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Less than a month after thermoforming giant Ivex Packaging Corp. announced its fifth acquisition in 17 months, its Plastofilm Industries Inc. subsidiary continued the aggressive expansion by purchasing 50 percent of a small Puerto Rican medical packaging plant.

Plastofilm officials expect that the purchase of half of an Allplax Inc. facility in Salinas, Puerto Rico, will add at least $3.1 million a year in sales to the subsidiary's estimated $31 million annual total.

The new joint venture with Allplax will be known as Plastofilm P.R. Inc.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The move is part of Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Ivex's previously announced plans to grow the medical and electronics packaging business. Ivex acquired Wheaton, Ill.-based Plastofilm in May.

Plastofilm P.R. Executive Vice President Sheila Healy said Plastofilm ``doesn't have any cards on the table'' for further expansion.

Healey, who is also Plastofilm's director of customer services, said the subsidiary is busy managing both the Puerto Rican plant and a new facility in Northern Ireland.

Plastofilm improved the facility's clean room and plans to add two more machines, a Lyle thermoforming machine and a vertical trim press, that will help double the capacity of the plant, she said.

The facility now generates about $2 million a year in sales, with about 75 percent of that in medical packaging, said Myron Gross, president of both Allplax and the Salinas joint venture. Plastofilm wants to add a third shift, which would increase employment at the plant from 12 to between 20 and 25 by year-end, Healy said.

Plastofilm entered the joint venture to cut shipping costs to customers who have moved factories to the island, such as Abbott Laboratories and Baxter Healthcare International, and to expand business in Puerto Rico, she said.

Allplax generates about $6 million a year in thermoforming sales at plants in Salinas and New Jersey, and is part of the $12 million-a-year Pioneer Paper Corp., Gross said.

Pioneer and Allplax are based in Carlstadt, N.J.

The Salinas plant is in the process of becoming ISO 9001 certified, he said.

Allplax has been operating the plant, in a renovated government building, for three years, Gross said.

This expansion is dwarfed by recent Ivex moves, including its announcement Feb. 21 of the purchase of Canadian thermoformer M&R Plastics Inc., which will add about $25 million in sales for the company.