STRUCTURAL PLASTICS '97/IRVINE, CALIF.

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Plastics News editor Robert Grace gathered these news items during the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Structural Plastics Division meeting in Irvine, Calif., April 13-16.

FM Corp. to install $1.9 million press

Arkansas structural foam molder FM Corp. plans to take delivery in June of its 14th and largest press.

The 750-ton, wide-platen model from Wilmington Machinery has a 150-pound shot size, measures 60 feet long by 16 feet high by roughly 15 feet wide, and represents an investment of $1.9 million, Dave Shallenberg, manager of manufacturing services, said in an April 15 interview at the conference.

The Wilmington press features dual 6-inch, 30:1 L/D extruders, with dual 75-pound shot accumulators, a multinozzle injection manifold and 167-inch-wide platens that can accommodate as many as six molds at a time.

Wilmington Machinery is on a bit of a run at the moment with its big structural foam machines, according to W. Kemp Shepard, the Wilmington, N.C.-based firm's vice president of marketing. As recently reported, the company just sold its first such unit in Brazil, a similar, 750-ton unit to Unipac Indústria e Comércio Ltda.

Wilmington also is supplying three more 750-tonners to processors in the eastern United States planning to use them to make collapsible shipping containers.

Shepard said molders use the huge structural foam machines to generate large parts with low clamp tonnages, and their exceedingly high pounds- per-hour output means such companies' ``payback [on investment] is often a year or less.''

For FM, the press will enable it to mold 4-foot-by-8-foot structural foam panels, Shallenberg said.

``This pretty well finishes our growth toward larger-part capability,'' he added.

The molder started down that road in late 1993 when it added 40,500 square feet to its sole plant in Rogers, Ark. Last September, FM added another 15,000 square feet and installed a new paint line to handle large panels.

Today FM employs 320 at the 165,000-square-foot facility in Rogers. The firm, which specializes in medical enclosure parts, had sales of $42 million last year, and projects sales of about $50 million in 1997.

GI Plastek officials expect to boost operating efficiencies significantly next month when they occupy a new 8,500-square-foot office facility in Marysville, Ohio.

The $700,000 investment is ``one step in the big picture,'' said John P. Barrett, sales engineering manager for the firm's injection molding business unit in Marysville.

Next up for GI Plastek, which also does gas-assist and reaction injection molding, is completing a new management information system that represents another, $750,000 investment, much of it for training, he said April 15. He added that the MIS upgrade should be completed by year's end.

GI Plastek used to maintain its engineering, sales, accounting, management and customer service functions in Elyria, Ohio. After management bought out the firm in 1995, the new owners pooled management of the injection molding and RIM businesses, and shifted all but the financial functions closer to the company's two Ohio plants, in Marysville and Bellville. The RIM business continues to operate out of Newburyport, Mass.

Staff currently working at various locations near the Marysville plant will come together under the same roof in early May, Barrett said.

The new facility will feature an enormous amount of conference room space for videoconferencing.

``We're using the technology like mad. We hold virtual meetings between our RIM and injection departments,'' he said, noting it also uses the technology to communicate with customers like Deere & Co. and J.I. Case.

``It's a very efficient way to make things happen quickly,'' said Barrett.