Made in the Berkshires | Apex Resource Technologies: The new directions for plastics' applications
Photo Gallery | Apex Resource Technologies
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire County has a long history of developing innovative plastics applications for a variety of uses, and Apex Resource Technologies is continuing that trend.
Inside the firm's facility in the Downing Industrial Park off Hubbard Avenue, Apex manufactures plastic implants for the medical industry that are used in hundreds of surgeries each year. The company also makes products for major companies like Johnson & Johnson.
This wide variety of technologically complex plastic products are made by state-of-the-art injection molding techniques that can create everything from surgical screws and anchors to dental tools.
"Primarily, companies will come to us when they want something realized," said Apex CEO Donald Rochelo. "They come to us with anything from a sketch to a more well-developed program."
The company thrives by offering solutions to customers' problems.
"I have a saying that we have the capability of extracting something from someone's head and making it," Rochelo said.
Rochelo founded Apex in 1983. Today, the company has about 75 employees. Apex moved into its current facility, which has about 42,000 square feet, in July 2014.
Member of the BIC
A privately-owned company, Apex is one of the many organizations that have become members of the Berkshire Innovation Center, a 20,000 square foot technology and training center that will be located at the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires.
A funding gap in the BIC's actual and estimated building costs has held up the structure's construction, but groundbreaking could take place by the end of June. Under that scenario, the BIC would open during the second quarter of 2017, BIC board members have said. The structure is considered to be a key piece of the 52-acre business park's development.
Most of Apex's business consists of implantable products, Rochelo said, but employees also make specialized packaging and tools.
The anchors and screws that Apex manufactures are used during surgical procedures to either repair broken bones or to correct ligament damage like torn rotator cuffs in shoulders, and anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) in knees.
Apex's products are made with various types of plastic resin and are "bioabsorbable," meaning they're designed to breakdown in the body after a few years. They've replaced the traditional surgical screws that are often made from metals like titanium.
Surgical tools include plastic devices that are designed to "deliver" a screw or an anchor into either bone or tissue, and sterile blister packaging.
Apex manufactures its surgical products in the company's "clean room", a facility that provides an environment free of dust and contaminants. Nine plastic injection machines, nine material dryers and two oil heaters for processing high-heat plastic resin are located in the clean room.
The plastics industry has long been a staple of the Berkshire economy, but Rochelo said new technologies being utilized by companies in this sector have led to the creation of these more complex, cutting edge products.
"It's never been more sophisticated as it is in terms of equipment required to make the products and to even build the molds," he said.
The new equipment requires a skilled workforce with a background in engineering and other mechanical skills to run it. Injection molds are now created with state-of-the-art CAD software.
A strong attention to detail is also required because some materials, like small screws, are manufactured with a great deal of precision.
Like other local companies, Apex is willing to train employees in these advanced techniques once the company finds the right people.
"We've taken people who are maybe a year or two out of college," Rochelo said.
Those employees start in entry level jobs, but "when you see promise in someone, you need to keep them stimulated," he said. "If you stop that process, they'll look for something else."
Local employers need to continue training their employees for jobs in the future workforce, and keep hiring workers locally, he said.
Continuing to create these high quality products will also create more manufacturing positions. Advanced manufacturing is growing in the United States as buyers continue to look for more sophisticated products.
"In the last five or so years, I've seen a lot of work come back from China," Rochelo said. "Think about the changes that creates."
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979
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