Nestled at the edge of a ravine on the south side of Canton, Prime Engineered Plastics Corp. for 14 years has quietly churned out products for a diverse range of clients in a variety of plastics resins.
The injection molder, with 15 employees and a 14,000-square-foot plant, makes parts for the medical, furniture, electronics, industrial, window-accessory, retail, security, lawn and garden, toy and hobby, and heating and cooling industries.
Its annual sales are about $1.5 million, Pat Nolan, the firm's owner and president, said during a March 16 plant tour.
Perhaps the best-known product featuring Prime components is the EdenPure portable heater whose pitchman is the popular television personality Bob Vila. Prime molds the EdenPure's front and back covers and several other components, including the internal fan.
The heaters, marketed by Suarez Corp. Industries in North Canton, Ohio, since 2004, originally were made in China. Over time, production of most of the 1 million-plus heaters Suarez sells annually was shifted to northeastern Ohio companies.
We worked with [Osram] Sylvania to develop the 500-watt quartz bulb that sits inside it. The [Chinese-made version of the EdenPure] used six 250-watt bulbs. We simplified it, Nolan said.
Prime's latest project is developing production of an automated medication-dispensing system, called EasyMeds 123, that was developed by Ohio natives George Monter and Mike Nichols.
The device contains a plastic wheel inside a lockable plastic cover. The wheel, which can be pre-filled by a pharmacist and shipped to the customer's home or health-care facility, holds 28 removable pill trays and is set to dispense four packets a day at timed intervals, with the empty containers being stored in a recess on the back of the machine. EasyMeds has been 16 years in the making, Nichols said, and he is working with Nolan to refine the final design.
Pat [Nolan] takes simple things and makes them streamlined. That's the hardest thing in the world to do, Nichols said March 16 in an interview at Prime's plant.
Although he's based in Gardner, Mass. near Leominster, a hugely significant city in plastics' history and former home of the National Plastics Center Nichols said northeastern Ohio is a superior location from which to produce the EasyMeds dispenser.
An Ohio location is ideal. We can ship EasyMeds to approximately 50 percent of the [U.S.] senior population that lives within a 500-mile radius [of Columbus, Ohio, the state capital], Nichols said.
EasyMeds has received queries from health officials in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, about possibly purchasing EasyMeds for use in institutions such as mental-health facilities, he said.
We believe that by getting seniors to take their medications regularly and in the correct doses and eliminating the need for nursing supervision we could save Medicare as much as $42 billion annually, Nichols said.
EasyMeds LLC, the parent company, recently lined up financial backing and plans to move forward this year with production of the dispensers, he said.
The EasyMeds project fits into Prime's history of providing to customers seeking low-cost, high-quality solutions for plastic components, Nolan said.
Trained as a structural engineer, Nolan in the early 1980s made the move to plastics, working for 12 years for DLH Industries Inc., an injection molder and tubing extruder in Canton.
As he approached the age of 40, Nolan said, he wanted to get away from automotive plastics a major focus at DLH and start his own molding business.
I said, 'If I don't do it now, I'm never going to do it,' he said.
Nolan and his brother-in-law founded Prime in 1996 in Tallmadge, Ohio, near Akron, but moved after a few months to a 5.5-acre lot in Canton, thanks in part to a city financial-aid package. Prime's first products were vent covers for the heating and cooling industries.
Today, Prime operates 10 injection molding machines of 75-400 tons: three Milacrons; two Kawaguchi presses; three Van Dorns; and two Newbury machines.
Tooling for Prime is done by Pace Mold & Machine LLC, a firm in nearby Massillon, Ohio, that Nolan described as a sister company to Prime. To handle its molds, Prime placed a portable half-ton gantry crane over a mold layout table. The company also has an area underneath a 1-ton crane that could be developed into a tooling shop.
Nolan said Prime's willingness to work with clients to custom-engineer plastic parts has garnered a lot of unusual work. For example, the firm reengineered drawer glides it molds for one of its clients in the furniture industry. The parts are shorter than the original design, use less plastic, and have molded-in tensioners to allow the drawers more give, allowing for loose tolerances in the assembled furniture.
We made [the glide] so it was smooth top and bottom, so it would slide nicer, and we gave it a nice stop, where before, to remove the drawer, you almost had to be a contortionist, Nolan said.
One of Prime's most unusual products is a vacuum port for a cow-milking device made by Lauren AgriSystems, a division of Lauren International Inc., a profile extruder and injection molder in New Philadelphia, Ohio.
The part, made of super-tough nylon, contains an overmolded stainless-steel ring to give it better balance when hooked up to a cow.
Fitted with a silicone insert, the device is placed over the cow's udder, where it simulates a nursing calf's mouth. At a rate of two vacuum cycles per second, milk flows from the cow downward through the device and is carried away by a hose to a collection tank.
Nolan also is working with Darryl Snyder of Canton, a former client in the heating and cooling industry. Snynder, who suffered a debilitating stroke, has developed two products the Button Angel and the Writing Angel for helping stroke victims and others with reduced use of their hands button their clothes and write with simple movements.
Prime molded polycarbonate prototypes of the implements, and may manufacture more once a marketer is found.
I'm getting to the point where I'd like to focus on just helping people, Nolan said.
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