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Swiss coating company sets up shop in Wilsonville

Ionbond serves local clients like Kershaw, Gerber, Leatherman


by: JOSH KULLA - This $1.5 million Hauzer coating machine is the key to the work done by IonBond in Wilsonville and at other coating plants. The machine evaporates metals, which are then mixed with gases or other elements in a vacuum chamber that allows the compound to coat the metal surface of knife blades and other products. One of Wilsonville’s newest businesses may not have brand name recognition among consumers. But their customers certainly don’t have that issue.

Ionbond International, a Swiss-based company specializing in ceramic coating tools that range from precision medical instruments to firearms and knives, works with some of the biggest names in those fields.

In Wilsonville, the company recently opened a new production facility off Canyon Creek Road. It will serve the needs of Pacific Northwest knife and tool manufacturers who employ Ionbond’s sophisticated coating processes involving PVD (physical vapor deposition), CVD (chemical vapor deposition) and PACVD (plasma assisted chemical vapor deposition) technology.

“We did a similar thing a year-and-a-half ago in the New England region,” said Ton Hurkmans, Ionbond’s North American President. “It’s a firearms (manufacturing) concentration, and we opened a coating center for Sig-Sauer and Remington (in New Hampshire), all these guys, and we wanted to do something like this here.”

Instead of firearms, Oregon, Washington and Idaho feature a host of manufacturers of fine knives and other tools used by outdoorsmen, contractors and many others. IonBond’s customer base in this area includes recognizable names such as Kershaw, Gerber, Columbia River Knife and Leatherman.

“Looking around Portland, let’s say, looking up to the airport, our major customers are Kershaw, Letterman, Gerber, Columbia River,” Hurkmans said. “This is a cutlery valley, that’s what we’ve named it internally. We already service those customers here.”

Joe Pineda is the plant manager at the new facility. He said Ionbond moved its Oregon production line to Wilsonville for the same reasons myriad other businesses have done the same — location, location, location.

“Wilsonville is very strategically located for our main customers,” Pineda said. “We’re doing processing for various knife manufacturers, a half a dozen of them here locally, and we relocated this facility from Bend because it was just too far away from our customer base.”

The warehouse that will serve as Ionbond’s new Wilsonville home is still being assembled, with pallets and shipping crates lining the walls as they wait to be unpacked. At the same time, a pair of $1.5 million coating machines made by Dutch company Hauzer already are hard at work. There are racks of coated knife blades ready for shipping to Kershaw and other companies. And there is plenty of ambition as they company seeks to expand its operations into other manufacturing sectors.

In that regard, Hurkmans said, Ionbond is hoping to find new customers in the medical field. The company operates a coating plant in Rockaway, N.J., that specializes in coating knee implants and a host of other medical appliances and tools.

“We really want to expand further,” Hurkmans said.

At present, the Wilsonville plant has 11 employees running two full shifts. Hurkmans would like to run the machines around the clock in the future, which would mean doubling the current staffing level. And there’s also more space for additional coating machines, should the company move in that direction.

“We have two machines and space for four machines,” Hurkmans said. “So if the business really grows, we can double that capacity again.”

Ionbond is a case study in how the global economy now links companies, customers and more across the globe. Formed in Switzerland more than 160 years ago, the company was purchased last year by IHI Corporation of Japan. Ionbond still maintains headquarters in Switzerland, but it has 38 service centers in 17 countries, and 12 coating centers in North America alone, nine in the United States, two in Mexico and one in Canada.

Across that arena, the company is involved in a wide variety of industries, including automotive and racing, medical and surgical tools. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Name a tool with moving parts that make contact with each other and you have identified a potential Ionbond client. The company even coated a special run of roughly 1,000 Olympic torches used at the 2012 Olympic Games in the United Kingdom.

In Wilsonville and the rest of “Cutlery Valley,” though, they’ll be focusing on knives and the needs of local manufacturers.

“One nice benefit of being here is the partnership with our customers,” Pineda said. “It’s truly a hand-in-glove type of thing. We suggest things back and forth and we’re able to act on them almost instantaneously.”

At a Glance

Ionbond is hosting a public open house at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, for anyone interested in touring the plant, located at 25749 Canyon Creek Road, suite 400.

No RSVP is necessary. For information, call 503-404-2000 or visit http://ionbond.com.



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