Luanne Axt shines the high beams on Hallmark Technologies Inc., the only mold shop in North America to provide in-house Fresnel lenses for LED high-stop automobile lamps.
Over the past quarter of a century, Hallmark Technologies Inc. has rocketed to the forefront of the injection-mold industry with its special tool and die components. A team of 320 highly skilled technicians working in Hallmark’s centralized headquarters in Windsor, Ontario, strives for excellence in providing specialized products and services related to plastic injection molding for the automobile industry. “Hallmark’s strategy is to continue to develop products and services that will expand its full-service approach,” says Greg Balint, president and chief executive officer. Registered as ISO 9001, Hallmark has earned an enviable global presence through its commitment to ongoing improvement of state-of-the-art molds and optical components for use in the production of plastic products. Balint says, “If the technology doesn’t exist to meet our customers’ needs, we will invent it.”
Strategically located in Windsor on the Detroit River, Hallmark has convenient access to North American markets as well as venues to ship by rail, ship or truck. The company exports its molds to customers in 11 countries on five continents, including North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Korea, China, Germany, Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and Mexico are among the countries that receive Hallmark exports.
Using a simultaneous multimaterial molding process, the company manufactures products such as red and amber tail lamps for cars. In addition, it supplies other industries with soft-touch handles for garden scissors, pliers, weed snippers, window seals and medical supplies. The results of such enterprise is shown in Hallmark’s annual sales figures, which reached C$60 million (U.S.$40 million) in 2000.
The Tools to Succeed
Hallmark has seen steady growth since its founding in 1972 by Balint’s father, Doug Balint, and five other partners. In 1985, it was sold to a public company; in 1993, Hallmark itself was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. On Jan. 1, 2001, a group consisting of Doug Balint (now chairman), Greg Balint, Bert Kenney (now chief operating officer) and Bob Kavelman (now chief financial officer) acquired Hallmark through a management buyback.
The company’s core business of mold design and manufacturing is carried out through three divisions: Hallmark Tools, Hallmark II and Maxim Tool and Mould. The Hallmark Tools division specializes in truck, marine and automotive lighting applications. Spearheaded by Chairman Doug Balint, the division has produced innovative tooling designs that have brought return customer business. Eight of the top 10 automotive OEMs worldwide use Hallmark Tools’ lighting product. The division also offers one of North America’s few reflex manufacturing facilities. The OEM-certified reflex is made for in-house contracts and is sold to other tooling and mold manufacturers as well.
Hallmark Tools makes multicolor and multimaterial molds for non-automotive and automotive needs, and provides prototype lighting mockups. Its engineers display lighting mockup models and use photometric prediction to determine how a customer’s light will be characterized after production. The division also uses mold-flow analysis to complement the design department.
It is the only mold shop in North America to provide in-house, geometrically designed Fresnel (retroflective) lenses for light-emitting-diode (LED) high-stop automobile lamps. LEDs, which are being featured on the new Cadillac models, offer a practicality that will make them the wave of the future in car lighting, according to Hallmark technicians. Along with Fresnel and reflex optical designs, Hallmark manufactures Fresnel and reflex optical components.
The Hallmark II division operates a mold maintenance and repair facility. This division prides itself on quick response and turnaround. An area within the Hallmark II machine shop is designated for new aluminum and steel mold making. The Maxim Tool and Mould division applies the latest technology in the manufacture of state-of-the-art automotive trim, particularly interior and exterior programs.
Put to the Test
Hallmark’s Injection Technologies team works with automotive and non-automotive customers to try out molds. From an observation area, customers may view the testing as it’s carried out. With 12 presses as large as 3,500 tons with a 50-ton overhead crane capacity, Injection Technologies is equipped to handle most commercial and automotive injection molds. A 500-ton capacity Bucher thermoset machine is also available for testing. Injection Technologies provides optical certification capabilities for automotive lens-mold manufacturers, including Hallmark and its competitors.
Injection Technologies’ work is a major part of Hallmark’s commitment to its clientele, which runs the gamut of auto manufacturers. “When Chrysler redesigns their whole line, we work for them. When General Motors does the same, we work for them. Whichever car company decides to redesign their line, we chase them,” says Hallmark’s vice president of sales, Peter Elford.
In addition to playing a major role in lighting vehicles, Hallmark is involved in traffic signage with its All Sign product line. A plastic stop sign that uses specialized reflex developed by Hallmark, the All Sign line has been endorsed in a report by the Innovation Technology Evaluation Center (HITEC). The report found that the sign provides superior reflectivity compared with signs made with sheeting material, and is virtually unaffected by weathering. In praising the All Sign product, HITEC also noted a bonus feature: The sign’s surface is desirable for the easy removal of painted graffiti. Encouraged by the report, Hallmark is studying more traffic sign opportunities.
Molding the Future
In the area of training, Hallmark offers four apprenticeships, refresher courses and supplier-sponsored seminars for employees. The progress shown by the trainees has prompted Hallmark to expand the program. So effective has it proven that it is certified by the Ontario Ministry of Education. “Our focus is on becoming a full-service supplier to our customers, from designing the product to molding the product,” says Elford. Recent capital investments, including the purchase of new molding presses and the development of a shuttle system for multimaterial prototype applications, are supporting this focus. Greg Balint says, “Our motto is ‘Mold the World.’ Our roots are in automotive lighting using injection molds.”
But Hallmark is by no means focused only on the automotive OEMs. “We currently provide multimaterial molds for many consumer products, as well as assembly and checking equipment,” Balint adds. “We want to be challenged by our customers and to make the impossible possible.”