Plastikos Inc. and its sister company, Micro Mold Inc. will build a 17,000-square-foot expansion that includes Class 10,000 clean rooms for injection molding and assembly and packaging operations, as the custom molder in Erie, Pa., continues to expand into medical parts.
The clean rooms will measure about 6,000 square feet, according to Philip Katen, president and general manager. The exact dimensions are not final yet, but company officials believe the addition will house one of the largest Class 10,000 clean rooms in the plastics industry. The molding room will hold eight new injection molding presses. The facility also will have a medical-related toolroom, quality control and office and meeting space.
The target completion date is the first quarter of 2015. A Class 10,000 clean room has an ISO 7 designation.
“It's a huge new chapter” in Plastikos' history, Katen said. The writing of that chapter began in 2011, when Plastikos launched a small Class 10,000 clean room. Founded in 1978, Plastikos has focused on electrical connectors, molded from liquid crystal polymers. Then in recent years, the company added medical customers — starting with a big mold transfer project from a major medical customer.
Three Arburg presses are located outside the small clean room, equipped with clean-air modules above the clamping area. Molded parts move through a sealed conveyor into the room, where gowned-up employees inspect, assemble and package the parts.
That three-press clean room will remain in operation after the expansion, Katen said.
Dan Snyder, technical sales engineer who handles medical business, stressed that connectors will remain Plastikos' major market. For medical, he said, Plastikos will stay true to its strengths and make small, tight-tolerance parts, such as key components for drug delivery pumps and surgical eye care and blood filtration.
“We have no intentions of leaving what are key niches and moving away from our electric connector market,” Snyder said. “The goal is to diversify into other markets like medical, and oil and gas, but just stay focused on that small precision, highly engineered-driven type of components.”
Plastikos has been standardizing on Arburg injection presses in recent years, but Katen said no final purchase orders for injection presses have been issued yet.
Plastikos announced the plant expansion on June 25. The company's current building measures 45,000 square feet. Katen declined to say how much the investment will cost.
“Our fiscally conservative, organic growth strategy has enabled us to make the necessary capital investments throughout our history to support the growth of our customers in their respective industries,” Katen said.
The expansion is spurred by new medical projects for Plastkos and Micro Mold this year and next. Officials project that Plastikos' total production capacity will increase by more than 30 percent once the medical expansion is in full production.
Plastikos had $18 million in sales for the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 2013, according to Plastics News ranking of injection molders. Katen said medical now accounts for about a quarter of total sales.
Snyder said Plastikos has medical customers across the country. But he said getting into medical molding is not easy, and it takes time. “It starts out a bit slow and steady. A lot of medical device OEMs can be slow to change. So if there's an opportunity that comes up with small precision molding work, usually they'll start us up with one or two jobs, and then you have to show them what you're made of before you advance to higher-volume work,” he said.