Friday, March 30, 2001

Industry notes: Manufacturing


Parkway in venture with BMI

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Erlanger will be the home of one of just a handful of North American companies using a revolutionary, high-tech metal-molding technology.

        Parkway Products Inc. in Florence, a manufacturer of high-performance plastic parts, has formed a joint venture with BMI Inc., a Palatine, Ill., supplier of engineered components that eliminate electronic “noise.” The new venture, BMI-Parkway LLC, will produce strong, lightweight molded parts from magnesium using a thixotropic molding process, starting this summer.

        Magnesium is lighter than either steel or aluminum and much stronger than plastic, but has been difficult to use in manufacturing, said Alan Ridilla, president of BMI-Parkway and a former manager for GE Aircraft Engines.

        But using the thixotropic process developed by Dow Chemical Co. and Japan Steel Works in the early 1990s, molders have been able to produce durable thin-walled components that are up to 20 times stronger and more rigid than plastic components. They also are easier to recycle. The process basically turns magnesium into a liquid slush that is injected into a molding machine and, at very high temperatures, molds finished parts, he said.

        BMI-Parkway's initial focus will be producing thin-walled, strong components designed to eliminate electronic interference in products such as cell phones, automotive and aerospace parts.

        The joint venture initially will have two molding machines using the thixotropic process and employ about a dozen in a portion of Parkway's Erlanger plant.

        There are only four companies in North America using the process and only about 40 worldwide, Mr. Ridilla said. But as the capabilities of the process catch on, the partners are anticipating some dramatic growth.

        Joe Klunk, Parkway's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the partners' 10-year business plan envisions sales exceeding $50 million through the use of up to 30 machines. Parkway, which marks its 55th anniversary in April, has seven plastic molding plants including the Erlanger facility and another plant off Hamilton Avenue, north of Mount Healthy. The company has annual revenues of $40 million.
       

AK Steel in talks with Kawasaki

        AK Steel Corp. has begun discussions with Kawasaki Steel Corp. of Tokyo to establish a research agreement particularly aimed at the automotive market.

        The Middletown steel maker said the agreement with Kawasaki, which still holds a small stake in the company, could involve exchanging research and technology aimed at expanding both companies' automotive steel business.

        More than half of AK Steel's annual flat-rolled steel shipments are to the auto and light-truck market.
       

Free workshop April 12 at TechSolve

        The growing use of collaborative engineering in manufacturing will be the focus of a free workshop April 12 at TechSolve in Bond Hill.

        Joe Malloni, director of corporate strategy development at Structural Dynamics Research Corp., will discuss how manufacturers are demanding and getting more innovation from their suppliers. The session begins at 9:30 a.m. and is part of a series of meeting aimed at accelerating adoption of electronic business technologies by regional manufacturers.

        Information and reservations: Call 948-2010 by April 6.

        Mike Boyer covers manufacturing for the Enquirer. Have news? Call him at 768-8494, e-mail at mboyer@enquirer.com or fax 564-6991.
       

       



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