UNION CITY, CALIF. — Custom injection molder Jatco Inc. has invested more than $2 million to buy a Battenfeld GmbH multicomponent manufacturing cell, a 500-ton Toshiba press and a proprietary line of agricultural seedling trays.
International relationships drove each investment, Paul Appelblom, Jatco president and chief executive officer, said in an interview at his Union City office.
"We are seeing much more interaction in producing products for people from other countries," he said. "It is becoming more commonplace and easier with the advent of the Internet."
Jatco's biggest customer is the U.S. subsidiary of a Swedish firm, Appelblom said.
Jatco, Battenfeld and others are linking resources to extend European-style paper dispensers into the North American market beginning in February. Coordination began in March, based largely on product versions that entered the European market in 1998. Different units dispense toilet paper and rolled and folded hand towels.
"Everything had to come to the United States and work flawlessly," Appelblom said.
Designers in northern Sweden using Pro/Engineer software planned for construction of three multicomponent molds at AT&S Forenbau AG in Fohnsdorf, Austria, plus seven conventional molds in Taiwan.
Battenfeld in Meinerzhagen, Germany, made the 720-ton press, robotics and end-of-arm tooling, and Tampoprint GmbH in Korntal-Munchingen, Germany, supplied an automated, dual-head decoration station.
"Everything was purchased, married and bought off in Europe," he said.
Initial ramp-up at Jatco started in early January.
Jatco will mold relatively complex parts, install French-made lock mechanisms and assemble, package, warehouse and distribute the product.
"We believe this is the largest multishot press in a custom molding environment in the western U.S.," Appelblom said.
Such presses are common in the Midwest and Northeast, often for molding automotive taillight assemblies.
The new Battenfeld has an L-configuration suitable for molding single components, but Jatco will use the press mostly on multicomponent work.
The new Toshiba is molding components for a packaging-industry application under an alliance with another foreign firm, he said.
In early 2000, Jatco acquired the agricultural product line for various seedling applications from a former customer. Now, "our agricultural trays go all over the world from here," he said.
Separately, Jatco provided turnkey services in creating point-of-purchase pods to display Nike Inc.'s high-profile Shox shoes.
For five weeks beginning Oct. 1, Jatco designed parts, coordinated Taiwanese mold construction and testing and — without prototypes — proceeded in Union City through injection molding, extensive assembly operations and end-market shipment into Nike distribution channels.
"The whole project was extraordinarily quick" and involved several large molds, Appelblom said. "The first two molds had to be done in five weeks, the next mold in seven weeks and the next mold in eight weeks," he said.
When a display shoe is lifted off the pod, an internal module detects light and emits a "boing" sound emulating the Nike Shox's spring-back feature.
Jatco employs 150-200, including six in mold-making or maintenance operations, runs 30 presses of 28-1,000 tons and had 2000 sales approaching $20 million.
Proprietary production of the seedling trays and construction-industry testing cylinders account for about 25 percent of Jatco's sales.
Common shareholders own Jatco and injection molder Master Plastics Inc. in Vacaville, Calif. Some holders also have shares in Taral Plastic Container Co., which markets and sells bottles, jars and caps in a portion of Jatco's facility.
Appelblom, who founded Jatco in 1976, is national treasurer for the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and immediate past chairman of SPI's Western Region.