Accurate Pattern shifts gears

    Brookfield-based Accurate Pattern has created prototypes, models and quality fixtures since 1985. But when Carver Yachts of North America approached Bruce Williams, president of Accurate Pattern, about manufacturing a 4-foot long prototype of a yacht, it presented a unique project for Accurate Pattern.
    "It was fairly unusual for us to produce a model that is so recognizable by the general public," Williams said.
    According to Williams, most of Accurate Pattern’s prototypes are machine parts and automobile fixtures that check the dimensions of interior trim pieces.
    Clients provide Accurate Pattern with a measured design model, either on paper or via computer aided design (CAD), which the staff at Accurate Pattern uses to create a prototype.
    Williams’ slogan for the company is, "from concept to reality," because it acts as the middleman between the design and the product.
    "A prototype or a model can show a problem in the design of the product before the company spends money on production," Williams said. "It also allows a company to show the product in an environment where the customer can see, feel and walk around it, vs. a photo where not everything is visible."
    James Berkebile, vice president of new product development and engineering for Carver Yachts, which is in Pulaski near Green Bay, said he received a word-of-mouth recommendation for Accurate Pattern when he inquired about pattern makers in the area.
    Berkebile said his company needed a model to help with the design as well as the sales and marketing of the Marquis Class, Carver’s new 65-foot yacht.
    "The primary use of the model was for a design review where we were able to sit down with the design firm and look at the boat from all angles," said Berkebile. "We could then make adjustments that we thought would make the boat more attractive in regards to proportions and detail."
    Berkebile said Carver had to develop new construction techniques because of the design of the boat, and the model enabled the engineers to see what they had to deal with. He also has found the model to be a powerful sales pitch at boat shows.
    "As we get into the larger size yachts, I think the use of models is more prevalent," said Berkebile. "You can’t necessarily put a 65-foot boat in every boat show. The model makes the Marquis much more of a reality for customers than a drawing."
    Williams said more engineers are using patternmakers and toolmakers because with today’s technology, a project can be completed 10 to 20 times faster than it could just a few years ago.
    After a consultation, the client drops off the measured design, most likely created in a CAD program. Accurate Pattern transfers the design to a computer aided machining (CAM) program that generates a tool path for a computer numerical control (CNC) cutting machine.
    When the prototype comes out of the CNC, the project operator sands and primes the object and adds a gloss finish.
    Accurate Pattern works with what Williams calls "soft materials," including wood, tooling board, aluminum, plastic, nylon, acrylic and polycarbonate.
    Other services offered are one-day models, vacuum formation, CAD/CAM and CNC development and digitizing and certification.
    A prototype, model or quality fixture can take from one day to five weeks to complete and can cost from $1,000 to $15,000, according to Williams.
    With a shop staff of nine, Accurate Pattern can be busy with as many as 30 projects at once, Williams said.
    "There are probably 40 pattern shops in the Milwaukee area," Williams said. "Many are still doing foundry work, where we are concentrating on prototypes and fixtures."
    Since the folding of two of the company’s major competitors, Badger Pattern and Wisconsin Pattern, Accurate Pattern’s sales increased 20% last year, and Williams expects to see another 30% sales hike this year.
    Accurate Pattern has several big-name clients aside from Carver Yachts, including prototyping parts for Harley-Davidson Inc. and making covers for treadmills and CT scan equipment for G.E. Medical.
    Accurate Pattern is becoming increasingly busy because foundries have either gone out of business or companies are outsourcing to China for patterns and casting, Williams said.
    Williams attributes the growth of Accurate Pattern to its quality of work and its loyal customers and employees, most he has had for 10 years.
    "You have to say yes in this business. Otherwise, we will help customers find another solution," said Williams. "We have gotten this far by word-of-mouth and by finishing projects as quickly as possible."

    March 5, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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