Piper Plastics Inc. (Chandler, AZ) broke ground on Nov. 13 on its new 90,000-square-foot North American Research and Development Tech Center in Mesa, AZ, which will consolidate the current Chandler and Gilbert, AZ, locations. A subsidiary of Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., Piper Plastics is a global supplier of high-performance polymer materials and precision machined plastic components and assemblies.
According to a news item in AzCentral.com, this will be Mitsubishi Chemical’s first advanced materials facility in Arizona, and represents an investment of $10 million. Piper Plastics serves the aerospace, electronics and medical markets, among others.
Piper Plastics has developed a proprietary high-pressure molding technology that yields near-net-shape polymers up to 2 inches thick without porosity, voids or sinks, according to information on the company website. The process, which uses molding equipment designed and developed by Piper Plastics, allows the company to mold high-performance thermoplastics, filled or unfilled, with isotropic mechanical properties.
One of the company’s materials, KyronMAX, is a structural thermoplastic that Piper Plastics claims outperforms the mechanical strength of long-fiber thermoplastic compounds and bridges the gap between conventional injection moldable filled polymers and expensive lay-up composites.
Randy White, President of Piper Plastics and son of the founder of the company, said Piper Plastics will be moving its 135 employees to the new facility once it is operational in June 2019. He also expects to hire additional employees to bring the workforce to a total of 200 people.
White told PlasticsToday that while the company is moving to an area that contains a lot of aerospace and electronics companies such as Boeing and Intel, about 50% of the company’s business is in medical devices. “The same PEEK material that we [use for] thick near-net shapes for aerospace and Intel is implantable grade for spinal replacement parts,” said White. “We extrude and injection mold implantable PEEK.”
White attributes much of the company’s success to a good employee retention record: Many employees have 30-plus years with the company. “They have a lot of knowledge and that helps,” White said. “We’ve been lucky to enjoy great relationships with customers, as well. They push us to explore new technology because most of the new projects we engage in are customer driven. We perform research and develop technology improvements for actual products for a specific customer, but the R&D investment soon pays for itself in future manufacturing. We all win.”