Düsseldorf, Germany — Thermoforming Systems LLC is building a $1.5 million expansion onto its thermoforming equipment factory in Union Gap, Wash., and plans to install a thermoforming machine at Michigan mold maker Future Mold Corp.
TSL broke ground in mid-October for a 20,000-square-foot addition, said Roger Moore, vice president of sales. He is the project manager for the expansion. TSL currently has 55,000 square feet of space in the headquarters factory.
“So basically in 10 years, now we have the need for expansion that will give us the ability to increase our production by about 50 percent,” Moore said.
Right now, Thermoforming Solutions has four manufacturing bays, so it can build four machines in various stages of production at any given time.
“We're adding the equivalent of three bays,” he said.
Moore said the expansion will give TSL the capacity to ship about 36 thermoforming machines a year.
The thermoforming lines, to make cups, food service items and other packaging, can run 100 feet long, including the trim press, Moore said. TSL builds the production lines, runs each one off with tooling, then takes it all apart for shipment. That takes a lot of space.
TSL employs 95 people and plans to add more for the expansion.
“It gives us more base for production and gives us efficiencies,” Moore said.
At the same time, TSL is teaming up with Future Mold to place a Low Flex 3.0 thermoformer at the thermoforming mold maker's factory in Farwell — near the thermoforming capital of Beaverton, Mich. TSL is building the machine now and plans to ship it at the end of the second quarter of 2017, Moore said.
Future Mold is building a 7,000-square-foot addition in Farwell, with higher ceilings than its main 36,000-square-foot factory to house a showroom for the new machine, according to Mike Otto, Future Mold's vice president.
The mold maker hired Jim Martin, who has 30 years of thermoforming experience, to be responsible for the Low Flex 3.0.
The thermoformer is a prototyping machine for running trials, but it has the same design as a full-production machine, Moore said.
“When you look at the pounds consumed by thermoformers in North America, the majority of it is consumed in-process by formers producing disposable food packaging,” Moore said. “When you look at the products, there's not really a prototype machine out there that completely replicates all of the product that's being produced out there.”
The Low Flex 3.0 is big enough, with enough depth of draw to make large cups, and it has independent servo-driven plugs. “Our focus is to make a prototype machine that has all the identical features of these big machines that were used in production,” TSL's Moore said.
Both companies gain from the partnership. For the Washington-based Thermoforming Solutions, having a machine showroom in Michigan makes it easier for customers to see the technology closer to the action in the heart of thermoforming expertise.
Future Mold has not had its own mold-trial machine in-house before. Otto said the company takes molds out to local thermoformers for trials and mini production runs.
Having the Low Flex 3.0 also will allow for customers to work with Future Mold on prototypes and more easily discuss molds for specific packaging designs. Otto said material manufacturers also can try out new formulations on the line.
The showroom will include the TSL thermoforming machine, Tria granulating equipment for recovering in-line scrap and a DJS automation system. Future Mold also will install two of its lip rollers.
“We're calling it a lab line or show line,” Otto said. “It's a development line for us, and it's a showpiece for them to bring people in. It will be used for us to support our customers.”