Franklin Story
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THE FRANKLIN STORY by Leonard A. Mintz
by AFM Engineering, Inc.
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Franklin Hot Stamp> History of Franklin Manufacturing> THE FRANKLIN STORY by Leonard A. Mintz
THE FRANKLIN STORY
by Leonard A. Mintz

Franklin Manufacturing was formed in the depths of the depression of the 1930's. Early in the decade, Henry Mintz moved to the town of Norwood, about 15 miles southwest of his Boston birthplace to open jewelry store on the main street, Washington Street.

To say the least business was not good but he was able to eke out a modest living by serving the local population with good quality merchandise and fair prices. Things were so tough, however, that at one point he tied all of the pull strings on the light fixtures together and ran the combined strings over some pulleys into the office in the rear of the store. Only the front most light was on all the time. When the bell attached to the door rang, signaling the entrance of a customer, Henry would pull the string that lit all of the lights. He thus reduced his electric bill to a more manageable size in the face of the economic climate of the depression.

Included in the items he carried were watches, rings, earrings, necklaces, and small leather goods like wallets and key cases. (Remember leather key cases?) One of his problems was the return by customers of these leather items, so he made a small gold stamping machine that operated in a totally new way so that he could put someone's monogram on the wallet or key case in 'genuine gold' at no charge. This, of course, made the item un-returnable, it was a 'sale nail' A friend of his who had a store in another town asked him to make one for him. His wife's brother, Moses Aronow, was, along with many in that era, unemployed. Together, they pooled their money, made a group of these machines in the cellar of the jewelry store, sold one to the friend, and Moe went out to call on stores in New England to sell the others. He succeeded; they made more machines and hooked up with a Midwestern jewelry jobber with national sales clout and, still in the cellar, started making more and more machines distributed through that channel.

The machine Henry devised was sufficiently unique to merit the award of a patent acquired at some expense in spite of the serious lack of capital within the fledgling company. This proved to be fortuitous as the jobber undertook to copy the device and Franklin's business nosedived. A successful patent suit ensued, resulting in the transfer of sufficient funds to increase the working capital to the point that expansion was possible.

In the late 30's, business had grown sufficiently to necessitate a move to larger quarters that were even above ground in nearby Canton, followed by a move to an empty 4000 square foot garage near the jewelry store in Norwood.

World War II came along and Henry and Moe bought some machine tools (no metal could be had for hot stamping machines) and they started producing parts for defense contractors such as Raytheon in the Boston area.

At the end of the war in 1945, they purchased land on Pleasant Street in Norwood and erected a 5,000 square foot building. Production of the monogramming machine resumed and a model with a feed device for foil was added. In short order, additional models to monogram the leather band inside men's felt hats, to personalize checks, and to apply name transfers to T-Shirts and Christmas stockings were introduced.

One of the biggest problems facing the embryonic Franklin was the difficulty in obtaining special harder than usual printer's type for its machines. With the can-do spirit of Henry and Moe, they bought two type casting machines, consulted an MIT metallurgist who developed a special alloy for them, and started making their own extra hard, metal type that would withstand the 250 degree temperatures of hot stamping.

As business increased, they added 7,000 square feet to the factory and by 1958 they were producing over 2,000 machines a year. At that point, Henry's son, Leonard, entered the scene after graduating from Tufts University.

The business continued to grow and then, in December of 1962, Henry died. Moe and Leonard took over and, realizing that the future of hot stamping was tied in to the burgeoning plastics industry, started to explore the possibilities presented by that future. They had visited several plastic shows, observed what was available, and decided that there was room for a quality product backed by sound engineering that would incorporate innovative concepts and would be governed by dedication to customer service.

After a number of experimental, one of a kind products for specific customers, a real breakthrough took place. The standard at the time for a high pressure hot stamping machines was an air operated toggle press. These machines featured oven thermostats with large temperature variations and timers with wide variations from cycle to cycle. In addition to these variations, a toggle press produces pressures that varies with the thickness of parts from mold cavity to mold cavity.

After experimenting with a number of approaches, they selected the Linear wedge concept, obtained U.S., Canadian, and international patents, and produced a commercially viable product with precise control over all three factors in hot stamping. Pressure, up to 8 tons, was held constant on parts varying as much as 3/8 of an inch, temperature control was plus or minus 2 degrees, and the dwell timer was accurate to a millisecond.

