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X-Cell nearly doubling in size

Fairview, Pa. — X-Cell Tool & Mold Inc., a mold maker in northwestern Pennsylvania, is nearly doubling the size of its plant in a $1.8 million expansion.

Construction crews are working on a 20,000-square-foot addition to X-Cell's 25,000-square-foot headquarters plant in Fairview, near Erie, Pa. "It should be done before the end of the year," said Brian Dippel, operations manager.

"The addition is going to be for both tooling and molding," Dippel said. "Things are pretty tight right now. If you have something come in, you've got to find a place to put it. We're at capacity."

The expansion includes 7,500 square feet for mold building, equipped with a 5-ton overhead crane. Another 12,500 square feet, with a 10-ton crane, is for the molding and mold sampling area.

X-Cell makes a diverse range of injection molds, including insert molds, tooling for liquid silicone rubber and metal injection molding and molds for reel-to-to-reel molding. The company employs 55 people — including four mold designers — and generates sales of $10.2 million, according to the most recent Plastics News ranking of mold makers.

Markets for X-Cell molds include medical, electronics and telecommunications, caps and closures, and consumer products. Medical tools are the fastest growth area for X-Cell and are used for applications such as arthroscopic surgery, Dippel said.

"The market that we build molds for has shifted now, and we're mainly medical now. I would say 80-85 percent of what we build is medical," he said.

Since late last year, X-Cell also has invested about $1 million in new metalworking equipment, including two wire EDMs — a Sodick and a Seibu — a five-axis Yasada CNC machine equipped with a 120-position robot; two Okuma lathes and a Okamoto wet grinder.

Bill Bregar X-Cell is adding 7,500 square feet to its Pennsylvania facility.

Several machining centers have automatic tool-change pallets, so a machinist can load electrodes into the system and it can run on its own. X-Cell also does laser engraving and texturing.

X-Cell began molding years ago, Dippel said. Now the company runs seven injection presses —with nameplates from Toshiba, Nissei and Arburg — in clamping forces from 7-390 tons.

The injection molding machines are mostly used for mold trials and validations, but the company also does some low-volume production at customer request, Dippel said. Sometimes X-Cell will mold the first several hundred parts on a new mold, then ship the mold and parts to the customer, he said.

During a recent visit to X-Cell, the company was molding a medical part in a portable clean room.

Dippel said X-Cell will add some injection presses when it completes the addition, but officials don't know the exact number yet. Plans call for a traditional injection press and another one, with two-shot capability that has a built-in Grosfilley indexing rotary mold system, he said.

X-Cell partners with the French mold maker J.P. Grosfilley SAS. At NPE 2018, they teamed for a demonstration at Milacron Holding Corp.'s booth to run a two-shot, double-walled drinking cup on a Quantum Toggle 260 injection press.

X-Cell is certified for medical molding under ISO 13485. The tool shop is ISO 9001.

X-Cell began in 1996 in a small rented space in Erie, which it quickly outgrew, prompting several moves for more space. In 2002, the owners bought a 10,000-square-foot building in Erie, when it sales hit $2.5 million.

Then an economic slowdown hit the mold making industry, forcing X-Cell to lay off most of its employees. Ron Novel offered to buy out his partner, then focused the company's efforts in marketing X-Cell. Business improved and the company recalled the employees.

Novel is president and owner today.

In 2005, X-Cell hired a sales representative and continued to gain new customers.

The company purchased the current building in Fairview, moving there in mid-2015.

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» Publication Date: 08/10/2018

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