Hallmark Technologies Inc. will use its automotive lens design and molding experience to help a start-up firm commercialize a polycarbonate highway stop sign. The Windsor, Ontario, mold builder and mold-tryout firm paid US$2.55 million for a 50 percent interest in Kochanowski Innova-tive Sign Technology Inc. of Coral Springs, Fla., said Robert Kavel-man, Hallmark's vice president of finance.
Hallmark has expertise in two-color injection molding of products with excellent optics and high reflectivity, key aspects in a plastic stop sign, he said by telephone.
George Kochanowski, president of the start-up firm, spent several years developing the sign, which he said can outperform traditional signs, which are made of aluminum then laminated and silk-screened to a reflective sheet. Traditional signs fade, delaminate and are hard to clean when vandalized with graffiti, he said.
His PC sign will have a special surface from which graffiti can be removed. He expects it to continue to look good after long-term exposure to sunlight.
Kochanowski said vandalism forces Miami to replace about 500 stop signs a month. Because they are laminates, they are hard to recycle. Los Angeles replaces 6,500 signs a year and other municipalities have similar problems. Hallmark President Doug Balint estimates the U.S. traffic sign market is worth about $4 billion a year, of which plastics account for a negligible amount.
One highway engineer expects to see the development of more plastic and composite signs.
``With the chill in aerospace markets,'' firms are looking at traffic applications, said David Reynaud, a project engineer at Washington's Highway Innovation Technology Evaluation Center.
Reynaud said a HITEC panel is determining a test plan for the PC sign.
If the sign passes the tests, highway agencies throughout the United States will be free to adopt the sign.
The panel - which comprises representatives from state transportation departments, federal agencies and traffic researchers -has set no deadline for testing. Kochanowski and Hallmark hope to commercialize the sign by the end of the year.
Kochanowski said he is a chemical engineer who has worked for resin and pigment companies. He has patented the sign, which will weigh about 8 pounds, similar to what a conventional stop sign weighs. After sales begin in the United States, Kochanowski's company and Hallmark will market the concept around the world.
Product manager Rich Mazur said the sign ``will not be just one piece of plastic,'' and will have an internal bolt to prevent rust.
Hallmark now is installing a 3,500-ton HPM injection press in Windsor as part of a C$10 million (US$7.4 million) expansion of its mold-tryout and mold-building capacity that was announced last summer.
Hallmark's first-quarter sales of C$8 million (US$5.9 million) were 32 percent higher than last year's period. Profit for three months, ended March 31, was C$732,000 (US$542,000), up 10 percent.