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Inline Plastics Corp. in January added its largest press yet, a 34-inch-by-34-inch thermoforming model, at its Shelton, Conn., plant.

The new press, a plug-assist, preheat model 3200, was supplied by DT Industries Inc.'s Sencorp Systems division. Inline's machines start at 22 inches by 20 inches.

Rudolf P. Orkisz, the company's 41-year-old chief executive officer, said there is a good chance Inline will add a Sencorp to its Milford, Conn., plant in the second half of the year.

The 300,000-square-foot Shelton plant employs about 200, operates 27 lines and thermoforms food containers. The company began using the facility for warehousing in 1986 and manufacturing in 1989.

Separately, the 34,000-square-foot Milford facility, which opened in 1973, employs about 100, operates 14 lines and performs custom thermoforming and medical packaging tasks.

Inline uses oriented polystyrene extensively with a small volume of PET, particularly for hinged clamshells used in frozen-food applications. Inline's 1996 resin throughput exceeded 34 million pounds and was used in forming more than 125 items.

Inline prides itself on its newproduct development. Designers devoted three years, for instance, to creating an OPS system for a retail cake-container line with a screw-thread dome.

``We heard complaints about how hard it was to remove the domes,'' said Thomas Orkisz, 34, senior vice president.

The new system unscrews easily and allows removal of the cake for frosting and its return ``without inflicting damage on the cake,'' he said. Inline is marketing some versions now and, eventually, plans four deep and four shallow sizes of the container. The current screw-thread design overcame some displeasing early flaws and enhances the possibility of sales to supermarkets and wholesale bakers.

In another product development in late October, Inline introduced a line of crystallized PET containers that can be used in a microwave or conventional oven up to 500F.

Next, Inline plans to accommodate the idea of a ``baker's dozen,'' with an OPS hinged container holding two rows of six donuts each and a 13th donut centered on the end.

``Some customers are interested, and we might extend the concept to other products,'' Thomas Orkisz said.

Thomas and Rudolf Orkisz's father is President Rudolph Orkisz, 64, who spends most of his time monitoring a subsidiary in Poland. Inline is based in Shelton.

Food-related packaging accounted for about 85 percent of the $54.5 million in 1996 domestic and European sales, and packaging for medical and consumer goods, the remainder. Previous-year domestic and European sales were about $50 million.

Rudolph Orkisz and his late brother, Gene, emigrated from Poland to Germany and, in the early 1950s, to the United States. Both learned on the job about metal and wood patterns and molds. In late 1959, they began R&G Model & Pattern in the basement of Rudolph's first home in Bridgeport, Conn., and in 1968, they incorporated Inline Plastics as a separate business to thermoform packaging.

In an ongoing order from the earliest days, Inline continues to mold red plastic fire hats for an insurance company known now as ITT Hartford Group.

In recent years, Rudolph Orkisz drew on his roots to do business in his native country.

Inline Plastics began shipping product from Connecticut to Poland in the early 1990s, stocking a 150,000-square-foot warehouse in the industrial town of Poznan starting in 1993 and manufacturing in the same building beginning in early 1994.

Now, the Inline Poland subsidiary employs about 100 and operates 18 thermoforming lines, ranging in size from 22 inches by 20 inches to 36 inches by 25

inches. It generated 1996 sales of about $4.5 million in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Germany and Russia.

The president said he conceptualizes opening plants in Russia and China.

On Jan. 1, Adam Laskowski joined Inline Poland as general director.

Looking ahead and focusing on domestic operations, the current generation of Orkisz brothers tentatively is considering more warehousing, and perhaps another manufacturing site.