IPL INC. ADDING 10 NEW PRESSES

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Injection molder IPL Inc. will complete a C$17 million (US$12.6 million) expansion of its main injection molding operation by early March.

IPL is installing 10 new injection presses at Saint Damien, Quebec, to boost custom and proprietary molding capacity. It is buying the presses, which have clamping forces of 250-2,600 tons, from Husky and HPM, Julien Metivier, IPL president and chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview.

IPL will use some of the new capacity to mold high density polyethylene fruit and vegetable crates, which Metivier said are washable and reusable and designed to allow air circulation. The firm is close to finalizing a deal with an undisclosed company that will boost IPL's crate sales by at least C$10 million (US$7.44 million) a year.

The customer will coordinate use of the crates by produce growers who will ship them to supermarkets.

Metivier said his company also needs more machinery for its growing auto and transportation parts business.

One of the new presses will be a three-material, 1,250-ton machine capable of molding hard and soft sections. Key customers in these markets include General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Tier 1 auto suppliers and transportation and recreational vehicle maker Bombardier Inc. of Montreal.

Extra press capacity also will allow IPL to bring in-house some auto parts molding it has subcontracted out, Metivier explained. The firm estimated that the expansion will boost Saint Damien's total molding capacity by about 20 percent and create 50 new jobs.

IPL's investment includes auxiliary equipment and about C$1.5 million (US$1.12 million) in proprietary molds for its pails, toolboxes and tote boxes business. IPL expanded its plant area by 30,000 square feet to 430,000 square feet last summer to add more warehouse space.

The firm plans to build a separate packaging molding facility this year but officials have not decided whether to put it at Saint Damien or at its Edmundston, New Brunswick, plant, where it runs 16 injection presses mainly for food containers.

IPL logged sales of C$92 million (US$68.5 million) for its year ended Sept. 30.

The company expects U.S. sales will grow to nearly half of its total this year.