Parker Hannifin Corp. has officially opened its Donald E. Washkewicz Polymer Innovation Center at the company's Parflex Division headquarters in Ravenna, Ohio.
“We are excited to announce the new Polymer Innovation Center in the state where we have our global headquarters, as well as 29 other locations,” Washkewicz, chairman, CEO and president of Parker, said in an Oct. 2 news release. “As a former general manager of Parflex, I am especially proud of the advances this division has made in its 32 years and the contributions it makes to the many industries it serves.”
The center will help the division create new products more quickly, giving it a dedicated space designed specifically for research and development and prototyping. Commercialization of new products is all about speed, said general manager Mark W. Gagnon. And moving quickly can be a challenge in a big company like Parker.
For example, cutting into the production line in order to make a prototype used to require waiting about three to four weeks, said business development manager Steven M. Powell. Employees then would have about 48 hours to run the prototype, but if they made any mistakes, it was another three- to four-week wait before they had another chance to use the equipment. The new center's equipment is specifically for prototypes, essentially cutting the wait time to zero.
The equipment in the 24,000-square-foot center is designed so employees can rearrange it to generate new capabilities and processes, said division product engineering manager William C. Fisher.
“It's all mobile,” he said.
The center includes a polytetrafluoroethylene paste tower to allow for vertical, instead of horizontal, extrusions for that particular type of material. There's also a clean room for medical products, a compounding room to create materials and plenty of testing equipment. According to the release, the project was funded by a $15 million investment from Parker and $2.3 million from a program of the Ohio Third Frontier.
Construction on the project began in 2012, Fisher said, noting that the landscaping just went in last weekend. It's been in operation on a smaller scale for about the past year, he said. The center is expected to be in full operation in 2017. By that time, the center is expected to support about 34 employees.
Gagnon said the center ultimately could support far more jobs indirectly as new products are created. The research done in the center will support all the plants in the Parflex division, Fisher said, and he also expects that research to benefit Parker's other divisions.
The Parflex division makes hosing and tubing products for a variety of markets including transportation, alternative fuels and, more recently, medical. The release noted the center will include a focus on medical polymers through collaboration with the University of Akron and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
Ten years ago, the division wouldn't have been working in medical at all, Gagnon said, but now it's a big part of what the center will do. The focus is on making devices better and safer.
“We really touch everything,” he said.