With the added features of a rigid frame, tight ram guides, and careful parallel alignment of head and work table, the new Franklin machine could be set up more quickly, operate faster, and produce fewer rejects than machines then currently in widespread use. The sales challenge was that the higher costs associated with the increased precision required prices up to 50% higher than competing products. The solution to the dilemma was to take the machine on the road in a 27 foot motor home equipped with an air compressor and a generator to show prospective customers how much better this product was than anything they had so far seen. Since the door was narrower than the machine, the parts had to be brought in and assembled on board.

For the next two years the Franklin 'bus' criss - crossed the U.S. and Canada pulling into parking lots and shipping lanes at plastics molders where ever they were located. The result was a dramatic increase in sales volume and a ramp up in production in response to the instant realization of the benefits of this superior equipment.

With its rapid growth and widespread recognition as an industry pioneer and leader, Franklin proceeded to develop additional standard models ranging from 1 ton to 20 tons with special, four posted presses rated to 60 tons. Automation was in great demand and the company responded with custom built, high speed hot stamping systems that stamped bottle caps, flash cubes, automotive parts, etc.

Moe Aronow retired in the early 1970's and passed away in the middle of that decade. Leonard carried on without his uncle, joined by a talented and dedicated team that included (listed in the order of coming on board) Gene Callanan, Jean Riu, Richard Olhoffer, Barbara Galizia, and Dennis Cook. Accelerated demand for Franklin machines necessitated two 7,000 square foot additions to the manufacturing facility bringing the total to 26,000 square feet. 4 large CNC machining centers, a turning center, cad cam, and a number of conventional machine tools were brought in and the plant started operating around the clock to meet the demand.

This was, in part, because in addition to seeking out traditional plastics manufacturers, both custom and proprietary, Franklin started looking for niche applications and markets for hot stamping equipment that were out of the main stream. The company soon stumbled upon the plastic card industry where the signature line was being hot stamped. The wedge press concept was quickly married to a high speed feed device that produced 80 cards per minute. Simultaneously with the spread of that machine throughout the world wide card industry, magnetic striped cards were introduced. At the time there was not a good way to apply these stripes to cards. Development of a magnetic hot stamping foil led Franklin to develop machines, sufficiently innovative to be awarded another series of patents, that applied the magnetic stripe at speeds similar to the signature panel press.

In the succeeding years, Franklin first combined the two applications into one machine increasing the efficiency of both processes. The next step was the introduction of a modified punch press to apply the signature panels at speeds up to 25% faster. Then, when card issuers, faced with massive losses due to forged cards, decided to add security holograms to cards, Franklin adapted the signature panel machine to handle the unique requirements of the newly developed holographic foils.

In the 1990's, Franklin turned its attention to a market that had long piqued the interest of the people involved, hot stamp label presses. There were many machines of this type in use around the country but most were of a design that was decades old. Applying the same principals that led to the wedge press in the 1960's, Franklin developed multi headed, roll to roll, machines designed to operate at high speeds and produce quality pressure sensitive labels. The market for something better had been starved for years and the label press was an almost instant success. This model was later adapted to manufacture refrigerator magnets, calendars, and 'pogs' when they became popular.

As the decade of the 90's dawned, Leonard Mintz, at that point Franklin's sole owner and in his 60's, realized that it was time to plan for the future of the company. After lengthy discussions and negotiations, Franklin was acquired by Foilmark, a company that manufactured hot stamping foils and Kensol hot stamping machines. Foilmark became a public company, the Kensol manufacturing plant in Long Island, new York, was closed and all machine production moved into Franklin's facility in Norwood, Mass.

Foilmark, with its foil manufacturing facility located in Newburyport, Mass., subsequently acquired a nearby pad printer manufacturing company which had extra space. The decision was made to move hot stamping machine production to that facility to concentrate all activity within a small radius. It soon became apparent that the marketplace had changed, that the capital required to operate the machine company could be better applied to Foilmark's other activities. The board of directors properly decided to divest itself of the machine lines selling portions of them to several established manufacturers in the U.S, and in Europe.

The wedge press that launched Franklin into the industrial hot stamping press arena and the rest of the standard hot stamping machine line are still being produced today in much the same form as, but with many technological additions to, the one that toured the country in that converted motor home in 1969.
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