Irwin Research & Development Inc. is adding a 36,000-square-foot building to its Yakima, Wash., complex.
The firm has invested $2 million in land and construction, said President Jere Irwin. By early spring, the new space will accommodate additional machine assembly, turnkey projects and an improved research and development area.
For display in the new building, the firm plans to repurchase and refurbish an Irwin 24S, one of the firm's first production thermoforming machines.
Irwin founded the firm in 1966, and the company shipped its 1,000th thermoforming machine last week. The Model 50 was sent to the Hope Hull, Ala., facility of Genpak LLC, a unit of Jim Pattison Group. Genpak uses numerous Model 50s to form food-service takeout containers from sheets of expanded polystyrene foam, said Ed Rider, Genpak vice president of engineering.
Irwin said competition in the market for thermoforming machinery is fierce. He saw real improvements in equipment on display at the K show in October.
As a prolific inventor and designer, the Yakima native envisions his company's machines handling more downstream processes and incorporating more automation.
``If we make cups, we do the rim rolling and bagging and counting,'' he said. ``We have built quite a few machines that stack and count in a complete line, and we manufacture the Stack Packer'' bagging system and supply an optional Kwik-Loc closure unit.
Product developers are working on a device to splice sheets at the end of a roll. The splicer will be in the market this year, Irwin said.
``Only one-half of our business involves thermoformers,'' Irwin said. ``The remainder is auxiliary equipment,'' including delivery over the years of more than 1,000 Chesaw-brand granulators and an increasing number of machine tools for use globally on Irwin thermoformers.
During 2004, the firm sold 64 tools, mostly for foam applications in foreign markets. Its continuous web machines typically thermoform and trim plates, cups and delicatessen containers in high volumes. The firm's patented, personal-computer-based Ballerina software provides controls on thermoforming machines.
With the new building, Irwin will have a total of 166,000 square feet of space. The firm employs 290 and has annual sales of more than $30 million.