A plan to help area molders gain the attention of the state's medical device industry is already producing results.
``It's been very interesting for me. We were already doing medical devices, but to have access to senior-level purchasing people, that's incredible,'' said John Gravelle, Mar-Lee Cos. president and chief executive officer.
He said that working with the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce as well as MassMedic, the state's medical device industry organization, has helped add new business. That's what the chamber wanted to hear, as it unveiled a resource directory of its precision component makers as part of a Medical Device Connection initiative at MassPlastics in Fitchburg, held Oct. 25-26.
Scott Amos, chamber economic development manager, said that an idea that started at MassPlastics last year has grown to include 40 medical-ready molders. The group is using a $150,000 appropriation from the 2006 state budget to start a marketing campaign to push large original equipment manufacturers for more business.
``Now we have the resources to do the directory and other marketing materials to show what this region is all about,'' Amos said.
Nancy Jackson, a co-director of the program, said it all came about after they surveyed local companies about their capabilities and what industries should be targeted. The consensus was to focus on medical devices.
She added that besides connecting molders and potential customers, the aim is to help the region's companies learn and develop what they need, like ISO 9001 or ISO 13485 certification. The connection also has ties to help with financing and training.
``If a new customer needs white space or a clean room, we have a finance program to help them upgrade,'' Jackson said.
A couple of Massachusetts companies that are taking part are Mar-Lee, based in Leominster, and Injectronics Inc. of Clinton. Both companies have been recently expanding.
Gravelle said that Mar-Lee's medical device business, which the firm started about five years ago, has grown about 25 percent a year.
He said Mar-Lee is molding sophisticated bioabsorbable materials for five different companies. It makes anchors and screws with three machines dedicated to the pricey material, which he noted costs about $22,000 a pound, and must be delicately handled and refrigerated once opened.
``While bioabsorbable is not a big part of Mar-Lee's business, it is a distinguishing capability. If we can do this, everyone knows we can do anything in medical,'' Gravelle said.
Mar-Lee recently converted about 10,000 square feet of warehouse and manufacturing space in its medical building in Fitchburg for use as a clean room for molding noninvasive products. The company also opened a quality control room.
He said that the newly opened clean space is running four machines, but could have 12-16 machines within the next year. Gravelle noted that Mar-Lee has spent $2.5 million on capital equipment for medical and consumer product business this year.
Injectronics sold its automotive business back in May and is focusing more on medical products. The company has molded medical devices for 15 years, according to business development manager John Schwab Jr.
The company employs 65, but Schwab said that it could boost the number to 110 in the next two to three years. Injectronics has a 75,000-square-foot facility in Clinton, where it operates 18 presses, ranging from 80-618 tons.
He said 8,000 square feet of space has been converted for white room projects.
Injectronics has a Class 100,000 clean room operation in a 15,000-square-foot facility in Westborough, Mass. The outfit runs three all-electric machines and plans to double that by the end of 2007.
``We're planning significant investment in infrastructure and machinery over the next six to nine months in both facilities,'' Schwab said.
Schwab said Injectronics has gained ISO 13485:2003 registration to enable it to reach more of the international medical device market.
He said that targeted growth for next year is about 15 percent.
The company makes hand-held cardiac monitoring equipment; biomaterial syringes, plungers and caps; a system for sterilizing operating-room equipment; and blood analyzing products.
Injectronics also makes consumer products, like toothpaste caps, cosmetic packaging and data storage containers.