of Texas System's endowment fund.

Bergonia called North American an institutionally backed buy-out firm.

``We generally try to grow the companies,'' he said, adding other firms previous North American funds have purchased grew ``a minimum of 100 percent in annual revenues.''

Customers and competitors can expect the same from Polymer Design, Bergonia said.

``Polymer Design is a leader in liquid resin casting,'' Bergonia said. ``With another, small acquisition we could give Polymer prototyping capability. That would give its salespeople four or five arrows in their basket instead of one or two.''

North American also might look into developing small-run injection molding capability for Polymer Design.

The fund owns another company that makes emergency locator beacons for the marine industry. Because the beacons have small production runs, the company has had a hard time finding injection molders willing to make the housings, Bergonia said.

North American generally holds its businesses between six and eight years before selling them, Bergonia said.