In the wake of the Second World War, belief in the future was strong and start-ups flourished. In those days, the little village of Stekaremåla outside Broakulla in Småland, Sweden, could boast a smallholding, the glassworks and a cabinet making business. It was also home to businessman and father-of-three Ragnar Magnusson.
Together with his wife Gulli, Ragnar already ran a flour mill and sawmill with an attendant haulage firm, when he and his brothers-in-law Osvald Astevall and Helge Bergkvist began to outline an additional business. There were glassblowers and timber companies aplenty in their neck of the woods, so why not begin producing parts in Bakelite instead?
The three men set up their Bakelite factory in an old butcher’s shop building on the west side of the Lyckeby River. They used the initial letters of their surnames to form the company name. The demand for new things was huge after the war, and they soon needed three shifts to cope with demand. AMB saw a need and developed their own household goods like egg cups and other appliances such as juice mixers and a popular light socket adapter.
Thermoplastics enter the scene
AMB began thermoplastic injection moulding alongside Bakelite moulding at the end of the 1950s, and soon moved their operation a few hundred metres downstream to where the company is today. AMB was the first to produce plastic junction boxes, a product that was superior to the earlier metal boxes, and through much of the 1960s they made 1.5 million boxes a year.
Vacuum metallising brings new opportunities
Brass fittings for the lighting industry were becoming costly, and a little way into the 1970s it was time for the next big technological investment. Vacuum metallising allowed plastic to be coated with aluminium and thus provide decorative effects that were able to replace metal in many products. After a while, the same technique was used for the surfaces of reflectors, and at the end of the 1980s they began using the technology for shielding electronics, including computer monitors and portable telephones.
Shielding became such a large area for the company in the 1990s that it purchased four specially built vacuum chambers to meet market demand, above all for shielding in mobile phones. The investment soon proved to be incredibly successful and for a while more than 1 million mobile telephone cases a week were passing through the factory in Broakulla.
Now that we had large quantities of mobile phone cases passing through the factory in Broakulla for internal metallising, why not also offer decorative lacquering for the outside? It was 1999 and the company decided to invest almost SEK 15 million in a fully automatic lacquering installation. It was a gamble, but the installation was fully booked before it was even commissioned. An additional 25 million was quickly invested in yet another installation and also a major building extension.
From telecoms to medical technology
But all good things come to an end. When the major mobile phone manufacturers stopped producing telephones in Europe at the beginning of the millennium, AMB had already switched tracks. The company had by now focused for a while on another interesting business area – medical technology. AMB invested in cleanroom production and acquired the necessary quality certification, and today, medical technology is the company’s most important business area and remains the fastest growing.