American Tool & Mold Inc. and its subsidiary, American Technical Molding, have expanded with a larger building in 2000 and the purchase of two injection presses late last year.
American Tool & Mold is known for its high-cavitation molds - unscrewing closure molds, stack molds and tooling for the writing instrument industry with molds for pen caps and barrels. One high-profile account: 64-cavity molds for the Sanford Sharpie marker from Newell Rubbermaid Inc.
The company also has moved into molds and molding work involving two-color technology, said President Demetre Loulourgas.
Loulourgas bought a 50 percent stake in American Tool & Mold in 1984, then four years later bought the entire company. He started the custom molding operation, American Technical Molding, in 1991.
He said both the tooling side and custom molding experienced some slowing last year.
``But we're surviving OK. This year's looking much better,'' he said in a telephone interview from Clearwater, Fla., adding that he expects combined 2002 sales to reach $25 million.
Loulourgas, a Greek mold maker who emigrated first to Canada, then came to the United States in 1976, points with pride to a $3.5 million building renovation.
During that expansion in 2000, the companies moved to another building and renovated it, growing from 40,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet. The molding operation uses 90,000 square feet of space, while mold making accounts for 60,000 square feet.
The building was expanded back when the U.S. economy was still flexing its muscles. Last year, despite the recession, American Technical Molding purchased two Krauss-Maffei injection presses. One press, now the company's largest machine, has 720 tons of clamping force; the other is a 220-ton machine used to mold two colors or two materials. For mold making, American Tool added two new machining centers and two grinders.
The companies spent a total of $2.5 million on machinery in 2001.
American Tool claims to be one of the biggest mold makers in the South, with about 110 tooling employees, including 12 mold designers and 18 platforms for computer-aided design and manufacturing.
Like many mold makers, American Tool initially got into molding to test its molds. The firm started out with three injection presses. Loulourgas explained the logic: ``If I have the job [for a mold] in my hands and I need the molding equipment, it would be too late.''
The stable of injection presses has grown to 22, with clamping forces of 55-720 tons.
The new two-color Krauss Maffei also followed demands initiated by the mold-making side. Although American Tool has been making two-color molds for six years, the firm did not have its own injection press for testing, said sales manager Jerry Seidelman.
Now the company is looking for custom molding of two-color or two-material parts. The two sides complement each other.
``Having the molding available here just makes us stronger as a toolmaker,'' Seidelman said.
The company sells molds to customers around the world. As an injection molder, the company is known mainly in the Southeast, but now management wants to raise its profile to a national, or even international, level.
Bruce Trautweiler, vice president of operations, said the company has added key employees, even during the recession.
``We are pretty well-equipped on the management team, and we're in a position to expand our business,'' he said.
The biggest markets for American Technical Molding are automotive, consumer electronics, packaging and medical.
``We control our own destiny,'' Loulourgas said. ``We do everything in-house.''