Two U.S.-based mold engraving firms have joined an international association that hopes to ex-change technology, create business and keep pace with an increasingly global mold industry. Wisconsin Engraving Co. Inc., based in New Berlin, Wis., and Akron Metal Etching Co. of Akron, Ohio, are the two U.S.-based members of what is known as the Surface Etching Cooperation.
Five other members of the group, which is formally incorporated in Germany, are based in Europe.
``We were set up basically to share technology and share patterns worldwide to maintain uniformity,'' said Robert Held, a partner at Wisconsin Engraving. The company, which employs 40, is commonly known as Wisconsin Engraving-Unitex.
By sharing standard engraving patterns and engraving processes, the group hopes to offer to customers a uniform service in the United States and Europe. For example, an automaker that is designing and building a car on both sides of the Atlantic could specify a common texture pattern for an instrument panel skin.
The mold engraving business, consisting largely of small, craft-oriented firms, has been a ``secretive and closely held business,'' said Lee Eisinger, president of Akron Metal Etching.
But now, through the Surface Etching Cooperation, the member companies hope to open things up a bit and ``spread some of the knowledge,'' he said. Still to be worked out are the ``nuances'' of technology-sharing agreements among members, according to Eisinger.
The group plans to add members-a unanimous vote is re-quired for admittance-and ex-pand into rapidly developing markets around the globe, such as South America.
Members also are looking at the Internet to speed transfer of pattern designs and other graphic files, Eisinger said.
``We want to make this a global effort,'' he said.
Besides Wisconsin Engraving and Akron Metal Etching, other SEC members are Eumig Narben, of Fohnsdorf, Austria; T2G of Oyonnax, France; Fotorelief J.&F. Kruth GmbH of Solingen (Wald), Germany; Belgrave Engraving Co. Ltd. of Darwen, England; and Svensk Industrigravyr AB of Dalsjofors, Sweden.