SHOE SUPPORT MAKER STEPS UP TO LARGE PARTS

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Thermoformer Futura Inc. recently installed a new five-axis machining center for large, heavy-gauge parts.

The Euclid, Ohio, firm spent about $165,000 on the equipment sourced from Canton Industrial Systems Inc. of Canton, Ohio, said Futura President Robert Whiteside. Futura thermoforms a range of engineering thermoplastics, including glass- and carbon-reinforced composites, for industrial, transportation and health-care markets.

Whiteside founded Futura about a year ago and agreed to an acquisition by Performance Materials Corp. of Camarillo, Calif., last July.

He said in a telephone interview that the merger helps supply Futura with specialty composite sheet, of which there is limited choice in the market.

Performance Materials produces acrylic sheet reinforced with carbon or glass fibers. It uses most of the sheet in-house to thermoform athletic shoe arch supports, orthopedic products and sporting goods, said President David Blakeman. Futura's purchase diversified his company into larger parts and more markets. Neither official disclosed terms of the deal, which Stopol Business Services Inc. of Solon, Ohio, helped arrange.

Whiteside said he aims to replace fiberglass in many applications with recyclable thermoplastics. Futura has five thermoforming machines, including pressure and vacuum forming. Its new machining center has a 5-foot-by-10-foot table. He said his firm's sales are ``in seven figures.''

Blakeman said Performance Materials, established in 1985, makes hundreds of thousands of shoe inserts a week for major athletic shoe producers. It uses custom-built machinery to form thin sheet in cycle times of 5-10 seconds.

His operation cuts sheet to size before thermoforming to get high productivity and cut down on scrap. He did not disclose sales volumes.

Stopol Business Services specializes in mergers and acquisitions. It is a division of Stopol Inc., also of Solon, a major reseller of plastics processing equipment that expects 1997 sales of $28 million.