Shape Global Technology Inc. doubled its production capacity for compact disc packaging with last week's acquisition of Optima Precision Inc. Optima's parent firm, Netstal Machinery Inc. of Fitchburg, Mass., and Shape, of Biddeford, Maine, announced the deal May 22. Terms were not released.
Netstal, which will lose its U.S. headquarters, also announced plans to build a new facility for its injection molding machine business next year.
Shape says the acquisition makes it the second-largest CD jewel-box maker in the United States. Atlanta Precision Molding Co. Ltd. of Duluth, Ga., is the largest.
Optima Precision will retain its name, becoming a division of Shape Global Technology Inc., and Shape's existing CD packaging operations will be combined into the new division. Neither company would comment on Optima's current or future capacity.
The transaction includes the 70,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that has been Netstal's U.S. headquarters since 1988, 14 injection molding presses and automation equipment.
Optima is known for its innovative use of color and for the depth of its product line of boxes for CD-ROM, CD-Interactive, CDRecordable, and CD-Audio disks. Its assets also include the exclusive license to the patented ``Brilliant Box,'' which holds two CDs in a package the same size as a standard single CD box.
Netstal President Barry Potter said the time had come for the company to choose between the capital equipment business or the CD jewel box business.
``Optima became less and less suitable as a business for a machinery manufacturer. We let our focus wander,'' Potter said in a telephone interview. ``As the business grew it became difficult to be both things in one building.''
Netstal began its molding operations to demonstrate the capability of integrating high-speed manufacturing cells using Netstal molding equipment. It chose CD jewel box molding in these demonstrations because of Netstal's parent company's association with the CD industry through Philips Electronics NV in the Netherlands.
What started out as a single-cell demonstration and training unit to support Netstal's machinery sales, quickly grew to a stand-alone business. Potter said so much of the building became dedicated to molding the CD packaging that it had begun to squeeze out the capital equipment manufacturing business unit.
As the CD packaging business grew, however, so did the dissatisfaction of Netstal's customers, themselves CD packaging makers who began to see their machinery supplier as a competitor.
``Fortunately - or unfortunately - Optima became one of the largest jewel-box manufacturers in the United States, and also became competitors to Netstal's customers,'' Potter said.
More than half of Netstal machines in North America go into CD-related molding.
``Optima got to a point that it no longer served the purpose of a demonstration and training facility, so we looked for a buyer to take the entire business,'' Potter said.
Edward F. Joyce, president of Joyce Molding Corp. in Rock-away, N.J., said the combined companies will put them close to Joyce's capacity, which is about 350 million jewel boxes and 400 million trays annually.
``It's probably a good acquisition for Shape, but the rumored price they paid was probably excessive considering the competitive nature of the business and the market price of jewel boxes right now,'' said Joyce, who would not elaborate on the price heard on the street.
The real question, Joyce said, is whether Shape can continue to operate in Massachusetts, considering the cost - primarily the cost of electricity - of doing business in that state.
Phil Sykes, general manager for Pride Interactive Media Acces-sories, said the news is ``not too surprising'' to him. ``Optima makes some very high-quality jewel cases,'' he said.
Many in the industry had not heard the news when contacted for comment, but some commented off the record, questioning the wisdom of making a major investment in a jewel-box business during a time when worldwide jewel-box supplies exceed demand.
Matt Bowen, director of marketing for Shape, agreed that market conditions are less than ideal. But he said Shape is thinking long term with its investment. ``We don't believe [oversupply] will be the situation down the road,'' he said. ``Also, Optima has some very innovative products, beyond the standard commodity jewel box.''
After making the decision to sell Optima, Potter's primary concern was that it be sold to a company that would do right by the business and the 50 employees working in the Optima operations. ``I didn't want this to disrupt their lives,'' he added.
Shape plans to retain the employees and expand the business at the Fitchburg location.
``This is a perfect fit,'' said Thomas Parkinson, Shape's president and chief executive officer. ``It combines Optima's manufacturing technology with Shape's market strength and product development capability, and creates a formidable supplier of jewel boxes.''
Netstal, a subsidiary of Netstal-Maschinen AG of Nufels, Switzer-land, has plans on the drawing board for a new U.S. corporate headquarters in Fitchburg, which will include facilities for training, demonstration, mold trials and systems integration. Occupancy is targeted for early 1997. It employs 35 in administration, sales, service and engineering.
Netstal-Maschinen makes injection presses and production systems. Shape ranks 27th among North American stock and custom injection molders with 1995 molding-related sales of $110 million, according to Plastics News data.