Mack Group Inc. plans to add another design leg to its growing product-development business by purchasing an East Coast prototyping house.
Mack, an injection molder based in Arlington, Vt., has agreed to buy Apple Pattern Co. Inc., a maker of plastic-parts prototypes and models. Terms of the deal, expected to be completed in mid-July, were not announced.
The acquisition of Gardner, Mass.-based Apple will add to an increasing litany of design services offered by Mack. In 1997, it opened Mack Design, a separate, computer-aided design and engineering center in Rochester, N.Y.
Then, in May, Mack bought a Shelton, Conn., product-development center owned by Compression Inc. of Louisville, Ky.
The acquisitions are part of a new direction for Mack. The firm's customers want Mack to get involved early in the process with initial design and engineering work, said Jeff Somple, Mack vice president of sales and engineering.
``Our customer base wants more help on the front end,'' Somple said. ``The [acquisitions] expose us to opportunities that we might have missed in the past.''
The Apple purchase allows Mack to perform prototyping of large parts, those used on injection presses with clamping forces greater than 500 tons, Somple said.
The Shelton facility primarily works on smaller parts and performs low-volume production and tooling, while Mack Design focuses on the computer-aided end of design.
The 75,000-square-foot Apple facility makes polyurethane cast prototypes and operates more than a dozen computer numerically controlled machining centers, said Apple President Jack Haley.
The plant specializes in prototypes for plastic housings used in the computer, telecommunications and medical industries, among others. The facility also makes models for smaller parts and conducts model-finishing operations. Apple ships designs to an outside rapid-prototyping shop for stereolithography work.
Haley, who started Apple in 1981, decided before being approached by Mack that it was time to leave the business.
``[Its offer] came at a time when I needed to think about what to do down the line,'' Haley said. ``A [prototyping] shop has an endless need to invest more money to keep abreast of technology. It's a good fit with Mack.''
Mack is much larger than Apple. The molder recorded sales of $481 million in 1998, ranking fifth on Plastics News' list of top injection molders. It has more than 1,800 employees at nine facilities.
Mack will retain Apple's 26 employees, while Haley will pursue other opportunities.