Compounding firm Star Plastics is adding capacity and equipment as it looks for acquisitions.
Ravenswood, W.Va.-based Star recently installed a new twin-screw extrusion line and plans to add another twin-screw this year, CEO Don Wiseman said in a Feb. 17 phone interview.
"We've been growing like crazy," added Wiseman, an industry veteran who joined Star in September. "We're still trying to get our backlogs [of orders] down."
Much of Star's new demand is coming from the electrical and electronics market, where the firm's compounds are used in power boxes and similar items. The two new extruders are part of an overall $5 million investment this year that will include mixers and blenders, as well as a pilot line, renovations to the firm's headquarters and a customer experience center.
The customer center will include moldflow simulations and molding machines to allow customers to learn more about the firm's specialty compounds, Wiseman said. Star has plenty of room to grow, with 450,000 square feet of combined space at plants in Ravenswood and nearby Millwood, as well as land that can hold 200,000 more square feet of manufacturing space if needed.
In a news release, officials said that the investment comes "as the company commits to major growth within its current market space to support current and new customers." The new extruder is the firm's largest to date. It will improve production rates and triple capacity in anticipation of continued long-term growth, they added.
Star also plans to introduce more product offerings and become a full-service supplier of compounded engineering-grade resins, officials said. Additional polymer types will open the door to new markets and product development for Star, allowing the firm to offer a wider range of glass-filled and composite materials.
The new equipment also will further support Star's growth with Italian compounder Lati as it makes that firm's materials in North America. In the release, Star founder Doug Ritchie said that the new extruder "is an exciting investment for us. … We're eager to offer [Star's] customers even greater access to more advanced engineering compound grades."
Chicago private equity firm Akoya Capital Partners acquired Star in August for an undisclosed price. Akoya's current portfolio includes Beacon Manufacturing Group, which does some injection molding work, and Trinity Technology Group, which makes specialty fluoropolymer film.
Akoya officials said at the time that they plan to use Star to make more acquisitions. Wiseman said Feb. 17 that Star intends to make at least one acquisition this year.
"We want to expand our footprint and are looking at three or four good [acquisition] candidates," he added. "We're still investing and want to find the right companies to expand our capacity by polymer or by market."
Ritchie founded Star in 1988. The firm does compounding work in polycarbonate, ABS and other engineering resins, with a focus on flame-retardant grades. In addition to custom compounding, the firm also offers toll compounding services.
Star employs about 175 worldwide, operating the two plants in West Virginia. The firm also has licensing and production partnerships in China.