In February, Englehart Moulding Corp. of Newbury, Ohio, began rotomolding kayaks for kids. Now, owners Susan and Richard Englehart plan to compete for business as custom rotational molders. The husband and wife team have been in the paddle sport business since 1988, when Englehart Products Inc. individually handcrafted its canoes and kayaks out of fiber-reinforced wood. But in 1992 EPI decided to tap an untapped segment of that market with a rotomolded plastic kayak specifically designed for children.
From the start EPI used outside custom molders to do the job but was dissatisfied with the result, both in terms of quality and delivery, the Engleharts said by phone June 14. The rotomolders that EPI approached had machines large enough to handle the kayaks - which range roughly from 6-14 feet in length - but seemed unaccustomed to molding consumer products, Richard Englehart said. The kayaks posed new quality problems for firms used to rotomolding industrial tanks.
``They wanted us to write the quality program,'' he said.
Instead, in September the Engleharts took the job into their own hands and started Englehart Moulding. In October EMC moved into a leased, 25,000-square-foot building in Newbury. In February, it began rotomolding the kayaks on a new Ferry Rotospeed 500, independent-arm, biaxial machine. The firm employs about 20.
Working with high density polyethylene, which was difficult for EPI's previous molders, is not a problem for EMC, he said.
``A lot of people don't like working with it,'' because of the material's tighter processing window, he said.
``It has a tendency to warp if you're not controlling your cooling conditions,'' he said.
EMC's Ferry machine has dual inner air passage in both arms, which can be used during the cooling process to pressurize the mold, eliminating warpage problems and cooling parts faster, he said. EMC also makes kayaks from linear low density PE.
The Engleharts would neither disclose their investment in EMC nor would they discuss sales, ``a closely guarded secret,'' they said.
The kayaks are sold directly to outdoor sporting goods stores, bypassing distributors, ``to get the cost down,'' he said. Soon the Engleharts hope to expand into custom molding.
Englehart said his independent-arm machine offers greater versatility and control for custom rotomolding than other types of machines, because each arm can have a different oven time, cycle time and rotation. That ensures a better cure from part to part, he said. Each arm has a capacity of 5,000 pounds.
EMC also offers model work and a full machine shop, Englehart said.
The company is considering adding an offset arm to expand capabilities, according to Susan Englehart.