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Plastikos expands clean-room molding

By: Mike Verespej

November 7, 2012

ERIE, PA. (Nov. 7, 4:15 p.m. ET) — To increase its capabilities for medical device manufacturing, custom injection molder Plastikos Inc. is in the process of adding a third press for its Class 10,000 clean room at its headquarters plant in Erie.

“There is no firm date by when that will be completed, but we are working to integrate that press now,” said president and general manager Philip Katen in a Nov. 7 phone interview.

He said the new 88-ton Arburg Allrounder press will be the second press of that size for the clean room, which also has a 66-ton press.

“We are adding it to expand our footprint in medical device manufacturing,” Katen said. “It is part of our evolution to increase the value we bring to our customers.”

In just a short period of time, he said, medical device manufacturing has become a significant contributor to the revenues of the company which was the Plastics News’ Processor of the Year in 2010.

“A few years ago, we had very little revenues from medical—maybe 5 percent—and no clean room,” Katen said.

When the clean room—completed in early 2011—was under construction in mid-2010, medical was 10 percent of the company’s revenues. “Today it accounts for 15 percent of our revenues and is approaching 20 percent,” Katen said.

PN’s rankings of injection molders this year listed $16.8 million in sales for the company’s fiscal year that ended Oct. 31, 2011.

“In the next two to three years we see medical approaching or exceeding 25 percent” of the company’s revenues, Katen said. “Three-to-five years from now we’d like it to be at least one-third of our revenues and hopefully we will get it to be 50 percent of our revenues and maybe beyond” after that.

The new press “will increase our capacity significantly and give us the ability to deliver products to customers on shorter lead times,” Katen said. “It will enable us to provide customers with quicker turnarounds.”

The Plastikos president believes the company’s Class 7 clean room gives it an advantage in competing for medical applications that require an extra-clean manufacturing environment.

“Our ISO level Class 7 clean room is one-quarter of a magnitude cleaner that the ISO-level 8 clean room most medical manufacturers have,” he said. “It gives the ability to produce product and inspect product in an even cleaner environment for applications that require an even cleaner [manufacturing] environment.”

He declined to specify any specific product or market segments that the company was targeting. But he said the company currently supplies dental care components, products for eye care, diabetes care, fluid delivery systems — both liquid and air, and surgical applications where precision is required.

“Precision manufacturing and high-end, highly engineered parts with tight tolerances fit our expertise,” he said.

Down the road, an expansion of the clean room or an additional facility for medical manufacturing is a possibility, he said.

“When we would do an expansion would be difficult to specify,” he said. “We have additional capacity at our existing manufacturing facility” because of continuing investments to make operations there “more efficient”—which increases the capability in that plant.

But “depending on how quickly we approach those targets” for medical sales, Katen said, “an expansion into a second facility could be required.”