ENGINEERED PLASTICS GEARS UP FOR SPEED

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Thermoformer Engineered Plastics Inc. has invested $150,000 to install a Motionmaster five-axis, computer numerically controlled router at its plant in Gibsonville, N.C.

The company will use the router, which has a 10-horsepower spindle, twin tables and an eight-position automatic tool changer, for high-speed trimming of heavy-gauge parts and other precision machining at its Gibsonville, N.C., plant, said plant manager Dick Brashier. He said he expects the router to cut machining times by as much as 75 percent.

In Gibsonville, EPI operates four vacuum forming lines to make mostly heavy-gauge custom parts for the food-service, signage, recreational equipment, transportation, aerospace, marine and other markets. About 20 employees work in its thermoforming operation.

Since 1991, when both Brashier and President Dwight M. Davidson III came on board, EPI has focused on modernizing the thermoforming, fabricating and machining operations by adding new equipment and a fully integrated computer-aided design, engineering and manufacturing system.

Davidson said: ``The classic EPI project is going to be one that touches our four areas of operation: CAD/CAE, thermoforming, CNC machining and assembly. The key for us is ... aggressively investing in new production equipment.''

In fiscal 1996, about 80 percent of EPI's $2.2 million business was in vacuum formed products, mainly midlevel production runs requiring short lead times and quick turnarounds, according to Brashier and Davidson. It also vacuum forms a proprietary product for the food-service industry called Glo-Ice.