By Bret Lanz
K-State News and Communications Services
MANHATTAN — Design assistance provided by the Technology Development Institute at the Kansas State University Carl R. Ice College of Engineering has helped an area manufacturing company to create a new hand sanitizer dispenser and a bottle manufacturing line to meet the need created by the recent supply chain difficulties.
Circle B Manufacturing, Junction City, was awarded a Personal Protective Equipment grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce in late 2020 to assist in procuring the manufacturing equipment needed to produce both a new hand sanitizer dispenser and the bottles needed to fill the dispenser. During the same time period, the Technology Development Insitute was able to provide Circle B with design and prototyping assistance through its Innovation Stimulus Program, which was funded through the Economic Development Administration EDA CARES Act.
As the pandemic was ramping up, new dispensers were nearly impossible to obtain from overseas suppliers and bottles of sanitizer to refill existing dispensers were not readily available — especially to smaller producers in the market. As a result of joining funding streams, Circle B was able to work with the engineering staff at the institute to benchmark competitive dispensers from a variety of suppliers and select the most desirable aspects from each unit to incorporate into a single new design that could be manufactured at their production facilities. In addition to the injection molding machines needed to produce the dispensers, the company was able to acquire blow molding equipment to begin producing bottles of various sizes in large volume.
"We have had great support from a wide range of entities across Kansas to help us bring this concept to reality," said Kenny Burris, vice president of Circle B. "We are hopeful that we can begin to reshore some portion of the manufacturing that has been sent overseas in the past several decades."
Circle B began producing commercial bottles at the end of 2021 and is currently seeking to expand its production for new customers. The company is currently working on completing the tooling needed to begin production of the hand sanitizer dispensers and hopes to have that completed and in production by the end of 2022 as well.