Under new ownership, Hilco Technologies of Grand Rapids, Mich., is adding capacity and gearing up for aggressive growth. Owners Matt Holwerda and Dan Taliaferro recently bought 10 used Fu Chin Shine injection molding machines, and are installing five of them at Hilco's 20,000-square-foot plant in Grand Rapids. The plant currently cannot accommodate the other five presses, which are being warehoused until needed, said Hol-werda, president and majority owner of Hilco Plastics Products Co. - which does business as Hilco Technologies. He would not disclose the presses' cost.
``I don't have the work as yet to fill the presses, but it's a lot easier to get it if you have them,'' he said. ``The focus here has been to try to get more diversification. It's always been a very small company focused on the aerospace and defense industries in the past.''
Since its 1947 founding, Hilco has specialized in molding difficult materials, and got its start in the defense and aerospace markets, which have demanding material requirements. But, with Holwerda at the helm, the custom molder has been seeking new direction and markets, such as medical, which has been Hilco's largest segment for the past 11/2 years, he said.
Holwerda joined Hilco in 1994 as vice president, to head up sales and engineering, with the intent to buy the firm from then-owner R. Lee Miller, who wanted to pursue other interests. He bought out Miller in late August for undisclosed terms, then took on Taliaferro as a partner and vice president. The new executives have backgrounds in product design, development and materials: Holwerda came to Hilco from Cascade Engineering Inc., an $87 million Grand Rapids-based injection molder, and Taliaferro from GE Plastics.
Injection molded thermoplastics make up 75-80 percent of Hilco's sales, which Holwerda estimated at $2.5 million this year. The balance of its business is in injection and compression molding of thermosets.
Though lately Hilco has focused on business from original equipment manufacturers, most of its customers are themselves custom molders that are outsourcing overflow or do not want to run a certain material in-house, he said. The company molds a wide range of materials, from linear low density polyethylene to polyetheretherketone and polyetherimide, making anything from parts for surgical tools to bean slicers for Del Monte Foods Inc.
``If it's injection moldable, we've tried it,'' Holwerda said. ``We have tried materials ... just to familiarize ourselves with them for future use.''
Hilco seeks QS-9002 certification, which focuses on automotive molding, since about half a dozen of its customers are auto suppliers.
The firm's injection presses - mostly Van Dorns except for the new ones - total 14, with clamping forces of 15-700 tons; plus one injection and three compression molding presses for thermosets. Hilco's capabilities include insert molding and tool repair. It employs about 30.