Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, a business unit of Trelleborg AB, will expand its manufacturing presence in Bulgaria by bolstering its liquid silicone rubber injection molding capacity for food and beverage applications.
The firm will construct a multi-storied 18,000-square-foot building next to its current 22,000-square-foot manufacturing operation in Pernik. Trelleborg said the expansion should double employment from about 90 three years after its projected mid-2017 completion.
“Since we started there, the plant has been growing very nicely and will soon reach its capacity limits,” said Ursula Nollenberger, product director of LSR components. “We've seen very rapid growth, especially in the last two years, to the point where we now want to take this positive decision forward to allow future growth at the site.”
The firm established its current operations in Pernik in 2007 to complement its existing LSR operations in Stein am Rhein, Switzerland. Nollenberger said the firm selected Bulgaria because of its favorable infrastructure and strong labor pool.
The site is mainly dedicated to liquid injection molding with LSR; however Nollenberger said the site also over-molds plastic injection molded parts with LSR.
The latest investment will increase manufacturing floor space by 150 percent, and the capacity of the tool room will more than double. Trelleborg said these moves will allow future growth in small- to medium-volume technical LSR applications, especially over-molded parts for food and beverage, baby care, sanitary, and industrial and automotive electronics.
A significantly increased area is dedicated to operation under the stricter hygienic requirements of the food and beverage industry.
“Trelleborg is a strong player in the food and beverage industry because it's an industry that more and more has increasing requirements in terms of compliance with water safety, cleanliness and purity,” Nollenberger said. “This is something we consider ourselves quite strong in, and as we see the food and beverage industry continue to move in this direction with lots of new requirements, for us it's a natural fit to cater to these special requirements.”
Trelleborg said silicone accounts for about 2 percent of the total market for rubber, and the advanced LSR segment currently represents about 15 percent of that silicone production. The firm added, however, that silicone is seeing exponential growth in the high-tech fields where the technology can meet the manufacturing and design challenges thrown up by complex applications.
In response to this growth, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions has increased its manufacturing space significantly since 2011 with similar investments at its other LSR sites in Stein am Rhein and Northborough, Mass. Since 2012, the firm constructed new 45,000-square-foot buildings on each site, both including additional Class 7 and 8 clean rooms.
Nollenberger said the investment increased its Switzerland manufacturing footprint by 30 percent and represented a three-fold increase in clean room space.
Those two sites focus more on medium- to high-volume technical custom engineered LSR parts, with Switzerland also dealing in two-shot molding. They serve the life science, baby care, automotive and industrial electronics, and lifestyle appliances.
Trelleborg Sealing Solutions operates more than 20 production facilities and more than 40 marketing companies globally. The unit develops and manufactures precision seals supporting the aerospace, industrial and automotive markets.