BMC Industries Inc. will spend $10 million to build a new injection molding facility in Ramsey, Minn., for polycarbonate ophthalmic lenses. The Minneapolis firm is moving its PC lens molding from a leased, 37,000-square-foot plant in Brooklyn Center, Minn., to nearby Ramsey, where in September it will begin construction of a 150,000-square-foot facility.
The building, which should be finished before fall 1997, also will house research and development and distribution for BMC's entire Vision-Ease eyeware division.
The company will finance the $10 million project through cash and bank debt.
PC lens production will use more than half the space at Ramsey, said Barbara Arnold, Vision-Ease vice president of domestic operations. Although BMC has no immediate plans to add injection molding capacity, the facility can accommodate twice as many presses as Brooklyn Center, she said. She would not disclose BMC's current number of presses, which are mostly Van Dorn Demags and Cincinnati Milacrons ranging from 100-450 tons.
As the PC market has grown, and as we've continued to take market share, we have added significant capacity over the last couple of years,'' said Michael Hawks, chief financial officer.
Last year's annual report said BMC boosted capacity at Brooklyn Center by 40 percent to keep pace with sales. But the company no longer volunteers such number, Hawks said.
We've gotten away from disclosing what [our PC lens] growth has been. There's a number of reasons why,'' including customers and competitors, he said.
Publicly held BMC does not break out PC lens sales. But analyst J. Keith Dunne of Robertson, Stephens & Co., has pegged the company's market share at $25 million or more. The San Francisco investment banking firm began covering BMC in April.
The PC lens has gained acceptance for general-purpose eyewear, growing BMC's market for multifocal lenses such as the progressive lens, which Arnold described as a no-line bifocal. Another big area for BMC is in polarized, prescription PC sunglasses; the firm claims to be the only U.S. maker of those lenses.
Though R&D at Ramsey will cover all Vision-Ease products, including hard-resin plastic and glass lenses, its core will be the PC lens - the material, process and coatings, which make the PC scratch-resistant. The lab also will continue its research into anti-reflective coatings, a process BMC outsources but eventually plans to bring in-house.
All PC lenses are coated, ``a pretty critical [secondary] operation for us,'' Arnold said. The lenses range from 65-88 millimeters in diameter, but some configurations are more complicated to mold, such as one requiring a thickness of 16 millimeters on the outside and only 1mm in the center. GE Plastics is BMC's main PC supplier, she said.
BMC also manufactures aperture masks for color televisions and computer monitors. Last year it reported total sales of $255.4 million.