Bellefonte business completes fourth expansion project, looks to add new jobs

An expansion at Piezo Kinetics will bring the Bellefonte facility to more than 50,000 square feet.
An expansion at Piezo Kinetics will bring the Bellefonte facility to more than 50,000 square feet.

Piezo Kinetics Incorporated, a specialty piezoelectric manufacturer, is nearing the end of its fourth expansion project — adding 10,000 square feet onto its Bellefonte plant and creating additional employment opportunities.

Piezoelectric ceramics — materials that convert pressure, movement and vibration into electric signals — are found in computers, automobiles, appliances, medical equipment, instruments and telecommunication devices. Located at 660 E. Rolling Ridge Drive, PKI opened in 2005 and manufactures piezoelectric crystals and materials that help electric instruments function. The 20,000-square-foot expansion will bring the company to over 50,000 square feet in size, Sales and Marketing Manager Todd Baney said.

Founded in 1979 as Nittany Piezo Ceramics, the company is owned by the New Jersey-based Crest Group, the largest privately owned multimillion dollar ultrasonic technology company in the world. Baney said the company serves a number of local businesses and collaborates on projects with Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory.

“In this area, there’s quite a few piezo manufacturers or companies that take piezo ceramics and make other devices,” Baney said. “We serve well over 200 ... we have a very large customer base. It’s broken down into several markets.”

Industrial and medical industries are PKI’s largest customer base, using piezo ceramics to make switches, robotics, fans, alarms, cleaners, blood pressure cuffs, fetal heart monitors, ultrasounds and pumps.

“(Customers) give us a blueprint of how they want something done, and we make it to their specifications,” Baney said. “We make everything from plates to rings and discs. (That is) the typical geometry of our products.”

PKI tracks its sales in two ways — booking and shipment. Baney said the company has had “record sales” for the last two years and is on track to continue the trend this year. In 2017, PKI bought the ceramics division of Channel Technologies Group after it filed for bankruptcy.

“Just from that alone, we’ve seen a 10% growth in our sales from buying the competitor,” Baney said. “But on top of that, our business has grown by 25% in total, so to keep up with demand, we needed a second production line.”

With 66 employees, Baney said PKI will likely add more opportunities to work on the second production line, estimating between five to 10 new hires.

Manufacturing large parts takes more time, so when the expansion is done and equipment has been moved in, Baney said there will be extra space to build large and small products.

“We’re looking to expand, definitely our second shift if not our first shift as well,” Baney said. “We obviously can’t have people in two different places at once, so after we get equipment online, there will be opportunities for employment.”

With the interior walls, doors and windows in place, Baney said PKI is putting the finishing touches on the structure but hopes to have the facility up and running this fall.

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.