Custom injection molder Stratus Plastics International Inc. is setting up a large-tonnage operation in Kentucky to meet the need for such presses in the Southern United States.
Stratus, headquartered in Windsor, Ontario, plans to open its satellite plant in Morgantown, Ky., this month, according to Colby Wu, manager of business development for the company. Initial investment for the 165,000-square-foot operation is about $4 million, he said in a phone interview.
Stratus is now installing four injection presses with clamping forces ranging from 400 to 950 tons in Morgantown. Four bigger presses, from 1,430 tons to 3,000 tons, will follow and should be ready to run in January. The presses with clamps of 950 tons and larger will include six-axis robots, while gantry part removal is slated for the lower-tonnage machines.
"In the Southern U.S. there are not many large tonnage presses," Wu explained. Also figuring in the U.S. site decision is the business-friendly environment and growing calls for more U.S. manufacturing to provide parts for U.S.-based OEMs and other customers.
Automotive molding will be Morgantown's main business but Stratus is also seeking work in appliances and diverse other custom molding applications. The Windsor operation's sales are currently 80 percent weighted to automotive, both interior and exterior components. Major customers include Tier 1 companies like Magna International Inc., A.J. Simpson and Flex-N-Gate, as well as Tier 2 suppliers.
Stratus, privately held by the Wu family and other private investors, was founded in 2004 by Colby's father William, who emigrated from China 50 years ago. The company's shareholder makeup qualifies it to promote itself as a minority-owned business, and in the United States as a veteran-certified business.
Stratus is receiving a C$121,000 (US$94,000) grant from the Ontario government to cover 10 percent of selected investments in the Windsor operation. Windsor recently added large tonnage injection presses and extensively upgraded its technology. Robots, energy efficiency, new material handling equipment and an enterprise resource planning system were some of the expenditures qualifying for the grant made under the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund. Government officials announced grants to Stratus and nine other Windsor-area companies at the Stratus Windsor facility on Aug. 10.
The Windsor plant features eight injection presses from 200 to 3,000 tons. Half the presses are 1,000 tons or bigger. Colby Wu said the firm also intends to add a 3,500-tonner next year. The site employs about 30 but Wu expects to add 10 more by early 2018. Morgantown is opening with 15 to 20 employees.
William Wu initially established Stratus as a mold tryout and short production operation. By 2010 he changed the business model to focus on long-production runs and began investing in large presses, always trying to keep up with new technology. Large presses are HPM and Negri-Bossi machines. Its molding capabilities include structural foam, overmolding, gas-assist and two-shot molding. Complex, multiple-gate and multiple-action molds are part of the firm's expertise. Rounding out its services are design, prototyping, assembly, testing and distribution.