Spurred by steady growth in demand for its medical heat-shrink tubing and balloons, Advanced Polymers Inc. is building a new plant that will double its size and boost capacity.
The privately held company in Salem, N.H., did not disclose the size of the investment, but said it wants to be in the 61,000-square-foot facility by early 2005. Advanced officials said they have not decided yet whether to lease out or sell the existing plant.
The new plant, in the same industrial park the company currently is in, will let it add extrusion capacity and, more importantly, give it space to handle secondary operations that customers increasingly want, said President Mark Saab. The company has three extrusion lines, and will add a fourth in the expansion.
Advanced is in the low-volume, technology-intense end of medical manufacturing, using a proprietary stretch blow molding process to make things like balloons used in angioplasty operations, or extruding drug-delivery tubing that has 50 million holes per square centimeter to control release of medicine.
The growth is being driven in particular by its balloon business, which requires constant changes in manufacturing processes, Saab said.
``We're making balloons that go into somebody's brain one day, and balloons for the aorta the next,'' Saab said.
Customers increasingly want more assembly of device components, or they want tubing or balloons precut to specific sizes and ready to be dropped into their manufacturing processes, he said.
``There are a lot of value-added, secondary operations we do that take up a lot of space,'' he said.
The company will make 75 percent of a finished device, for example, and ship it to the product manufacturer. But Saab said he is reluctant to get into full device manufacturing, both because of legal and regulatory hurdles, and because customers would worry about Advanced eventually competing with them, he said.
Saab began the company himself in 1989, taking out a second mortgage on his house and going through savings. The firm now employs about 60.
The company has been growing 10-12 percent a year for the past four years, although Saab declined to disclose sales figures. He said Advanced has maxed out space in its existing plant, which includes 20,000 square feet of manufacturing space and about 7,000 square feet of offices.