A Laramie, Wyo., supplier of material and property databases about thermoplastics, thermosets and elastomers increased sales by about 60 percent last year. ``We are about to grow out of where we are,'' Michael Kmetz, president of Integrated Design Engineering Systems Inc., said in a telephone interview. ``We would like to put up a high-tech building.''
IDES evolved from a joint project of IBM Corp. and the University of Wyoming's mechanical engineering department. IBM supported the department's graduate student projects through its plastics technology center in Boulder, Colo., until the center relocated to Lexington, Ky., in 1984.
Formed in 1986, IDES supplied materials information initially to original equipment manufacturers ``such as the Black & Deckers, Eatons and Hewlett-Packards,'' Kmetz said.
Two other business segments involve more than 300 cooperative material suppliers and a growing number of processors. ``We view ourselves as deeply involved in plastics'' and the industry's trade associations, he said.
``Recently, we developed a one-disk system for General Polymers that contains 3,000-plus materials and data sheets,'' Kmetz said. ``Other supplier disks are in the works.''
General Polymers, a Dublin, Ohio, division of Ashland Chem-ical Co., distributes commodity and engineering thermoplastics for materials producers.
IDES said it scrutinizes every data sheet, maintains a database of more than 20,000 materials and properties and, in a watchdog role, recognizes and flags mistakes.
Its Prospector software assists in finding ``the best plastic material for the job,'' Kmetz said, and its CostMate 3 helps injection molders estimate piece-part costs.
Internet users can download material data sheets, free for the moment. IDES established a home page at http//www.idesinc.com in June 1995 and plans to begin charging for the service later this year. Numerous company home pages feed inquiries directly into the IDES database.
``The Internet has not seen widespread use in the plastics industry, and material suppliers do not have a handle on it,'' Kmetz said. ``We put suppliers' information into our database, sell back Web-friendly formats and maintain the data portion of the Web site for them.''
Privately held IDES employs 15, occupies a 4,000-square-foot site in Laramie's historic district and competes in a niche with the international plastics selector product group of Information Handling Services Inc.'s Data Business Publishing unit of Englewood, Colo., and the CenBase engineering materials database of Information Indexing Inc. in Garden Grove, Calif.
Annually, IDES awards two scholarships at the University of Wyoming. Each recipient takes university courses, assists half-time maintaining IDES' database and eventually may graduate to a full-time job.
IDES will hold its annual ``materials database rendezvous'' Aug. 1-2. A 1994 conference drew 20 users, and a broader 1995 session attracted 65 ``people charged with maintaining material information,'' Kmetz said.
``We're geared toward short presentations and long interactions,'' he said.
As to IDES' volume of material, ``We have 1 million pieces of printed information, all in the database and fully indexed, using several gigabytes of storage,'' he said.