Mack Molding, a subsidiary of Mack Group Inc., continues to push into markets for medical devices and large parts after its former core product base went overseas several years ago.
``We went from being the King Kong of the computer equipment business to almost having to reinvent ourselves,'' said Jeff Somple, president of Mack Molding's northern division. ``Five years later, we have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.''
Somple's Arlington, Vt.-based unit has scored in medical-device manufacturing: That market is expected to account for about 30 percent of the division's sales in the current fiscal year, up from 1 percent in fiscal 2000.
The southern division, under President Ray Burns, opted to focus on large parts for heavy-truck, recreational and utility vehicles; lawn and garden products; and large-screen televisions. The division's operations are in Inman, S.C., and Statesville, N.C.
``After depressing times in the molding business, the last couple years have been fun,'' Somple said in a recent telephone interview.
Conservative financial management made a difference, Somple said. ``We were not in a debt situation. We had money put away. We could rapidly write checks to hire people and buy equipment. We never borrowed money.''
Mack's multiplant presence in the Northeast gives it proximity to a multitude of medical-device companies. ``We are at a geographic advantage,'' Somple said. That was not the situation in years past as Mack worked closely with the West Coast-oriented computer industry.
In medical, Mack has worked with Stryker Corp.'s orthopedics division in Mahwah, N.J., to develop surgical instrument handles and case and tray delivery systems. Each product line entered the market in early 2005.
For various handles, Mack insert molds a plastic substrate onto a machined-metal component and then overmolds the substrate with a thermoplastic elastomer. The component must be placed securely in the tool to avoid flash from the overmolding process, said Michael Hansen, senior technical development engineer at Mack.
Instrument trays are designed for specific medical procedures. Mack laser cuts, bends and pad prints sheet metal, then fabricates and assembles the tray container and molds a shock-absorbing TPE bumper onto each of the corners. Each tray has rigid-plastic handles.
The entire container, including the tray, goes through a 272° F steam-sterilization process and withstands cold-chemical sterilization using diluted hard chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, Hansen said. The soft TPE compounds on the handles and trays need to withstand 300 autoclave cycles.
The process called for ``some unique molding,'' Somple said. The logo lettering, for instance, needed to avoid any possibility of trapping bacteria.
Some other projects
Mack also is working with Transport Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Framingham, Mass., which has developed a proprietary device/drug combination for cold-sore treatment.
Mack is manufacturing and testing the device for Phase III clinical trials and submission to the Food and Drug Administration. The device can deliver treatment to skin at concentrations 40 times higher than traditional topical formulation, Mack said.
Another medical device Mack worked on - an automated external defibrillator - won two awards last year from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Structural Plastics Division.
Over one year, the northern division has invested nearly $2 million for equipment to process metals for medical products. The division added a Finn-Power FPL-6, high-speed, 3,500-watt laser work center for cutting sheet metal for the surgical cases and trays.
The southern division has reconfigured the Inman facility to accommodate a 1,500-ton Cincinnati Milacron injection molding machine that went into operation in March.
Don Kendall heads privately owned Mack Group as chief executive officer and president. The Arlington-based company employed 1,850 in June, up from 1,250 in 2004.
The northern, southern and technologies divisions operate 11 plants with 118 injection presses.