ATLANTA — Fabri-Form Co., a thermoformer of custom transport packaging, is spending $2.5 million on a 42,000-square-foot complex of buildings in New Concord, Ohio, that will bring the firm's headquarters, engineering and tooling and test lab under one roof.
Fabri-Form, which will break ground in October at the 26-acre site, first disclosed its plans at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Division conference, held Sept. 13-16 in Atlanta.
The complex, to be located just eight miles west of the company's current headquarters and thermoforming plant in Byesville, Ohio, will free manufacturing floor space there for future expansions, President John W. Knight said by telephone Sept. 16. That 120,000-square-foot facility holds roughly a quarter of Fabri-Form's 40 rotary pressure and vacuum forming lines, in-house sheet extrusion operations and tooling. Two separate buildings in nearby Cambridge house engineering and the test lab.
The company expects 1997 sales of between $37 million and $40 million, mainly for high-molecular-weight high density polyethylene custom transport packaging from 0.060 to one-half inch thick, or what Fabri-Form calls CTP. That packaging, typically large-sized materials-handling trays with engineered pockets, finds its main use ``where there's a closed loop between [a customer's] manufacturing division and assembly division,'' Knight said.
The firm's customers are diverse but include makers of appliances, electronic/electric goods and automotive products. It also does some component work, such as housings, bezels and aircraft parts at a plant in Pekin, Ind.
The move, slated for January 1999, will enable Fabri-Form to double its test lab capacity, with state-of-the-art equipment for vibration, compression and other CTP testing, and add tooling capability.
Since 1980, Fabri-Form has concentrated on CTP, said Knight, whose father, Jack, now deceased, founded the firm in 1943 to build acrylic parts for bomber-fighter planes. Knight said Fabri-Form's first thermoformed parts, such as noses and canopies for those planes, were made in bakery ovens using as many as a dozen people to stretch the big, thick sheets of heated acrylic over a greased plug. Its thermoforming history includes making acrylic visors in the late 1950s and early 1960s for the first U.S. spacesuit, Knight claimed.
In time the company honed its focus on returnable packaging, seeing CTP's economic benefit to customers and its environmental implications, he said.
``We've always been innovating engineers ... inventing, developing,'' Knight said. ``That's the part of the business we liked. We obsolete ourselves every time we make a new product.''
About 25 people comprise the engineering, tooling and test lab staffs, which are aided by such technology as computer-aided design and manufacturing software, finite element analysis and solid modeling. Overall Fabri-Form employs about 300 at three thermoforming plants, in Byesville, Pekin and Bluffton, Ind.