VistaTek (Vista Technologies LLC) established its presence in the rapid prototyping business, now termed additive manufacturing (AM), in 1996 and became one of the better known companies in AM services. The company gradually evolved into a full-service supplier that also provided prototype and production molds and injection molding. While that division of the company grew over the years, so did VistaTek’s moldmaking and injection molding business. In fact, the company’s mold manufacturing and molding business experienced some rapid growth recently—quadrupling in size over the past two years.
One of VistaTek's prototype tools.
The co-owners and management team at VistaTek—three siblings that include Dan Mishek, Allen Mishek and Jennifer Sutherland—had a tough decision to make: where to put the focus of the company. “It’s difficult to invest more in additive manufacturing technology when the real demand from customers was coming for molded parts,” said Dan Mishek, VistaTek’s managing director. “We wanted to put our focus where the customers were creating demand, and excel in that area.”
A long-time partnership with In’Tech, a custom molder that includes the In’Tech Rapid Prototyping & Additive Manufacturing Center, resulted in VistaTek’s sale of its rapid prototyping/AM division to In’Tech. Dan Mishek said the team "couldn’t be happier with the transaction," which also provided employment for the division’s six employees. “Making sure the employees in our additive manufacturing division continued to have a job was the most important thing to us,” he said in an interview with PlasticsToday. “They (In’Tech) wanted to expand their operations and really wanted what our AM division had to offer. We feel really good about this.”
VistaTek still considers the company as having three divisions (Prototype Tooling, Production Tooling, and Injection Molding). The company’s Mold Making Division is capable of delivering complex, quick-turn prototype tooling or "bridge" in one to three weeks. Also called “prototype tooling” or “soft tooling,” the process is essentially the same as manufacturing production tools but is done in single or low cavitation and often in P-20 or aluminum in a "quick-turn" manner to accommodate product development and fast time-to-market for VistaTek’s customers. While a bridge or prototype tool might be thought of as one that runs low part volumes, VistaTek has many examples where these molds have produced over 100,000 parts.
With the transaction completed, VistaTek is now making plans to expand its moldmaking capabilities. The company is adding new CNC and EDM equipment, and secondary operations equipment and personnel in the molding division by investing its proceeds from the sale of its AM operations into those divisions. Currently, VistaTek has five injection molding presses that include four new Arburgs—two hydraulic and two electric—ranging from 40 to 220 tons, operating on two shifts.
Plans call for installing pad printing and assembly to be able to offer a greater range of services to customers. To complement its ISO 9001:2008 certification, VistaTek recently became UL certified, and is in the process of attaining ITAR certification.
The challenge now is to redefine and market the company’s new focus to customers and potential customers. “We were known for so long as the go-to company for rapid prototype parts—a prototype house—that the challenge from a management standpoint is to show people that we are an excellent prototype and production mold and molding house,” said Mishek. “But the transition from a prototype house to production tooling house is a good fit for us. We understand the urgency of getting things done quickly and helping our customers get to market fast with quality products. We use our development skills that we learned with the AM division in making the bridge tooling to help our customers develop new products.”
VistaTek is focused on the low-to-medium volume molds and molding runs as a strategic initiative due to a trend Mishek is seeing. “We’re continuing to see the trend of designing, manufacturing, and selling customized products with lower volumes but higher margins,” he said. “Products are changing faster and faster as new products are constantly cannibalizing old products.”
Mishek said that he and his siblings are looking forward to a great future for VistaTek as the company evolves once again. “We have so many more opportunities in tooling and injection molding,” he said. “This is a great time to make this transition.”