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Erie Firm Gives Equipment to Penn State Behrend Plastics Lab

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An Erie company has donated an injection-molding machine to the School of Engineering at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

It took some work to get it there. The machine weighs about 3.5 tons. It has been fitted with a Star robot, also donated by the company – Plastikos Inc. – and its sister business, Micro Mold Co. The robot interface will allow the machine to be used in automation classes, which are held in the Plastics Engineering Technology lab in the Jack Burke Research and Economic Development Center.

The equipment will give students experience on tools that are used in production environments. That should give them an advantage at graduation as they enter the job market, said Rob Cooney, the manufacturing manager at Plastikos, which produces parts for the military, automotive, electronics and medical industries.

Plastikos replaced the machine with a newer electric model. The company regularly upgrades its equipment to meet the changing needs of customers.

“It ran very well for us,” said Cooney, a 2001 graduate of the plastics engineering technology program at Penn State Behrend. “And in a lab setting, it will still do well. But our higher-volume production demands from customers are a little bit beyond it.”

The machine is equipped with several advanced options, including a core-pull system and eDART, which monitors consistency in molds. “Not all of our machines have these options, so it gives us a good deal more flexibility in the types of molds we can run here,” said Lucy Lenhardt, senior research associate.

That, in turn, can benefit Plastikos. The company already has hired seven graduates of Penn State Behrend’s plastics engineering technology program. Cooney and others at the company hope to offer more students internships and co-op experiences, which often lead to full-time employment.