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Floe revives giant thermoforming machine

By: Michael Lauzon

January 7, 2013

A large-machine thermoforming operation is due to start operating in February.

Floe International Inc. is building a 400,000-square-foot facility in McGregor, Minn., that will house what consultants said is the largest rotary thermoformer in the world, a 10-foot-by-25-foot behemoth that has been sitting idle for several years.

“We will have several proprietary products in transportation and will try to provide solutions for large products,” said Floe International CEO Wayne Floe in a telephone interview.

Wayne Floe did not specify the cost of the project, only saying it will involve millions of dollars.

He has an extensive background in marine products, many of which could be made by the large thermoforming machine. Watercraft, floating docks and trailers are some of the items the new operation could make.

He said he has been dealing with contract thermoformers to make marine-related products at the firm’s headquarters in McGregor and in Hoyt Lake, Minn. For parts not large enough to justify the large machine, Floe International will continue to rely on outside thermoformers, he said.

Wayne Floe said he has been in the marine products business for 30 years and the decision to invest in the large machine was made after he gave it a lot of thought.

“It means we can take our technologies to a new level,” he said. “We’ve been studying what to do since the 1990s.”

Floe International expects to buy high density polyethylene, ABS and capped ABS sheet to feed the machine, which has a 6-foot draw and can make parts weighing as much as 600 pounds.

Two consultants working with Floe International said the machine has been the largest in the world since it was built in 2004 by now-defunct Advanced Ventures in Technology Inc. of Gladwin, Mich.

Roger Fox of manufacturers’ representative Foxmor Group Inc. of Wheaton, Ill., and consultant Robert Browning of Isosceles Inc. of Atlanta helped advise on the project.

The machine originally was built for Better Bath Components of Waxahachie, Texas, to make components for recreational vehicles, manufactured housing and marine products; however, the applications did not pan out as expected.

After Advanced Ventures in Technology went out of business, many of its employees started another machinery company, American Thermoforming Machinery LLC of West Branch, Mich.