Tooling and product design firm R&D Integrated Solutions in Plastics has invested £350,000 (US$492,000) to create a product lab at its 32,000-square-foot campus at Sutton-in-Ashfield, England.
The new lab is equipped with a Nissei ASB-70DPH single-stage, injection stretch blow molding machine, and gives R&D its first capability in Europe to run in-house mold trials, sampling and pilot production.
R&D's headquarters and main manufacturing plant are in Lee's Summit, Mo., along with its Leverage Integrated Design consumer packaging design unit.
With the ability to provide first-to-market samples, we can now qualify almost any product, including extreme shapes and extreme specifications in-house, said Alan Tolley, managing director of the United Kingdom operation.
Since 2007, R&D/Leverage, which exports around 80 percent of its tooling to customers in mainland Europe, has doubled the size of its physical footprint.
Tolley said sales last year grew by 22 percent and that the firm is hopeful, even in today's tough market, of seeing growth this year, largely due to expansion into new markets in Western and central Europe.
The investment in the U.K. facility is considerable. It's a lot of money for us as it is not a profit center. But without it, we could not become the stronger and more rounded company we want to be, Tolley said.
The Nissei ASB-70DPH is the most commonly used machine of its kind in the European market, giving R&D/Leverage the opportunity to provide sampling services to the largest number of customers. Tolley said the firm also will be able to offer customers better training support.
R&D's main competitors in single-stage tooling manufacturing are the machine makers themselves, particularly Japan's Nissei ASB Machine Co. Ltd. and Aoki Technical Laboratory Inc. But Tolley said R&D's edge is that it can deliver high-specification tooling in half the time.
While the high-volume beverage sector is focused on two-stage PET production techniques, single-stage injection stretch blow molding is widely used in household and cosmetics sectors and is well-suited to making nonround bottles and container designs without visible neck rings.
Tolley said R&D's new facility will move the firm's European operations in the direction that its U.S. parent pioneered through its Leverage unit.
That effort extended the company's involvement beyond R&D's tool design and manufacturing operations into full-service consumer packaging design.
Part of our plan is to move away from the image of being a toolmaker. Yes, we are one, but we are also a solution provider, Tolley said.
R&D Integrated Solutions was formerly known as R&D Tool & Engineering. The firm changed its name in 2008 to reflect the addition of the Leverage Integrated Design group.