Japanese optical plastic lens producer Colcoat Co. Ltd. has entered the North American market through a joint venture with Amptech Corp. of Calgary, Alberta. The two companies have invested nearly C$2 million (US$1.45 million) in Coltech Optronics Ltd. to make optical quality lenses and backlight systems in a Class 10,000 clean room injection molding facility in Amptech's Calgary plant.
Coltech is installing its third injection press, a two-shot, 132-ton Sumitomo machine, Malcolm Smith, the joint venture's general manager, said in a telephone interview.
It has been molding lenses for about four months in two 110-ton, single-shot Sumitomo presses and recently reached full-scale production. The two-shot press will allow molding housings around lenses.
Amptech President Ehor Babij said Coltech's major initial business is to supply lenses to Northern Telecom Ltd.'s telephone plant in Calgary, which had sourced lenses from various North American and offshore molders. He expects Coltech's business to grow to include other Northern Telecom plants offshore as well as Japanese electronics majors doing assembly in North America.
Colcoat has supplied Japanese transplants in North America from its operations in Japan.
Babij said molding optical-quality lenses can be complex, requiring special machine and tool design, and raw materials to prevent contamination and optical distortion.
Lenses are used in a range of electronics equipment and liquid crystal displays.
Colcoat is designing Coltech's tooling, which Babij said so far has been for relatively simple programs compared with Colcoat work in Japan. Coltech uses custom-modified Sumitomo presses and a special grade of acrylic resin from Mitsubishi Rayon Co. of Japan. Robots handle finished parts.
Colcoat, based in Gyoda, Japan, is experienced in plastic lens design and production, according to Babij. It also has plastics and chemicals technology and production that contribute to its sales. Babij estimated sales at $50 million to $100 million annually. It was established in 1956.
Amptech is a custom molder of telecommunication and aerospace components founded in 1967.
Babij said Amptech has molded precise parts and clear plastics before but the ``venture takes it to a new level.''
Amptech's sales exceed C$25 million (US$18.1 million) per year and include toolmaking and assembly.
Coltech occupies a 2,000-square-foot, expandable clean room in the Amptech plant, said Smith. Colcoat and Amptech each own 50 percent of the venture, which held an open house June 12. Both firms are privately held.