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T-Lon Products expanding fluoropolymer seal plant

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

November 4, 2013

T-Lon Products is expanding in Hartland, Wis., seven years after the company built the facility to make thermoplastic sealing systems from polytetrafluoroethylene resin.

Construction began in October on a 13,140-square-foot addition that will expand the production area of the existing 40,000-square-foot facility, which is co-owned by brothers Bob and Chris Olson.

“We’re just crowded,” Bob Olson said. “The main industries we service have all been in growth mode.”

The company, which was founded by his father in 1979, has 75 employees in engineering and production. They use an inventory of more than 100 different combinations of PTFE and fillers to make seals and valves for customers in the agricultural, food-processing, pharmaceutical, and oil and gas industries.

“I don’t know if you’d label it automotive but we also have a customer that does a lot with the trucking industry and off-road braking equipment is a big thing we’re expanding to meet,” Olson said. “We have over 300 customers. We’re extremely flexible.”

PTFE — aka by its DuPont-trademarked name of Teflon — is the world’s most widely-used fluoropolymer. Strong, non-reactive qualities make it stabile over a wide temperature range and able to reduce friction. T-Lon uses fillers like glass and bronze to improve the performance of PTFE and increase its resistance to deformities and wear and tear.

The new wing of T-Lon Products should be in full production mode in the spring with new CNC machining centers and ovens. Anywhere from 5 to 20 more positions, mostly in production, could be added in the next few years. The crews also mold some PEEK.

“It’s a very small part of the business but we have the capability,” Olson said. “We also machine a lot of other materials. We buy shapes and machine to spec but the only material we’re actually molding is PTFE and a small amount of PEEK.”

T-Lon is a nimble company, he added.

“If somebody calls and says I really need this very quickly, and it makes sense for a special situation, we can get it out much faster than our lead times, which are generally four to six weeks,” Olson said.

The engineering side of T-Lon, which designs seals for customers, also has been bolstered. They analyze CAD drawings, reverse engineer materials and products, test proposed designs and manufacture prototypes.

“We’ve really ramped it up over the last four years,” Olson said. “We’ve hired a couple really astute, sharp guys that are particularly good at design and problem solving.”

T-Lon Products is a privately held company and Olson declined to comment on the cost of the expansion and annual sales figures.

“We do everything with cash. We’re very much no-nonsense fiscally,” he said.

The brothers, who are 50-50 equity partners, owned the land where their business is located for years, in anticipation of growth.

“Seven years ago we pulled the trigger and built the facility and now we find ourselves needing more room,” Olson said. “Construction will be buttoned up by the time snow flies and the new wing will be in full production in probably early April.”