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TECHNOLOGICAL WATCH

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Tekni-Plex adding capacity in US, Asia

Tekni-Plex Inc. is expanding its global footprint and product offerings through two of its subsidiaries.

First, the firm is investing $15 million for a new manufacturing facility in Suzhou, near Shanghai. Officials said it represents the single largest recent investment by Tekni-Plex, responding to the growing needs of the Asia-Pacific pharmaceutical and medical device markets. The site will manufacture products from three of the firm's units — Natvar, Colorite and Action Technology.

In a joint move, the facility will produce Natvar's recently announced silicone extrusion tubing capabilities for catheters, feeding tubes, drug delivery and peristaltic pump applications, as well as microextrusion tubing that targets many neurovascular interventional therapies and surgical applications.

And in the U.S., Tekni-Plex's Colorite unit recently established a new dedicated line for TPE extrusion at its Holland, Ohio, facility, localizing its Cellene-branded line of TPEs in North America for medical devices, packaging and other regulated markets.

"The new China facility offers specialized space for building a medical component and assembly business as well as opportunities in silicone," Russell Hubbard — vice president, international and general manager, Tekni-Plex Technologies Suzhou — said in an email. "It complements the new investments in Costa Rica with state-of-the-art facilities and strengthens our testing capabilities in Asia."

 

More space needed

The Suzhou plant spans 140,000 square feet and is only about 30 miles away from its current Suzhou site, which it is designed to replace. Hubbard said the facility will employ about 140, with more jobs as business dictates. He added that while the new factory has comparable total space, it also has a better layout and material flow. It provides about five times the clean room space compared to its former facility.

Production has stopped at the old location, and Hubbard said almost all of the employees from the old site have accepted jobs at the new one.

"We've been working for the last three or so years on putting up a new facility in China," Natvar General Manager Bob Donohue said. "The reason we moved is we outgrew the environment. We needed to open a new facility with larger clean rooms and better flow for increased silicone extrusion, injection molding and microextrusion production capacity."

The facility is designed to give Tekni-Plex a stronger presence in what it views as a growing Chinese market for medical devices. The firm said Natvar's new tight-tolerance microextrusion silicone medical tubing and overall expansion of its silicone extrusion capabilities should give it a key advantage.

The firm currently has microextrusion capacity in Costa Rica to serve the Latin America market.

"There aren't a lot of local suppliers [in China] for silicone products," Donohue said. "There was a need and we had a lot of customers that were asking us to manufacture these products in China for medical applications."

Colorite's compounding arm is projected to be operational by September, Hubbard said. Action Technologies' products, including dip tubing and other capabilities, have begun operations at the facility.

 

Coming to America

Heath Schmid, director of business development at Tekni-Plex, said Colorite's decision to localize Cellene production is in response to a trend in the medical field to move away from PVC-sourced products. Currently, the firm's line of TPEs consists of about 28 core products with the ability to custom formulate off of that platform to address more specific needs.

"These materials are recyclable," Schmid said. "When you're going to a TPE versus a silicone or a rubber, there is a cost advantage. There's also a specific gravity advantage, so you're getting the best of both worlds. Your cost per pound is much more affordable than that of a rubber or silicone. A lot of applications that use rubber or silicone are over-engineered, and these compounds lend themselves well as alternative materials for those kinds of compounds."

The official North American launch of the line was at MD&M West in February, and the firm also highlighted Cellene at MD&M East in June. The products previously were produced only at Colorite's Ireland facility, and now are localized in Ohio with the addition of an extrusion line. Schmid said the firm primarily is targeting the medical market, but also sees opportunities in food packing.

Schmid did not disclose how much Tekni-Plex invested in the new Holland line, but said it was "substantial." He added that additional investment might be required as the business grows further.

"As the global landscape changes, there is greater pressure to compete on a global level," Schmid said. "OEMs are being driven by regulatory bodies to offer alternatives to PVC, particularly within the [European Union] and Asia. In North America, hospital systems are becoming much larger, have greater buying power and more influence over which products they utilize in their facilities. They're pushing for PVC-free materials to be used in their hospitals."

» Publication Date: 27/07/2017

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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