Jasper Rubber Products Inc.'s thermoplastic elastomer molded products business has been growing in leaps and bounds, prompting another expansion. Doug Mathias, executive vice president of marketing, said the Jasper, Ind., company broke ground for a new addition to its 25,000-square-foot TPE facility during the first week of April. The expansion will double the size of the plant and is expected to be complete by July 15.
The company's TPE business was created around 1986 and ``skims'' Jasper Rubber's rubber business, targeting primarily the automotive market, as well as the oil filter and appliance sectors. Jasper Rubber's products include gaskets, grommets, bumpers and body plugs.
The TPE business originally consisted of one employee and one machine, he said. But big gains early on, and a current 30 percent annual growth rate, has boosted employment to 40 and made TPE product sales 10 percent of Jasper Rubber's overall revenue.
Last year, Jasper expanded its plant to accommodate two more injection presses. Mathias would not release the cost of the expansion or total number of presses at the plant.
Jasper Rubber in 1994 expanded its main facility across the street by 22,000 square feet, to more than 240,000 square feet. The company spent more than $2 million and added about 70 em-ployees to support the project, Mathias said.
The firm, founded in 1950, employs about 630 at its main plant.
Jasper Rubber hopes to add space without increasing employment significantly, he said. The work force probably will grow a little, but many of the presses are operated robotically.
``I think a lot of [the growth] has to do with the advances made in the materials,'' Mathias said.
He noted that TPEs have considerable cost advantages and complement Jasper's rubber business.
Mathias would not release annual sales figures.