Chemtech Plastics expands capabilities and capacity

Chemtech Plastics has purchased a second building and lot adjacent to the company's current location in Elgin, IL, with plans to add 12-14 injection molding machines as innovative molding and assembly cells spur growth for the custom molder. The building will provide an additional 60,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space. Chemtech currently operates out of a 70,000-sq-ft facility.

The company also added a second, fully automated manufacturing cell to insert mold reel-fed circuit traces and assemble a key component of the popular robotic surgical device. The company's first in-line molding cell, built in 2011, consists of a 110-ton press that is fully automated. The line has eight separate components including a metal insert that is reel-fed, stamped and placed into the mold utilizing a six-axis robot. The parts are automatically inspected at each stage of the assembly process.

"As the popularity of robotic surgical procedures has increased, we've added the second cell to keep up with demand for this product," Derek Popp, president of Chemtech Plastics, told PlasticsToday.

"We also have just taken delivery of a 3-shot, 180-ton Arburg molding press that was purchased to support production of a precision automotive sensor," Popp said. That brings the company to 40 injection molding machines ranging from 28-400 tons and four vertical rotary presses. "We're seeing more demand for higher volumes and added automation," Popp added.

Popp told PlasticsToday that the goal in purchasing the new building is to move the raw material inventory that is currently being stored in the main facility into the newly purchased building, and add another 12-14 molding presses. "Originally we sized this building to accommodate 55-60 injection molding machines, so when we move our raw material inventory, we'll have more room for the additional molding presses we need," said Popp. The company employs approximately 120 people.

Chemtech serves a variety of customers across many markets including automotive, medical, electronics, optics, lighting, and communications. The company recently received the 2013 Supplier of the Year award from a $1 billion, multi-national automotive electronics customer.  "We have been supplying this customer at zero PPM for several years, while producing 2-shot and other intricate, high-tech parts," added Popp. Plant-wide, the company is at 18 PPM over the last year.

"We do a lot of very difficult molding using complex, multi-slide molds that run exotic materials," Popp explained. "Our strength is engineering, and we try to get involved in a project as early as possible. That's where we can really be successful in increasing quality and driving out cost." Additionally, the company provides a secondary operations including pad printing and assembly in-house, and painting and chrome plating with outside vendors.

To help implement and integrate the extensive automation Chemtech Plastics uses, the company recently hired an automation engineer. "Our founder and CEO Ragnar Korthase is a tool maker by trade, so we've always had a lot of this particular expertise at Chemtech. But hiring an automation engineer has allowed us to collaborate with automation houses and develop our automation cells with our own team," Popp said.  "We have a pretty specific skill set here and because many of us are moldmakers by trade, we have a unique way of looking at things due to that background."

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