Canadian Plastics

Special Report – British Columbia: Getting a New Life

By Michael Legault   

There was a time when the mention of electronics molding would invariably bring to mind Comptec International. The Surrey, B.C.-based company was one of a handful of Canadian companies which specializ...

There was a time when the mention of electronics molding would invariably bring to mind Comptec International. The Surrey, B.C.-based company was one of a handful of Canadian companies which specialized in the molding and assembly of components used in a variety of consumer electronic devices, such as keyboards, phones and other products. Comptec was a strong player in this market for many years, developing an arsenal of advanced molding processing technology–insert molding, multi-material molding, over-molding, sublimation printing-to service the needs of its customers. Then those customers disappeared. Today the company is a proprietary and custom molder of swim goggles and eyewear.

“We’ve had a death and rebirth,” says company president Ernie Gourley. “We had to make some difficult decisions to survive, but we feel we’ve landed on our feet.”

Gourley, who was contemplating opening a golf business after leaving the helm at Horn Plastics in Whitby, ON, arrived at Comptec in 2000. Lured by a new challenge in the plastics industry, Gourley weighed, and eventually accepted, Comptec’s proposal to move west and turn around the ailing company. Seeing Comptec’s telecom business evaporating at a rate of about 60% per year, Gourley realized he had to act quickly and move the company in a new direction. The decision resulted in Comptec’s purchase of swim eyewear manufacturer Sharp Plastics in 2001.

With a customer base that included the likes of Adidas, Nike and Leader, B.C.-based Sharp had quietly grown into one of the leading suppliers of swim eyewear in the world. The purchase gave Comptec ownership of Sharp’s numerous patents on swim eyewear products and designs, and instant access to a new and lucrative market. As well, Comptec retained a core team of Sharp employees with expertise in design, sales and production of the new products.


“We’re currently making 2.5 million goggles a year and we have a chance to double that over the next 12 months,” Gourley reports, saying the company anticipates developing and launching an entirely new line of products.

Ironically, while the company’s product line has changed dramatically, Comptec’s experience in multi-material molding, decoration, automation and processing of engineering resins has proved to have useful connections to the production of swim goggles. Goggle lenses are made of polycarbonate and lens gaskets (the part that fits around the eyes) are molded from colored TPEs. In one of the plant’s automated work cells, goggle lenses are injection molded, de-gated, coated with a proprietary anti-fog agent and convection cured. In another area of the plant pad printers are used to emboss goggles with logos and other decorative elements.

Comptec’s facility has 40 injection molding machines and 70,000 sq. ft. of shop floor and office space. At present the plant is running at about 50% of its production capacity, which is why Gourley has made the acquisition of new business one of his top priorities.

Currently 80% of the company’s product is exported to Europe, while the remaining 20% is exported to the U.S. Gourley is interested in tapping new markets, and one that particularly whets his appetite is China.

“We are actively looking for a partner in China,” he says, reporting plans are being worked out to meet with at least two interested groups in China this summer. He says the arrangement of the partnership could take any number of forms, such as agreements to either manufacture, design, purchase or license products.

“China is a huge market and it only makes sense for us to look at entering it. Our proprietary technology and products provide us with a big advantage. We have something we can bring to the table.”


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