When Carlisle Engineered Products Inc. and thermoformer Stack Pac Corp. first teamed up, they produced an award-winning part.
Now, seeing potential for the partnership, Carlisle has purchased the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company.
The companies announced the deal, for undisclosed terms, Jan. 14.
Stack Pac and Carlisle worked together to make a rocker panel decorated with a dry film in-mold paint replacement that won the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Division award for best exterior plastics program in 2002. Carlisle provided the engineering and program management support and Stack Pac did the thermoforming.
``There has been a lot of interest generated,'' said David Ulrich, sales director for Carlisle, based in Crestline, Ohio. ``That rocker panel was our introduction to the thick-film process, and it's grown to the point where we believed it was beneficial to move forward.''
With Stack Pac and its estimated $5 million in annual sales, Carlisle also adds to its product portfolio. It already has injection molding, blow molding, extrusion and thermoset processing operations as part of its $1.8 billion in annual sales. Stack Pac opens Carlisle to a range of low-cost, nonpaint applications, said technical director Ed Crowe.
``It's certainly available for rockers, for body side moldings, for front and rear fascias in development,'' he said. ``It's a low tooling investment, a few secondary assemblies and then just trim it and go.''
The thermoformed parts offer automakers a color-matched decorative trim without the cost associated with a full paint line, Crowe said.
The system has its limits at this time in terms of shapes and uses, but is improving and already offers some cost benefits over traditional injection molded and painted parts. The system is popular with automakers that want to differentiate their vehicles, selling versions of a popular brand that may sell only 40,000 or 50,000 vehicles.
``Film is going to be design-dependent,'' he said. ``It's not for everything, but there are enough very feasible applications out there.''
Stack Pac is small, with about 20 employees now, but Crowe noted there is room for growth under Carlisle. The firm also may open thermoforming operations at its other plants. Under Carlisle, the business will continue serving its existing customers outside the auto industry - including packaging and medical specialties - but will focus on exterior vehicle applications, Crowe said.