Preston, Iowa-based thermoformer Plastics Unlimited Inc. will complete a 30,000-square-foot addition this fall to increase production capacity for composite parts manufactured with a patented process that uses no tools.
Construction is underway for the expansion, which will bring the facility to 130,000 square feet and add 15 positions. With the expansion, the company will have nearly 100 employees.
Founded in 1993 by Terry and Nancy Kieffer, who housed the business in a shed on their Preston farm, Plastics Unlimited has expanded several times. The new space will be used to take on more projects and meet growing demand for the company's Tool-less Engineered Composites (TEC) process, which combines the speed of thermoforming with the strength and durability of composites.
The TEC process bonds a thermoformed plastic surface layer — often ABS — to a structural layer of fiberglass. The plastic gives the product a high-gloss surface that resists impacts, chemicals and UV light while the fiberglass gives it strength and the ability to withstand a wider temperature range.
Customers in the agriculture and construction markets are turning to the TEC process in growing numbers, Dakota Kieffer, sales and marketing director, said in a phone interview.
"The major appeal of TEC is that fiberglass is a thermoset that can go to cooler temperatures than ABS and be impactable, and it can go to higher temperatures without melting," Kieffer said.
In addition to new projects, the expansion will increase production space for customers, such as John Deere, Harley-Davidson and Procter & Gamble, and add five-axis CNC machines. Jobs will be created in the subassembly, CNC and thermoforming operations, Kieffer said.
With $14 million of thermoforming sales, Plastics Unlimited ranks No. 85 among North American thermoformers, according to Plastics News' latest ranking.