New Cluster member Plastool International is a very familiar name to a number of AFCG stalwarts already taking advantage of its expertise in the machining of complex surfaces.
Plastool, which provides high precision 3D CNC machining, engineering and toolmaking solutions, counts Carbon Revolution, FormFlow, Partington Advanced Engineering and ACS Australia among its clientele.
“A number of our customers are members of the Cluster,” CEO Gary Down, who has more than four decades experience at the business, says. “I see that in the future, anyone that has an interest in carbon fibre would look towards the Geelong/Deakin area for assistance and take an interest in events via the Cluster, and may be looking for a requirement for tooling.”
Plastool prides itself on its unrivalled accuracy and is not afraid to take on difficult challenges.
Established in Melbourne’s Box Hill in1956 by father Bert Down to supply the auto and white goods industries and firms such as Electrolux and Black & Decker, sons Gary and Andrew run the team of 14, which also offers new tooling, repairs, and modifications to all types of moulds.
The brothers have expanded into composite tooling, adding this forward-thinking notch to a belt which already features aerospace, defence, automotive, housewares, medical, electronics, food packaging, building and construction industries.
Some years ago, Gary identified that carbon fibre would be an area of growth into the future.
“We have taken an interest since we started working with Carbon Revolution in the carbon fibre field. It was an ideal diversification of the business away from strictly injection-mould tooling,” Mr Down says, explaining Plastool contacted Carbon Revolution about their need for tooling in the early days.
“It grew from there. At that stage, they were just making prototype wheels. We started machining the wheels for them and then went on to the tooling, which is what we are best at.”Gary Down | Plastool CEO
“We are very good at that type of machining they require, which is surface machining of complex surfaces.”
The 65-year old manufacturer is an old hand at “pivoting” in response to changed market conditions and the brothers credit their success to researching future trends, investing in state of the art equipment and keeping employees’ skills and training up to date.
Plastool’s newest purchase is a Makino V80S, a larger machine which increases efficiencies and market size. It is kept in a new climate-controlled building so it can run 24/7 without any thermal expansion or any variations due to fluctuations in temperature.
Mr Down has witnessed dramatic changes in Australian manufacturing: as the auto industry began to source most of its tooling from China, a lot of domestic product manufacturers followed suit, plunging the demand for local tooling at that time.
“In those days of the tooling industry, everyone thought the toolmaker down the road was the competitor, whereas in fact, the real competitor was China.”Gary Down | Plastool CEO
Plastool changed its business to model to focus on providing exceptionally high accuracy, quality and service that was traditionally only found in parts of Europe, Canada and the USA. The company began to partner with the best toolmaking companies from around the world and has benefited greatly from collaborative partnerships.
“As the industry shrank there was a need to find new markets. One of those new markets was carbon fibre and composites.”
Mr Down says the Cluster brings like-minded people with common goals together to work together to grow the industry in Australia and protect valuable IP.
“The new and innovative products and processes that the Cluster supports and develops –for a lot of reasons it makes sense to build that industry locally, strengthen our capabilities in high value work,” Mr Down says.