logo

HTI embraces growing business in natural gas conversion with 1,800-ton press

By: Michael Lauzon

June 19, 2014

Custom injection molder HTI Plastics has installed a new, large, precision press that will launch it into the fast-growing world of natural gas conversion in heavy trucks.

The Lincoln, Neb., firm has spent about $1.4 million to buy a 1,800-ton KraussMaffei machine, robotics and auxiliaries that initially will focus on molding inserts used in compressed natural gas tanks. HTI could branch into other large-part markets since it is near original equipment manufacturers who need the components, said HTI President Troy Just in a phone interview.

“We added this press to help one of our customers continue growing in the natural gas industry,” Just explained. He did not name the customer.

Compressed natural gas fuel is rapidly replacing diesel in some truck fleets as the transportation industry takes advantage of the booming natural gas production from shale deposits. Type 4 CNG cylinders have a polymer liner wound with fiber-reinforced thermoset resin. Companies in the market are positioning themselves to capitalize on growing demand for such cylinders. Luxfer Group, for example, recently acquired Vexxel Composites LLC, a Brigham City, Utah, producer of type 4 cylinders.

“It’s a popular market now,” Just noted.

HTI’s new press can run shot sizes of up to 330 ounces and make large, thin-walled components. Just said about all that capacity will be needed to mold the cylinder liners, which have a diameter of 26 inches. Liners can be molded from high density polyethylene or proprietary polymers. HTI will insert mold the liners to incorporate a metal port.

“This press allows us to continue pushing the limits of plastics manufacturing in partnership with this customer first, and then with others who need this capability,” Just predicted. All terrain vehicle panels could be up next for HTI.

HTI is a diverse molder whose markets include pharmaceutical/medical, animal health, packaging and sporting goods. It has its own tool room and a clean assembly area. It offers prototyping, ultrasonic welding, hot stamping, bar coding, pad printing and machining as some of its secondary services.

Just said HTI runs a variety of polymers, from commodity types to polyetheretherketone, nylons and impact-modified engineering plastics.

The company, established in 1985, now runs 24 injection presses with clamps from 50 to 1,800 tons. Its previous maximum tonnage was 950 tons. It employs about 95 and has been logging annual sales of about $16 million.

HTI is owned by PCE Inc. of Lincoln. PCE’s other plastics firms are blow molder Apex Plastics of Brookefield, Mo., and profile extruder Geist Plastics Inc. of Lincoln. PCE’s other major division is in the data center solutions industry. PCE was founded in 1993 by Sam Featherston and a group of investors. Featherstone is still active in the business.