June 18, 2018

Arcor's laser focus drives its expansion

HBJ Photo | Gregory Seay
HBJ Photo | Gregory Seay
Gary Francoeur, owner of Arcor Laser Services, is adding new laser tools inside his newest Suffield production facility to keep pace with spiraling orders, especially among medical-device makers.
Gregory Seay

For the second time in a decade, Gary Francoeur has had to make room for his expanding Suffield laser-services operation. And, he worries he may need to again inside of a year.

Francoeur, founder of what is his second manufacturing-services enterprise, Arcor Laser Services, says rising demand for the firm's laser-cutting and metal-joining expertise drove him to lease a 24,000-square-foot former distribution warehouse, less than two football fields down the road from Arcor's own home at 4 Kenny Roberts Memorial Drive. That 12,000-square-foot building opened in 2010.

Into that new space Francoeur says he is adding at least three new hybrid machines — each costing about $500,000 — equipped with both machine tools and a laser capable of highly precisioned metalwork.

In addition, about 10 new workers will join Arcor's 90-person payroll within a year, he said.

A mechanical engineer who still resides in his hometown of Southwick, Mass., a 10-minute drive across the Connecticut border, Francoeur's first brush with manufacturing entrepreneurship occurred in 2004.

He and his brother Michael Francoeur launched Joining Technologies LLC, an East Granby vendor still using electron-beam technology, along with lasers, to bind metals. But their paths eventually split, with each moving on to helm apparently thriving private production enterprises.

While Michael Francoeur was mastering electron-beam technology and serving customers, including Pratt & Whitney, Gary Francoeur looked ahead to what he considered the future of adequately and cost-effectively joining metal to metal.

"I saw an opportunity penetrating aerospace with lasers,'' Gary Francoeur said during a recent sitdown. "They were new technology, but it wasn't quite ready for aerospace."

So, today much of Arcor's work, he said, is on behalf of surgical tool and other medical device manufacturers for which metal components must be shaped, cut and bound to fine tolerances.

Arcor's first laser machine cost $800,000 in 2005, he said. Its newest is four times smaller, 50 percent more efficient, and 60 percent cheaper than the 2005 machine.

"Every three years, the laser technology changes,'' Francoeur said.

The perception of industrial lasers, inside and outside the industry, has come a long way in the last two decades, he said.

"It used to be like, 'ooh, black magic,' '' he said.

Francoeur and Jay Tolo, Arcor's general manager who oversees its day-to-day operations, are mum about Arcor's annual revenues, except to say that in the last five years sales have risen 15 percent to 18 percent annually. Staffing in the same period has doubled, to 90 workers. The Suffield plant has run three shifts, seven days a week since 2015.

"We're making money. It's a profitable business,'' Francoeur said.

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