SPRINGFIELD, MASS. — Blow molder Meredith-Springfield Associates Inc. is spending more than $2 million in the next 18 months to expand prototype and production capabilities.
The company, which started making bottles 15 years ago, is finding more and more uses for its technology, especially for nonpackaging uses of PVC.
``We're not doing the same old thing with the same old equipment. We are doing something unthinkable,'' said owner and President Melvin C. O'Leary Jr.
Meredith-Springfield focuses on the design, engineering, development and prototyping of new hollow articles and bottles made through blow molding.
``The larger and growing part of our business is now the development and production of nonpackaging items, including medical-instrument reagent cartridges, explosive casings used for seismic exploration, footwear components and ... PVC fencing products,'' he said. ``I see nonpackaging uses of PVC, especially in fencing products and electrical closures, as real growth areas for blow molding.''
Meredith-Springfield is on the move, literally, heading a few miles from Springfield to a site in Ludlow.
``We are pretty much at full capacity,'' he said. ``This move will enable us to have an 8,000-square-foot machine room with 24-foot ceilings and no columns.''
The firm fills a niche, according to Martin Stark, president of machinery maker Bekum America Corp. in Williamston, Mich.
``Blow molders are busy making bottles,'' he said. ``It is not often they have time to use a machine for development.''
Hence, there is a market for a firm like Meredith-Springfield to develop and test new products. Not too many companies do it, and confidentiality is the key, Stark said.
One Meredith-Springfield development project now on the open market is a 33-inch PVC baluster for the fencing industry that is marketed by Alpine Plastics Inc. in Alpine, Utah.
``[Meredith-Springfield was] the only one we could find to blow mold our product because of the length,'' said Alpine President Phil Barker.
He said the balusters were originally made of high density polyethylene. The PVC version, which weighs 1 pound, is meeting with great response, Barker said, because ``it looks so much like wood.'' He said the product is used for residential applications.
From 1992-95, Meredith-Springfield designed and developed a dynamic insole for Reebok International Inc. More products are in the development stage, but the work is confidential.
O'Leary started the firm with one employee in 1983. He said he was working as a consultant, and his client did not have the time to shut down a production machine to make a sample of a new bottle mold that he had developed.
O'Leary said that, at the start, his firm focused mainly on plastic bottles for personal-care and health and consumer product packaging.
``But packaging is only about 40 percent of our business,'' said O'Leary, who declined to release sales figures.
Meredith-Springfield employs 22 and occupies a 20,000-square-foot building. It also regularly uses 12-15 temporary workers. It has signed a lease-purchase agreement to move in September to a 40,000-square-foot building that can be expanded to twice its size.
The firm has four twin-shuttle blow molding machines — two Bekum and two Battenfeld Fischers. O'Leary said the specifications are being finalized for a new Bekum H155 twin-sided shuttle with customized features. Delivery is scheduled for next year.