Otron Tech Inc. has yet to see significant returns on the C$6 million (US$4.38 million) it invested to begin injection molding large plastic sheets for marine use, and is having difficulties with the new technology. Business manager Peter Kjeldsen said a key problem has been getting an economical cycle time to mold the high density polyethylene and polypropylene sheets, designed to replace plywood in marine applications. The sheets measure 4 feet by 8 feet and as thick as 11/2 inches.
He would not disclose Otron's target or current cycle time to make the sheets, which have a closed-cell foam core created by chemical blowing agents.
The Wallaceburg, Ontario, firm said that ``one of the major boat companies will come on board on the condition we get our price down.'' Kjeldsen said his company is trying to lower the cycle time ``with our own people at our cost.''
Otron licenses Hettinga Equipment Inc.'s Controlled Density technology to make the sheets, but complained that the Hettinga injection press ``hasn't done what it is designed to do,'' according to Kjeldsen.
Jeanine Hettinga responded that Otron's problems probably stem from inexperience in molding and from faulty ancillary equipment that Hettinga did not supply. Hettinga built the injection unit with a shot capacity of 176 pounds. Officials at both companies said Hettinga molded prototypes of Otron's Kelron sheets at its Des Moines, Iowa, head office several months ago. It introduced its Controlled Density technology at K'95 last year.
Otron spent about C$6 million to double its plant area to 20,000 square feet and install the Hettinga injection press.
Boat builders want the HDPE and PP sheets for deck panels, seating, doors and other parts because the products do not rot or absorb water and are more cost- effective than treated plywood, Kjeldsen said in a telephone interview.
He said Hettinga's process to mold the Kelron sheets requires precise flow control and cooling. The system includes three single-cavity molds served by a traveling injector. Otron plans to make them at a rate of 200,000 per year, mainly for boat builders in the United States. It also may export the sheets.
Otron started in 1993 as a mold tryout operation for Aar-Kel Moulds Ltd. of Wallaceburg. It branched into custom molding of auto parts including instrument panels and truck grilles.
Otron has three Milacron and Van Dorn presses, with clamping forces of 1,000 and 1,500 tons, for custom work and tryouts. It did about C$4 million (US$2.92 million) in business last year. Aar-Kel Moulds' sales last year were about C$20 million (US$14.6 million). The two firms are divisions of Aar-Kel Enterprises, a private company owned by Ron Aarssen and Otto Kjeldsen.
Aar-Kel Moulds has three mold-building facilities in Wallaceburg, and opened one in Monterrey, Mexico, in January.
Peter Kjeldsen said his firm has worked on its proprietary Kelron sheets for about three years following boat owners' complaints that even treated plywood can absorb water and rot. Otron marketing manager Paul Robertson said some treated plywood also contains toxic anti-rot chemicals.