ERJ staff report (RN)
Ohio − Portage Precision Polymers Inc has expanded into silicone mixing with the addition of a new plant, machinery, personnel and greater expertise, reported Rubber News.
The custom rubber compounder, which operates a 179,000-sq-ft (16,630-sq-metre) factory in Ravenna, Ohio, opened a silicone mixing facility in nearby Mogadore, Ohio, that spans 17,680 square feet (1,642.5 square metres) and gives the company 20m pounds (9.07m kg) of custom silicone compounding capacity annually. The site houses a full-service research laboratory for silicone testing and development.
Portage Precision relocated its headquarters to Mogadore from Ravenna because it has ideal office space available and the move frees up needed space at the Ravenna complex, President and CEO Doug Hartley said at the International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland.
The Mogadore site features a 200-gallon (757-litre) Sigma Blade Tilt mixer and 2TE Twin Screw Dump extruder for small and large batch mixing, Plant Manager Erick Sharp said. Its research operation is staffed with silicone technical specialists to provide silicone compound development and manufacturing for customers.
Combined, the Mogadore and Ravenna facilities employ about 75 people. The company currently serves industries such as agriculture, construction, oil and gas, railroad, automotive and piping, and the addition of its silicone line may expand that base.
Gaining new ground
Portage Precision "has enjoyed a strong market share in the US custom compounding extrusion market for more than a decade," Hartley said.
He said the firm is leveraging its market position, "along with our vast compounding experience and R&D capabilities, to expand into the silicone elastomer custom mixing markets in North America".
Hartley has wanted to initiate silicone mixing for some time, and he has added personnel, including Sharp, in the last two years who have expertise in the silicone sector. "It's a natural fit for us to grow," he said.
With its new silicone plant and headquarters in place, Sharp said, Portage Precision will use its longstanding industry relationships with global raw materials suppliers and purchasers to meet demand for quality silicone compounds.
"We've known for a while that our customers are extremely interested in silicone," he said. "Now we can offer current and prospective customers a one-stop shop for their elastomer compounding needs, whether they require rubber compounds, silicone compounds or both."
Silicone compounds are in demand because they feature good stability, temperature resistance and a wide range of colours, the two officials said. In particular, they said, silicones are popular in the automotive, construction, aerospace, medical, electrical and industrial sectors.
"Expanding our relationships with our customers is a goal we continue to focus on, whether it's through new facilities, equipment, talent or acquisitions that enhance our market position," according to Hartley.
"We are confident that the opening of our silicone facility will lead to even more exciting opportunities down the road."
Some of those growth opportunities probably will involve Portage Precision's Ravenna plant, which produces custom elastomer compounds and has the capacity to produce more than 60m pounds (27.2m kg) of rubber.
The company added a third compounding line at the factory last year and is considering bringing on a fourth line, Hartley said.
With two lines, the firm was at 100 percent capacity in 2012, he said. It's now at 65 percent with the third line in place. But realistically, it won't be long before a fourth rubber line will be needed, he said.
"Acquisitions are also a possibility to add capacity," he said. "We keep our options open because we're looking to grow."
In another move aimed at bolstering Portage Precision's growing operation and its products, the firm has added a chemist and process engineer to its research and development staff.
Gary Leiendecker was brought on board as an off-the-road and moulded product chemist. The custom mixer also added Kylie Trumpower as a process engineer.
Leiendecker will focus on the company's growing OTR and moulded product divisions. He has more than 30 years of experience in chemical engineering and has worked with a variety of polymers and moulded goods.
Trumpower will assist with process improvement, design, and raw materials research and development.
The additions bring a fresh prospective to laboratory processes and R&D, said Technical Director George Stamper.