Pyramid Composites Manufacturing Inc. will invest $4.2 million to build a manufacturing complex in Hempfield Township, Pa., near Greenville. The newly created firm is an offshoot of Pyramid Plastics Inc., which operates a 25,000-square-foot plant in Sharpsville, Pa. Since 1990 that plant has been incubating an ongoing research project in resin transfer molding, resulting in technology that is Pyramid's hallmark, said Gene Kirila, chief executive officer and co-founder of both firms. Although mainly a research and development facility, Pyramid Plastics also has limited molding capabilities.
Pyramid Composites will expand those capabilities considerably when it opens shop Sept. 1 in a 56,000-square-foot, five-building complex with 70 workers and $1.2 million in new equipment. That equipment will include computer numerically controlled machining centers, materials-handling robots and RTM presses, all custom-built. The new company also will absorb some of Pyramid Plastics' equipment and most of its 23 workers, mainly engineering staff, Kirila said.
A downsized Pyramid Plastics will keep its name, and continue to do R&D in RTM technology, he said. Pyramid Composites will do its own R&D on individual projects.
Kirila said Pyramid Plastics' engineering staff has taken RTM, an established injection molding process, and ``polished the wheel a little bit.'' The company builds all its own RTM tools as well as injection, mold-handling and other processing equipment, rather than adapting existing equipment, which, Kirila said, compromises the RTM process.
``That's where we were able to get the world-class cycle times [of 5-7 minutes], by building our own presses and molds,'' he said.
He said its patented RTM technology also gives the firm's customers an environmental edge over fiberglass operations that can produce high styrene emissions.
``Our technology utilizes a male and a female mold, so it's encapsulated ... so our styrene emissions are about 10 percent of what open-face tooling is,'' he said.
Pyramid Composites will mold composite parts for the plumbing, agricultural, furniture, defense and heavy-transportation industries, using polyester and vinyl ester resins with carbon-fiber reinforcements.
Products include truck hoods, air fascias on semi trucks, and composite sinks and lavatories. The firm will fill the niche for volumes of 1,000-10,000 parts, he said.
``We have existing contracts right now,'' Kirila said. ``We've proved our cycle times, proved our cosmetic abilities and part quality. Now we need to expand into production mode.''
He said the new company's sales ``will approach $10 million'' this year. He would not disclose sales for Pyramid Plastics.
The new plant is going up on 10 acres in an industrial park in Hempfield Township (in Mercer County) that is owned by Greenville-Reynolds Development Corp.
The new park comprises a large tract of ``somewhat isolated'' land, which Pyramid ``can grow and expand in,'' Kirila said.
The company is financing the $4.2 million project with a low-interest, $1.9 million bank loan funneled through the county; another low-interest, state-financed loan for $1.45 million; $1.2 million from an unidentified investor group; and its own funds. The investor group holds an interest in the firm; but Kirila, 31, and partner Jim Lapikas, 40, will be majority owners, Kirila said. Lapikas is vice president of R&D.
Kirila credits Dick Dykes, vice president at Greenville-Reynolds Development, with coordinating all the government agencies and issues, from securing loans to getting building permits. The nonprofit private land developer was created around 1950 to bring business into the Greenville-Reynolds area, according to Dykes.
The project was on a strict time line and Dykes streamlined the entire process, eliminating any bottleneck of government bureaucracy, which ``drowns small businesses,'' Kirila said.
Construction began April 15.
From the developer's standpoint, Dykes said the plant means an increased tax base for the area and more jobs.
``This project represents exactly the kind of project that communities drool over,'' he said.
Kirila said the firm may employ as many as 110 within three years, mainly in support operations, such as CNC machinists, programmers for water-jet robots, chemists and quality-control personnel.
``It's not a real labor-intensive operation,'' he said.
The company did an extensive search before siting the plant in Hempfield Township, exploring regions including Ohio, and other spots in Pennsylvania.