CHICAGO — Tool builder Caco Pacific Corp. plans to move into PET bottle molds by building a bridge with a Swiss mold shop. Caco (Booth N6586), based in Covina, Calif., has signed a partnership agreement with Otto Hofstetter AG of Uznach, Switzerland, to exchange technology and open the door to North America for Hofstetter's molds.
"We will service, sell and build the molds using Hofstetter design and mold technology," said John Thirlwell, Caco's vice president of sales and marketing, in a June 5 telephone interview.
"Customers that already have Hofstetter tooling [in Europe] will get Hofstetter molds here and have them serviced here, too."
Caco makes injection molds and hot-runner systems, but until now did not make molds for PET preforms.
Hofstetter has a large presence on the European continent but little name recognition here, Thirlwell said. The company employs about 180 and makes a variety of injection molds, primarily for the food packaging industry.
The Swiss company developed its PET molding technology in the 1970s. Its molds have up to 96 cavities.
Caco, one of the largest tool builders in North America, will post record sales of more than $40 million this year, Thirlwell said.
The companies are performing manufacturing tests now on the molds and are investigating equipment needs in North America, Thirlwell said.
A new plant is possible in the future, Thirlwell said. Until then, the molds will be made and maintained from Caco's 75,000-square-foot Covina facility.
Caco has made several moves to broaden its base. In November 1997 the company acquired a Lyon, France-based mold shop owned by Gillette Co. to open market opportunities in Europe. The Hofstetter partnership, on the other hand, will strictly serve North America.
The California toolmaker, which has about 270 employees, spent close to $10 million to upgrade its manufacturing equipment in the last two years, Thirlwell said. It added such equipment as high-speed milling machines and hot-runner systems.
Caco also is launching the Interactive Process Manager, an electronic control box that fits on a machine's hot-runner mold system, he said. The unit communicates with injection molding equipment, controlling such areas as mold temperatures, pressure transducers and valve-gate door openings and closings for a mold.
The unit, called IPM, also is being designed to interface with control software from Moldflow Corp.
Caco Pacific and Lexington, Mass.-based Moldflow signed a cooperative technology agreement June 9. The two will integrate their software programs on a common platform, said Ken Welch, Moldflow vice president of marketing. Moldflow's Plastics Xpert software assists with machine setup, processing and production controls according to set parameters, Welch said.
"The integration is happening over the summer," Welch said. "We expect to roll this out in the coming months. It will be like having one little, very smart electronic box on top of a mold."
The software development is Caco's initial foray into electronics, Thirlwell said. "It's the first time we've been into anything other than mechanical parts of the mold," he said.