MRPC molds a medical niche

Molding two dissimilar materials together can be difficult, which makes it a great niche skill for MRPC in Butler.

The company, which molds silicone rubber, thermoplastic and medical rubber components, has seen success in its niche. MRPC acquired Largo, Fla. liquid silicone molder ETI Inc. in April, adding 17 employees, a second location and expanded silicone capabilities.

“We do have an acquisition strategy,” said Mark Brandstaetter, vice president of sales and marketing. “Also, customers are looking for us to have a contingency plan.”

The company is also growing organically, with 49 new hires so far in 2012. There are now 126 employees in Butler and 18 in Florida.

Chemists at MRPC create compounds, which are then molded. Sometimes, materials are bonded to other compounds, which can be a difficult process to perfect. It’s MRPC’s core competency, Brandstaetter said. The bonds are tensile tested to assure they are strong and secure.

In thermoplastic molding, pellets are heated until they become molten and the material is injected into a mold, where it solidifies.

Medical rubber is formed by vulcanizing gum, while silicone is made using a similar process and different chemicals.

“Silicone is very commonly used in the medical business because it’s inert, it’s clean, it doesn’t give off any chemicals that could potentially harm someone,” Brandstaetter said.

Because many of its products are used in medical settings, including tools for laparoscopic surgeries and as parts of cardiac rhythm devices and long-term implantable joints, MRPC does most of its manufacturing work in five clean rooms at its Butler plant.

Some of the clean rooms are level eight, while others are level seven, depending on the specifications for the part. The particulates in the air of a level seven clean room are 10 times cleaner than a level eight.

Each clean room has a quality department next door to test the parts.

It can take two or more years to bring a product from prototype to production because of the regulations imposed on medical parts, so MRPC works with customers and protects intellectual property along the way, Brandstaetter said.

A new clean room and equipment have been added this year, driven by new business development and the domestic growth of customers who are insourcing production.

MRPC can put a customer’s name and label on its parts, and usually works as a contractor. Its customers ship parts globally, but they are mostly used in the U.S.

“We deal with the top 20 medical device manufacturers,” Brandstaetter said. “There’s an advantage for people to come here because they don’t have to mold it here, ship it somewhere else.”

The company makes about 1,000 different components in volumes ranging from 5,000 per year to 3 million per year. More than 20 million components are sold each year, he said.

MRPC continues to grow, as president Greg Riemer plans to add a 15,000-square-foot, $2 million expansion to the 91-year-old company’s 85,000-square-foot Butler plant next year.

“We want to grow the company both internally and externally,” Riemer said.

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