BUFFALO, NY - Confer Plastics in North Tonawanda has been making innovations in the plastic industry for decades. Their recent addition of a large scale blow molder allows them to continue that path of innovation.
Bob Confer, currently a vice-president, is a third generation Confer at the company his grandfather Ray founded in 1973. The company had early success with innovation when Ray invented the flexible fuel funnel, which can be found in almost every garage in the world.
Prior to founding Confer Plastics, Ray Confer invented the, now taken for granted, living hinge. The living hinge can be found in virtually every tool box, tackle box, or take out container.
But the fuel funnel was just an early example of what would become decades of innovation at Confer Plastics.
"Blow molding can be best described as the process you'd use to make a water bottle," said Bob Confer. The process involves melting plastic raw material to a molten state. The molten plastic then drops down as a hollow tube and filled with air which is then pressed together by an aluminum dye to form the mold.
“If you made chocolates as a kid, where's it just the two halves and a hollow body inside, so we cool that plastic and it comes out as a molded product,” said Confer.
The company makes dozens of products for the spa and pool industry, including a patented, safety feature on pool ladders.
“We were trying to figure out a safety feature of this ladder to stop children from going up in a swimming pool when parents aren't around," Confer said.
One of the engineers at Confer Plastics sold antiques on the side and happened to be in possession of an old roll top desk.
Confer continued, “why don’t we use that roll-top feature to the ladder, so this slides down and encloses the treads and a parent can lock it up and a child can't get in there.”
But if you’re not a pool and spa enthusiast, and your hobbies are still aquatic in nature, the company makes a product you throw on top of your car and take with you to any lake or river.
“We helped develop one of the first blow-molded kayaks twenty years ago, prior to that a kayak was made of fiberglass or wood,” said Confer.
While the exact number of kayaks wasn't disclosed, the North Tonawanda plant produces thousands every year for a variety of companies that resell them. The plant recently invested in a new blow molder that stands several stories tall and 65 tons, one of the largest in North America. This will allow the company to make a 15-foot Kayak in minutes.
“From there we can go to other products,” Confer explained, "such as wall panels that could be 15 feet in length and perhaps 60 inches wide."
Confer Plastics already makes panels for dozens of spa companies across North America and their Kayak business has never been bigger.
But innovation is the realization that nothing lasts forever.
“Sooner or later we know the kayak business will dry up," Confer said, "and when that happens we have to adjust and find new products like a consumer product, commercial products for industry or gas markets or military."
With, new investment in equipment and a well-paid workforce of 160 employees, Confer Plastics is positioning its commitment to their legacy of innovation, as well as its future.
To learn more about Confer Plastics, you can visit their website.