5 ALLY FOR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

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DEARBORN, MICH. — Five U.S. companies in the plastic prototyping industry have formed a strategic alliance to work jointly on new product development.

The marriage of separately owned companies creates one of the first such alliances in an industry known for its entrepreneurship. Together, the companies had a sales volume exceeding $40 million in prototyping products during 1996.

The partners include Armstrong Mold Corp., a short-run aluminum cast tooling and injection molding prototyping house in East Syracuse, N.Y.; Omega Plastics Inc., a prototype toolmaker and low-volume injection molder in Mount Clemens, Mich.; Hobson Mould Works Inc., a blow molding toolmaker in Shell Rock, Iowa; and Accelerated Technologies Inc., a rapid prototyping shop in Hebron, Ky.

The union was created and will be managed by Prototype Solutions Inc., a Bloomington, Minn., sales and marketing company that also serves as product development consultants. The company, known as PSI, will call the group the PSI Alliance.

``Our strength is the ability to share complementary technologies from four financially stable, solid companies,'' said PSI President Bryan Hansel. ``We have a lot of the pure resources of larger companies without having to go public or find a venture capitalist. For prototyping, there's not a full-service company quite like ours.''

The alliance was announced last week during the Rapid Prototyping & Manufacturing '97 conference in Dearborn. The conference was sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and SME's Rapid Prototyping and Plastic Molders and Manufacturers associations.

The group will focus primarily on design and production of short-run prototype models and act as a bridge to production tooling. A goal of the group is to cut time to market of traditional prototypes by at least one-third through technology development and the alliance's synergies, Hansel said.

When necessary, the group also plans to work with several outside engineering companies, large-volume toolmakers and injection molders, and reverse-engineering companies. Several unnamed companies have agreed to work with the alliance, Hansel said.

Michael Ellison, president of Accelerated Technologies, said the partnership will give the allied companies greater market strength without having to give up their independence.

``The synergies make us a much stronger company with more to offer,'' said Ellison, whose company also has a plant in Austin, Texas. ``It's a great idea to use the specialties of several companies to help us better serve customers.''

Hansel termed the partnership as a lifetime arrangement among the companies. No projects have been announced yet for the group, but Hansel said that the alliance expects to begin working together immediately.