Allied Sinterings is a company with an appetite for success, which is perfectly in line with its physical origins. “We started out in a converted diner out on Route 7,” Mark Foster, who is the company’s president, says with a laugh. “My father, Gifford Foster, and his partner, Axel Madsen, wanted to start a company that would make miniature powder metal gears, so they located the property, bought it, and founded the company here in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1959.”
Forty six years later the company is still in the same town, but in a different site, thanks in part to the state’s purchase of the original property when it planned to relocate Route 7 in 1990. “We decided to take it as an opportunity to grow the company, so we found a place that roughly doubled our size,” Foster says, adding that Allied Sinterings now has some 16,000 square feet of manufacturing space and employs 35 people.
The original concept for the company was fairly simple. Foster’s father and his partner had taken a close look at the evolution of manufacturing in the United States and realized that “things needed to be made to fit in smaller spaces, basically, so they decided to carve out the company’s niche as a P/M house specializing in miniature parts,” he says. “Our motto, in fact, is that ‘It’s in the little things that we do.'”
One company that was attracted to Allied Sinterings in the early days–and which was crucial in helping build its finances as well as its reputation–was Polaroid, which found the tiny, precision P/M gears ideal for its popular line of affordable cameras. Since that time the company’s customer base has grown considerably, and not only in terms of the numbers but its geographic footprint as well. “We export a great deal of product to China and other areas in the Far East,” Foster explains, “with some also going up into Canada and down into Mexico. And we have four different groups of manufacturer’s reps working for us here in the States.”
Although the company services the aerospace, aftermarket automotive, and industrial and consumer goods markets, probably 60 percent of its products are incorporated into medical devices. One reason the company’s gears and related parts are so well-suited for these devices–in addition to P/M’s inherent corrosion-resistant properties–are their size. “You’ve got to remember that the largest part we make is what would be considered small by the rest of the industry,” Foster points out, “so all of our design and production efforts are trained on miniaturization and precision.”
The P/M process also complements prototyping for high-volume production runs. “We’re achieving some very good outputs, especially in the area of miniature planetary drives–for example, up to 120 diametral pitch gears and planetary drives, which I see as untapped markets we’ll be focusing on,” he says. “We’re able to provide our customers with net-shape parts, and fairly inexpensively–which is good since low-cost solutions are on everyone’s mind these days.”
Another point in which Foster takes pride is that, to a very great extent, sintering is a remarkably “green” process. “We generally use 99 percent of the material that’s in the mold,” he says, “and the byproducts of pressing and sintering are basically hydrogen and nitrogen. Plus we’re always working to improve the process and to stay on the leading edge of technological advances in the industry.”
One way it goes about this is by being an active member in the Metal Powder Industries Federation, and also by staying on top of its ISO certification: Allied Sinterings was the first supplier of P/M parts to achieve ISO 9000 certification.
As for foreign competition, Foster says he’s not much worried. “We’re making penny parts now, and I don’t think they want to make them for fractions of a penny, so that’s an advantage for us. But our focus is sort of the inverse of most manufacturers,” he says. “Many people choose to think about infinite ‘bigness,’ but we like to think that there’s infinite smallness, too, so that’s really where we fit into the whole picture.”