Rapid injection molder Protomold Co. Inc. dramatically has increased sales and, in February, doubled its space to 30,000 square feet.
Larry Lukis and Gregg Bloom co-founded the business in a garage in May 1999 and aimed for a niche bridging markets for rapid prototyping and volume molding. Lukis is Protomold's chief technology officer and chairman, and Bloom leads internal process research and development.
Sales totaled $2.9 million last year compared with $1.1 million in 2001 and $344,000 in 2000.
The Maple Plain, Minn., firm totally automates toolmaking for parts suitable for computer numerically controlled machining of straight-pull molds. Developers created proprietary software after being dissatisfied with technologies for stereolithography, fused deposition modeling and selective laser sintering.
The software converts a digital, three-dimensional model to a tool pass for milling in aluminum and immediately creates tooling for a prototype or low-volume production.
``Protomold delivers injection molded parts typically for one-third the price and in one-third the time of conventional injection molders,'' said Bradley Cleveland, president and chief executive officer since November 2001. Protomold claims it can deliver injected molded parts in as few as five days for less than $2,000.
Protomold's 10 presses, with clamping forces of 70-200 tons, average 15 years in age. Eight high-speed mills are between four months and three years in age.
``For prototype and low-volume production, cycle time is not terribly important,'' Cleveland said in a telephone interview. ``What is important is that we shave weeks or months off'' getting a product to market.
No end market exceeds 5 percent of sales, and no customer accounts for more than 3 percent.
Protomold analyzes electronically transmitted part designs and responds via its interactive, patent-pending ProtoQuote system, usually within hours.
Employment increased to 33 from 12 during 2002. Protomold has added three employees since Jan. 1.
Entegris Inc. of Chaska, Minn., a materials-integrity management firm, made an equity investment in Protomold in May 2001. Founders and key employees own most of the remainder.