Plastic molding and tooling specialist Westfall Technik Inc. is answering the call from medical device OEMs who need more North American manufacturing capacity by significantly boosting its clean-room capabilities.
In June, the Las Vegas-based firm completely refitted a brownfield structure and opened it as a 40,000-square-foot facility near Chicago that features three Class 8-certified clean rooms and one white space certified for meeting Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). It further expects the clean rooms, which can accommodate up to 23 injection molding presses, to gain ISO 13485 certification by this September. The GMP-compliant space, meantime, has the room to take up to 15 molding machines. Press sizes will range from 35 to 400 tons in clamping force.
The site also features a fully functional tool room, with dedicated, climate-controlled mold storage space, according to chief operating officer Mark Gomulka.
Additionally, in the past 18 months, Westfall tripled its clean-room space in Riverside, CA; doubled it in Union City, CA; and installed new clean rooms in both New Richmond, Wisc., and in Tijuana, Mexico, he said.
This all is part of growth spree that has seen the firm acquire or launch some 19 businesses in North America in less than four years.
The new site has a molding history, having begun as All West Plastics Inc in Antioch, IL, just northwest of Chicago. Germantown, Wisc.-based custom injection molder and toolmaker MGS Mfg. Group Inc. then bought the plant in 2006, before shuttering it in 2020 to consolidate production in Wisconsin.
Technik bought the shell of the factory and gave it “a total facelift,” and Gomulka says he has hired several experienced employees who had worked at the plant under MGS.
Westfall also plans to install three of its M3 micromolding machines in the Chicago plant, and make it a micromolding center of excellence. The M3 is an all-electric, precision micromolding technology that Westfall acquired when it bought Ontario, Canada-based Mold Hotrunner Solutions Inc. (MHS) in December 2018. The machine can micromold, without waste, highly engineered materials such as bio-absorbable resins into microscopic-sized parts.
Additionally, Westfall is considering shifting production of its NxtBio brand of bioscience laboratory consumables to the new Chicago site. The company in May 2019 acquired Claremont, CA-based NxTBio Technologies, whose product line includes pipette tips, filter tips, tubes and strip tubes, vials, multi-well plates, and related racking systems.
“Ultimately we will be investing millions of dollars in new, all-electric machines for this site,” said Gomulka. While not committing yet to which types of presses they will buy, he said that Westfall’s preferred electric brands are KraussMaffei, Sumitomo, Netstal and JSW.
Westfall’s portfolio of healthcare-related products includes medical devices, pharmaceutical delivery systems, diagnostic tools, and consumer health products. This includes the molding of plastic parts used in Covid-19 diagnostic rapid testing for both home and clinical use.
The new Chicago plant helps to fill out the company’s regional production capacities, notes Gomulka. “This is a necessary location for us, right in the Midwest, in the middle of the medical corridor that runs from Chicago up to Wisconsin.” In the Midwest, the company already operates facilities doing toolmaking in Willernie, MN.; molding in New Richmond, Wisc.; and both tooling and molding in Wakefield, MI, in the state’s Upper Peninsula.