HAM LAKE, MINN. — A Minnesota toolmaking company wants to drive and develop technology in the rotational molding industry.
Al-Cast Mold & Pattern Inc. has invested about $1.5 million to relocate to a larger facility and add equipment. Computer numerically controlled milling capability is at the heart of Al-Cast's move to shorten lead times on molds.
``CNC tooling increases accuracy and cuts down lead time,'' said Vice President Steve Erpestad in an interview at the Al-Cast facility.
To program the tool paths and cut a mold from a block of aluminum takes three to four weeks. That's a big step for an industry used to cast-aluminum molds taking six to eight weeks to build.
In its move from Minneapolis to Ham Lake, Al-Cast nearly tripled its square footage — from 16,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet. It also added 10 workers, bringing its total to 35.
``Our customers are growing and we need to grow to accommodate their needs,'' said Erpestad, adding that Al-Cast has at least 40 new customers.
Al-Cast plans to add a 10,000-square-foot bay and 15 employees next year.
To further the industry's progress into modern capabilities, Al-Cast has a Web page under construction. Erpestad, who also is the company's operations and sales manager, said he expects it to be online by the end of August.
``The site will allow customers to upload computer-aided-design data onto our site. Also, it will offer a company profile, customer lead times and updates on tooling, and a `What's New' section with advances in tooling technology.''
Al-Cast's 1997 sales were $2 million. It projects 1998 sales will be $2.7 million.
Al-Cast's owners are Erpestad; Tom Haglund, president; Jon Offerdauhl, plant manager; and Brent Berg, production manager. They bought the company in 1995 from rotomolding pioneer Weldon Dunn, who started the business in 1962 under the name Allied Pattern.