NEW BRAUNFELS, TEXAS — The first U.S. injection molding and tool maintenance facility of Palo Alto Products International (Pte.) Ltd. is taking shape, with the recent delivery of 15 new injection presses to the Texas site.
``We will be operational in late December and at maximum capacity by June,'' Chris Morton, general manager, said during a tour of the 51,000-square-foot plant in New Braunfels.
Initially, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm will tackle five projects molding plastic components for computer chassis.
Morton plans to employ 50 by December and 150 by June with about 60 percent in molding positions and 40 percent in tooling jobs.
In recent weeks, Palo Alto took delivery of 15 Krauss-Maffei two-platen presses. Six have clamping forces of 740 tons, six 330 tons, two 165 tons and one 120 tons. All will use Spirex screws and end caps.
The firm started with a clean sheet, and has worked to design an efficient work area. Subcomponents such as heat stakes or metal parts will arrive via a 10-foot-wide aisle behind a press.
Movable, custom-made, long-reach robots will bring parts out of the machine and, possibly, connect two work centers.
Finished parts will exit down a center aisle.
During the visit, a company named Cut N Core was noisily drilling multiple-sized holes through the 12-inch concrete floor at each machine position.
``The old way was to plug in [systems] and have wires all over the place,'' Morton said.
Not here. Out-of-area systems will feed the presses through three raw-resin pneumatic tubes, a myriad of electrical communications wires, and machine and mold water lines. Underground 7-foot-high by 6-foot-wide service tunnels run the length of the room, cross-connect in the center and hold conduits, robot cabinets, fluid-handling pumps and air compressors.
The toolroom will have computer numerically controlled mills, work benches and a capability to produce molds. But, for now, it will make only engineering changes and upgrades. All molds will be made in Taipei, Taiwan, most at a sister facility.
The 3,100-square-foot tooling area will include a mezzanine level with a resource library and advanced training systems.
Palo Alto has applied for a rail easement to bring in carload shipments of resin. Two silos are being installed, and two more are planned.
Nearby, another building will accommodate a centralized water chiller system with a 1,000-ton condenser tower system on top.
Palo Alto is installing Conair materials-handling equipment, gravimetric wave blenders, material drying systems and quality laboratories.
No assembly work is planned. Lightning Metal Specialties Inc., another New Braunfels firm, will handle that task. Currently, Lightning Metal integrates its metal components with plastic parts molded at the Palo Alto unit in Taipei.
Following ramp up, Palo Alto will consider when to add 15 more presses planned for existing space and when to construct more space. Eventually the company plans to expand to 200,000 square feet. Later, Palo Alto may build other domestic sites.
The firm was founded in 1983 as Palo Alto Design Group.