Pushed by a project building precision parts for a bioterrorism warfare device that detects biological agents, small California molder Pacific Plastics & Engineering is launching an expansion to double its manufacturing space and add eight presses.
The Soquel, Calif.-based firm said it snared the project to build housings for the bio-agent detection filters because it was able to mold to very tight tolerances - 0.0001 inch - while keeping up with constant changes required by the complicated project.
Pacific said it could not name the customer, but the devices will go in government offices around the United States, and the injection molder will be manufacturing part of a filter that needs to be changed constantly, said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Harkness.
For Pacific, the $1.75 million expansion will give it 22 presses, and 30,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The new presses will be in a Class 100,000 clean room, and also will handle projects like making tiny trays used in cleaning computer chips, Harkness said Jan. 11 at Medical Design & Manufacturing West, held Jan. 10-12 in Anaheim.
Pacific got the bio-agent project because it was able to overcome problems manufacturing to the tolerances needed to weld three pieces of the filter simultaneously in the customer's automated manufacturing process, said engineering manager Ray Scherer.
``What we're good at is getting in and analyzing problems and finding the root cause,'' he said. ``It's easy to say, but getting the root cause is actually very difficult.''
The company had done similar work with a filter for a drug detection device, but the biodetection device work was challenging because it required Pacific to be flexible enough to handle requirements of the automation system and other aspects of manufacturing, Scherer said. Plus, the device needed Food and Drug Administration approval, which imposed some limits on manufacturing, according to Harkness.
Pacific built the mold for the bioterror project in-house, Scherer said.
The 80-employee firm also is beefing up its joint venture with molder Armorplast Ltd. in Bangalore, India, helping that firm get ISO registered and improve its quality systems, Harkness said. Pacific has microchip customers that want manufacturing closer to their plants in China and the Philippines, she said.
Pacific does not disclose sales, but Harkness said sales grew 55 percent last year.