Dielectrics Inc., a Chicopee, Mass., maker of plastic medical products such as air casts and bladders, plans to establish its first presence in Asia with a factory in Xiamen, China.
The small, privately owned company plans to open the facility later this year, in a joint venture with an unnamed Taiwanese company, which will supply the factory, logistics and employees. Dielectrics will contribute technology, technical expertise and equipment, said Christopher Nesbitt, Dielectrics's chief operating officer.
The company did not disclose the size of the investment. Xiamen is located along China's south central coast.
Although Dielectrics is mainly a medical manufacturer, the China plant will manufacture a consumer product and will likely grow to 50 employees in the first year, he said.
Dielectrics, which has 250 employees in Chicopee, is not moving existing business to Asia, and will not have any layoffs in Massachusetts as a result of the new facility, Nesbitt said.
``We see this as synergistic, not cannibalistic,'' he said. ``We clearly are going to do everything possible to maintain U.S. employment levels. We see this effort as a key component in maintaining employment levels.''
It's the firm's first venture outside the United States, and represents a decision it made 18 months ago to explore more aggressively offshore, Nesbitt said. He said the firm sees the Chiba plant as broadening its customer base, letting the contract manufacturer compete for new work that it could not have previously gotten because of price or logistics issues.
The company's key technology is radio frequency welding. It takes proprietary vinyl and polyurethane film formulations and fashions them into products such as mattress surface and support cushions for wheelchairs and car seats, as well as inflatable boots for protecting injured knees and joints, and dissection balloons for hernia repair devices.
The company has more than 20 patents, and much of that technology will be brought to China, although work that is automated in Massachusetts will be done manually in China, Nesbitt said.