Custom blowmolder Premier Plastics' San Jose CA plant entered the polyethylene terephthalate bottle market for the first time in mid-'94 following the purchase of a single-stage injection/stretch blow-molding machine. This year the company expects to produce about 13 million half-liter bottles on the machine for bottled water customers. "It was a significant step forward for us in that it allows our San Jose plant to produce a product using PET for the first time" notes general manager Jim Campbell. Premier Plastics is one of four core businesses under the umbrella of Tacoma WA-based Premier Industries. Premier Plastics operates two plants one in Tacoma another in San Jose. "Together we account for about 20 percent of the company's volume" Campbell estimates. From its 100-sq-ft San Jose plant Premier operates 14 machines that mold a variety of containers via both injection and extrusion blow-molding methods. Besides PET the molder uses polyvinyl chloride polypropylene high- and low-density polyethylene and modified acrylonitrile resins. Upon customer request the container manufacturer can also label containers (see p. 41) though it isn't yet doing that for its bottled water customers. Paving Premier's path into PET bottle manufacture is a Nissei ASB (Atlanta GA) 650 biaxial orientation stretch blow-molding machine. Actually the Nissei was purchased "for another project in the PET bottle business" says Campbell. "But that didn't come to fruition and we had a heavy investment in a machine that was really driving us. "Fortunately we saw the growth of the bottled water market as a great direction for us to head for customers. There's high demand for the product particularly for our customers who ship water to the Far East. That market is going to show a major increase in demand in the next few years." Premier Plastics serves customers in California Washington Arizona and Idaho. At this moment the molder manufactures only a 500-mL size for water bottles. However that's expected to change. "We'll be making a 1-liter bottle after we install a Nissei Model 300 machine later this summer" says Campbell. "Unlike the 650 which has 10 cavities the 300 has 24. The additional cavitation will permit us to run the smaller bottles on the 300 and the new 1-liter size on the 650. Instead of taking two days to produce a truckload of bottles we'll be able to do it in less than a day. We expect to make 40 million bottles a year at that point." By no means is the acquisition of the 300 meant to slight the 650 machine. On the contrary the 650 "is a flexible machine" says Campbell. "It's a great machine for us and at some point in the future the next logical step for us would be to add a 1 1/2-liter size to complete a 'family' of PET bottles. When we're ready for that we would likely need another 650."