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Kal Plastics is ``growing exponentially'' and is seeking to buy, or merge with, other processors.

``We're looking to grow the company and develop a strong middle-management base,'' said Tom York, owner of the Gardena, Calif., firm.

Kal's thermoforming sales grew 50 percent to $1.65 million last year from $1.1 million in 1995. Extrusion sales generated another $150,000 for a 1996 company total of $1.8 million.

Kal Plastics was vacuum forming proprietary lines of modular boxes and tubs, tote bins and meat lugs when York acquired the business in May 1990 as a sole proprietor. Soon, York found that injection molders can make tubs more cheaply than vacuum formers, and so he moved toward custom forming, which now accounts for about 85 percent of Kal's business.

The firm, which employs 17, makes custom industrial parts and point-of-purchase sunglass and health-and-beauty-aid displays.

Kal operates three 4-foot-by-6-foot rotary vacuum formers, one each from Brown, Comet and Plamco, and a ZMD 4-foot-by-4-foot, side-by-side thermoformer with a shuttle oven.

``We have upgraded with new ovens and computer controls,'' York said.

A major addition arrived in November. The $125,000 Thermwood five-axis, computerized numerically controlled router ``has a high-precision trimming capacity and maintains accuracy in drilling holes for antenna covers,'' York said.

Kal builds holding fixtures for the router internally.

The company makes customized trays for electronic assembly kits, parts for the office furniture business and PVC antenna covers to protect the technical gear on mobile-telephone poles.

Kal also operates two extrusion lines, producing sheets of high density polyethylene and high-molecular-weight HDPE, and rolls and sheets of high-impact polystyrene. The firm also vacuum forms custom parts for the airline industry.

Separately, Kal purchases glycol-modified PET sheet, ABS and coextruded HIPS.

The firm occupies a 14,000-square-foot facility and has an adjacent 14,000-square-foot yard that holds a pair of 80,000-pound resin silos. York said he may seek larger quarters this year in Southern California, depending on how his efforts to acquire or merge with another firm proceed.