By Tara Mathews
HOWARD LAKE, MN Howard Lake-based Mass Finishing Inc. (MFI) recently purchased an additional lot to construct a building that will almost double the company’s available space in the Howard Lake industrial park.
The new building will be similar to the company’s existing 15,000 square foot building in the industrial park.
“I think the new building will be about 12,000 square feet, but there won’t be offices in the new building,” noted Mike Mathisen, who is co-owner with his brother, Tom Mathisen.
The owners intend to use the new building for warehouse and corn processing, and plan to hire additional employees after the expansion.
“We are not sure how many employees we will need yet, but we are definitely looking for an inventory and shipping manager,” Mike said.
MFI designs and manufactures equipment for polishing and deburring parts for many different industries such as medical, aerospace, automotive, dental, jewelry, rubber, and firearms.
“Basically, the machines are like sophisticated rock tumblers,” Mike commented.
Companies will request equipment that can help obtain a specific finish on parts; MFI figures out what type of machine, finishing media, and abrasive material is needed; designs a machine; tests the machine and finishing media; and sends the machine out to the customers. It also provides the finishing media.
The company sell machines to businesses all over the world including Poland, France, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Columbia, Vietnam, Mexico, and Canada.
“We deal with South America and Mexico a lot,” he said.
Some of the main products the finishing machines are used for include:
• artificial knees, hips, and bone screws;
• parts for Nascar cars;
• hunting knives;
• gun parts; and
• jet engine parts.
The company has also made a particle collider, which “smashes atoms together,” for FermiLab, a company that specializes in particle acceleration, according to Mike.
The parts that need finishing are put into a machine that tumbles it around with a finishing media, which can be made from anything from ceramic to corn.
The finishing medias are available in a variety of shapes, and are shipped in from China.
“It’s the only place we can get the material it seems,” Mike commented.
The finishing medias range from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a nickel.
“We figure out which media is needed to give each part the proper finish,” Tom stated. “We have different shapes and sizes of finishing media because each one works differently.”
The media used for finishing depends on the material of the part and the desired finish.
A local media
“We ship in 22 tons of corn every month,” Mike noted.
The corn used by MFI for finishing is purchased in Cokato, sent to a hammermill in Iowa, and returned to MFI to be mixed with another abrasive material that helps in the finishing process.
The corn has to be warm at the time of mixing, which creates a challenge for MFI employees in the winter.
“Currently the corn is stored outside,” Mike said. “Which means it has to be brought in and warmed up before it can be used.”
It can take many hours for a 100-pound bag of corn to heat up, he added.
The new building will provide heated storage for the bags of corn, and cut down the time needed to prepare the corn for mixing.
A bit of history
Tom began working for Timesavers, another finishing company, in 1985.
In 1995, Tom and Mike purchased the mass finishing division of Timesavers, and set up shop in Delano.
In 2004, the company purchased a lot in Howard Lake’s industrial park and has been growing there since.
Though the company had its struggles in the past, it is doing well and very ready for the expansion, according to Mike.
“The last two years have been the best the business has ever had,” he said.