Formed last fall by seven Colorado mold makers, Rapid Production Tooling Inc. has invested more than $1.4 million in new equipment in a bid to gain ground quickly in a competitive industry.
The company, a maker of plastic injection and thermoforming production molds, was founded in November when three area toolmakers decided to join forces in a new company, said Mike Allen, vice president. The co-owners had worked at in-house tool shops for several injection molders, he said.
The trio merged with Miller Tool Inc. of Berthoud, Colo., a small production mold maker, in a stock swap that gave the three toolmakers and the four Miller employees an ownership interest in the new company. Miller Tool owner David Miller joined Rapid Production as president.
``Dave was at a crossroads,'' Allen said. ``He was either going to reduce his business by staying the way it was or grow it. He found partners to grow the business much faster, and he took a fair risk doing it.''
Rapid Production Tooling started with no customers and in need of equipment, Allen said. The company moved into Miller's 9,000-square-foot plant, only about a third of which was being used by the existing company.
The toolmakers began using their contacts in the automotive, business equipment and medical fields to drum up business, Allen said. Meanwhile, the company started purchasing manufacturing and design equipment to augment the few existing pieces.
Among the purchases have been four computer numerically controlled machining centers and a CNC electric discharge machining center, all with automatic tool changing for unsupervised operation. The firm also added grinding equipment and overhead cranes.
The fledgling company, which now works around the clock, decided to create a strong design and engineering center, said program manager David Thomsen. After renovating Miller's offices, the firm bought 20 computer-aided-design stations featuring several different CAD systems.
``We were determined to do it right,'' he said. ``It allowed us to incorporate prototyping work and make tools more rapidly by doing the design by computer.''
Besides making hardened-steel production tools, the firm has made aluminum prototype molds, Thomsen said. It also can make four-cavity steel prototype molds in less than four weeks, he added.
Since November, the toolmaker has recorded about $1.5 million in sales and expects to reach $3 million to $4 million by year-end, Allen said. The firm can make 16-cavity tools for injection presses with as much as 700 tons of clamping force, and its projects include molds for air-bag covers, dental products and computer equipment, Allen said.
Since November, the work force has grown to 20. About 80 percent of employees own stock in the privately held tool shop.