A new Class 100,000 clean room is enabling Mar-Lee Cos. to enter medical molding in a big way.
``It's a huge milestone for us. It's where we've always wanted to be,'' President John Gravelle said March 28 at MassPlastics 2002 in Fitchburg. ``We've always been a high-end tool builder for medical.''
Mar-Lee converted part of its recently built technology center into the clean room and bought five Engel injection molding machines. The facility has room for five more presses, and Gravelle said a single shift could change quickly to a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation if needed.
A molding arrangement with Mitek Products, a division of Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon Inc., enabled Mar-Lee to hit the ground running.
Mitek acquired Innovasive Devices in February 2000 and later decided to outsource some of the molding to Mar-Lee, which hired an undisclosed number of Mitek workers.
The conversion took a few months, according to Mar-Lee quality manager Kim A. Goodwin. Mar-Lee also had to pass a product-specific audit for bioabsorbable materials.
``About 80 percent of the parts will go inside the body,'' said Goodwin, who displayed a microscopic look at a medical screw.
Mar-Lee's clean room opened in November 2001 and, according to Gravelle, has four customers and expects to generate $2 million in medical sales this year.
He did not disclose overall sales.
``Most companies had a bad year, but the one area that is consistent and lucrative is medical. We've had quick response to our new operation and we expect to grow very quickly,'' Gravelle said.
Mar-Lee is based in Leominster, Mass. The company offers engineering, injection molds, production molding and turnkey molding systems.
It also operates molder Priority Manufacturing Corp. in Fitchburg, and Gravelle said the company is adding medical micromolding to its portfolio.