Bushwacker Inc., a Portland, Ore., maker of fender flares and other accessories for pickup trucks, cars and Jeeps, is adding twin-sheet pressure forming by purchasing a used thermoforming line.
The Kiefel machine, with a maximum forming area of 7 feet by 9 feet, is coming from a large automotive thermoforming operation.
Bushwacker thermoforms its automotive accessories, sold both as aftermarket items and direct to some automakers.
With the equipment, Bushwacker will be able to do twin-sheet pressure forming, and there are lot of products in the automotive world that can be produced that way, said engineering manager John Hollen.
FoxMor Group, a plastics manufacturing consulting firm in Wheaton, Ill., acted as the go-between to link up Bushwacker with Ken Freeman, a self-styled practitioner of what he calls surgical liquidation.
Freeman's Michigan company, ICR-Onsite, salvages industrial machines that are no longer needed. ICR-Onsite's crews try to strip off usable components on-site, then move the machine out and scrap it.
Sometimes the machines, or the scrap metal, goes to buyers in Mexico or China. But Freeman, a passionate advocate of American manufacturing, doesn't like that. He would rather sell the entire machine to a U.S. manufacturer, giving it a rebirth and fostering U.S. jobs.
Freeman said it's all interconnected: I want to tell you, that piece of scrap don't buy no Fords. But if you can find something in that pile of scrap whether it's a controller that can be repaired, whether it's a hydraulic pump that can be rebuilt that can come back and save some dollars for a U.S. manufacturer that's trying to keep their costs down, and help them be competitive. Then those guys do hire my grandson to mow their lawn. Those guys do go out and buy Ford pickup trucks.
ICR-Onsite, in Ortonville, Mich., works with Industrial Control Repair Inc. of Warren, Mich., which rebuilds robots and controllers.
Freeman's passion comes from a long history in the auto industry. He's seen the ups and downs. He worked at General Motors Co. for 26 years, as a tool and die maker, maintenance supervisor, and finally as plant manager of the factory that made the plastic-bodied Pontiac Fiero. He took a buyout and left GM, then ran some other automotive-related companies.
ICR-Onsite has dismantled the large automotive thermoforming machine and is shipping it to Portland this month. The firm will help Bushwacker install it and start forming parts again. No information is being released on the seller.
Freeman is proud to keep the machine in the U.S. Those guys are great. All our involvement with them has been spectacular. We're excited to be working with them, he said.
Bushwacker does all manufacturing and design in Portland, where the company employs 20 engineers and designers.
David Morgese, owner of FoxMor Group, said his firm has worked with ICR-Onsite for three years, acting as its plastics connection. We've taken a lot of stuff that was going to get chopped and sold as scrap, and find useful homes for it, he said
For Bushwacker, he said the used thermoforming machine is going to give them a leg up for twin-sheet forming. A new piece of machinery that they would need is unbelievably expensive for this size of machine.
FoxMor was founded in 1999 to focus on thermoforming equipment and services. It recently has branched out into other types of processing, including sheet extrusion, injection and blow molding.