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Modular & Plastic Products Inc. recently began automotive window encapsulation molding at its new Niles, Mich., facility.

Modular, a subsidiary of Libbey-Owens-Ford Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, is relocating its encapsulation facility from Sterling Heights, Mich., to Niles and expects to complete the move by July, according to LOF spokesman Philip Webb.

The Sterling Heights plant, at 96,000 square feet, is too small and does not have a suitable layout to accommodate growth, Webb explained in a telephone interview from LOF's head office in Toledo. Modular is leasing 177,000 square feet of space in a former AT&T plant in Niles and will employ more than 250 this summer.

Webb said Niles will have 10 injection presses molding PVC gaskets around auto windows by July. He said the technology presents ``major opportunities for growth.''

Modular customers include General Motors Corp., its largest, Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. and Subaru of America Inc.

Donnelly Corp. of Holland, Mich., was one of the first firms to develop encapsulation molding technology for auto windows in the 1970s. Several companies now use such technology, which proponents claim saves labor and allows parts consolidation. In addition to PVC, molders use polyurethane and elastomers for the gasketing material.

Libbey-Owens-Ford is a subsidiary of Pilkington Group of St. Helens, England, which Webb claimed is the largest glass company in the world. The Toledo-based operation often is called Pilkington Libbey-Owens-Ford. Modular reported injection molding sales of $46 million for the year ended March 31.