Injection molder Ironwood Plastics Inc. boasts that it takes on the tough jobs other companies cannot or will not do, with insert molding, overmolding and continuous reel-to-reel operations.
And those precise projects have helped it expand, even in tough times.
The family-owned firm has added six Arburg Inc. presses to its Two Rivers, Wis., facility during the past year, with plans to add four this year. Its headquarters operation in Ironwood, Mich., is undergoing a 10,000-square-foot expansion with room for as many as three new presses.
Ironwood also has struck a deal to build its third plant, in Houghton, Mich. Construction could begin within the year.
``We feel we're going to need more capacity in a short amount of time,'' said Scott Stephens, vice president of administration. ``The timing is just up in the air.''
The planned Houghton site is in a state Renaissance Zone, which offers special tax benefits for both businesses and residents. The first phase calls for as many as 16 presses, with a maximum capacity of 32.
Construction of that factory will depend on how quickly the company reaches the capacity provided through the expansions, Stephens said.
Ironwood has purchased horizontal and vertical Arburg presses in sizes of 200-300 tons. It also has added 15 employees at Two Rivers and expects to add 10-15 people at Ironwood.
The firm has in-house design and toolmaking. The Ironwood mold-making shop will serve the new Houghton plant.
The bulk of the firm's growth has been in the automotive industry, with overmolding programs for fuel systems, Stephens said.
``We've really tried to focus on what we call `China-proof' projects, things that aren't easily done by competitors, especially abroad. We really try to work within a special niche,'' he said.