Preproduction Plastics Inc. has invested about $600,000 to add two molding machines.
A used, 300-ton Springfield Uniloy multinozzle structural foam press was to begin operating in late August. The machine can handle a 40-pound shot, has an 86-square-inch platen and fits with the firm's processing of engineering thermoplastics for large, low-volume enclosures often requiring high-end cosmetic painting, pad printing and electromagnetic-interference shielding.
The investment of $400,000 included about $250,000 for the 20-year-old machine and $70,000 to move it from Kentucky to Preproduction's plant in Corona, Calif., said Jason Middleton, sales manager.
``We are possibly the only custom molder on the West Coast with this multishot capability,'' he said, adding that some captive molders in the West have comparable equipment.
Management pondered the commitment for months but acceded to the multinozzle needs of customers tired of transporting parts from the East.
Preproduction began operating the other additional machine in early August. Acquired for $200,000, the new, 300-ton Cincinnati Milacron injection molding press has a 76-ounce shot size suitable for making a 25-gallon agricultural nursery box with 21-inch horizontal sides. The customer's market goal: displace wood boxes.
``We needed to cut cycle time,'' Middleton said. Using the same mold, the Milacron cycles a box in fewer than 30 seconds instead of 65 and will save on use of recycled high density polyethylene. ``We may get a quarter-pound off'' the previous weight of 2.2 pounds, he said.
The customer is talking about annual production of 250,000-300,000 of the popular 25-gallon size and perhaps a total of 1 million boxes.
Middleton said business appears to be picking up.
``A couple of years ago, everybody was tightening down,'' but numerous customers appear to be newly energized now, he said. Preproduction aims for jobs requiring structural foam's strength and part-consolidation savings vs. competing sheet-metal designs. Large medical housings account for about 35 percent of Preproduction's business.
Preproduction operates 10 presses with clamping forces of 110-1,200 tons for multi- and single-nozzle structural foam, gas-assist and straight injection molding.
The firm was established in 1980, employs 50 and had sales of $7.2 million for the fiscal year ended July 31. Current-year sales may approach $8 million and Middleton said the firm may need another machine in 2005.
``We have been doing everything to position ourselves to become bigger in the marketplace,'' he said.