An Illinois-based company that makes tooling for blow molding has purchased the former Wheaton Plastics Co. mold shop in Millville, N.J. - the site of pioneering work in injection blow molding.
The new owner, Big 3 Precision Products Inc. of Centralia, Ill., bought the unit from Alcan Packaging-Plastics Americas. Big 3 plans to make custom tools there.
The Millville site will become Big 3 Precision's center for injection blow mold tooling. Centralia will be the firm's center for injection stretch blow mold tooling. Sales and engineering for both locations will be handled out of Big 3's Blow Mold Tooling Division headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.
``The steady growth in our sales in both injection stretch blow mold, and injection blow mold tooling prompted us to buy the business,'' said Clinton Hyde, sales and engineering manager.
The Millville mold operation employs about 30 in a 52,000-square-foot plant. With the purchase, Big 3 Precision picks up a piece of plastics packaging history. Wheaton Plastics was a pioneer in the injection blow molding process, known as IBM. In 1954, a year after it was incorporated, Wheaton Plastics acquired rights to a Swiss manufacturing process for IBM.
Alusuisse Holding Ltd. of Zurich bought Wheaton in 1996. Then, in 2001, Alcan Inc. bought Alusuisse Holding.
Wheaton was a major blow molder, breaking new ground in packaging. ``You don't get that experience everywhere. People that know how to build these molds aren't working at any corner shop,'' Hyde said.
The mold shop was a captive operation, but Hyde said the building is separate from the Alcan/Wheaton complex.
IBM is known for molding small bottles, but Hyde said the process can make some fairly large containers as well.
Big 3 Precision Products started about 25 years ago as a small mold-making operation. About 10 years ago it branched out, and started making materials-handling racks for the auto industry, Hyde said. The company also started making stamping dies and doing metal stamping in Centralia. Another unit supplies automotive light-bulb assemblies.
Hyde said the Blow Mold Tooling Division is the only part of Big 3 that specifically serves the plastics industry.
Big 3 employs 250 total. About 70 people work in the Blow Mold Tooling Division - 30 in Millville, 40 in Centralia.
Terms were not disclosed for the acquisition, announced Sept. 5.