GW Plastics Inc. is working again on expanding its silicones business unit following a three-week construction delay prompted by a stay-home, stay-safe order issued by the state of Vermont to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Construction didn't make the state's list of essential businesses, so work halted temporarily on 3,000 square feet of additional clean room space at the Royalton, Vt., facility, site of company affiliate GW Silicones, which does provide essential services.
The project is half done, and when the work is complete, the plant will be able to house up to 10 new injection molding machines for the company's growing health care business.
"We're seeing a lot of growth in [liquid silicone rubber] molding over a rigid thermoplastic substrate," Anthony Fleszar, sales and marketing director of GW Plastics, said in a recent interview. "In some cases, it is related to the soft touch of silicone, its tactile feel, but it's mostly for functional applications that require sealing and the flexible properties of silicone."
The silicone operation is picking up business from existing and new health care customers, Brenan Riehl, GW Plastics president and CEO, said in an email.
"We support all different areas in medical, so we manufacture many components or seals used in medical devices, a lot of fluid management, septums and respiratory device components, to name just a few," Riehl said.
Some of GW Silicones' customers saw demand skyrocket for medical products related to caring for COVID-19 patients.
"We have had several of our respiratory customers who needed a change in production schedules to accommodate increases, and in a couple of cases we designed and built new tooling in extremely short lead times to assist them to hit very aggressive timelines," Riehl said.
Launched in 2008, GW Silicones offers liquid injection molding and LSR mold making with a focus on two-shot, insert and overmolded parts for the health care and automotive markets.
The Bethel, Vt.-based parent company said it is investing $2 million into construction, equipment and technology for several new health care programs taken on by GW Silicones.
For health care customers, GW Silicones designs and produces parts for airways, balloon catheters, surgical instrument handles, infusion sleeves and test chambers, fluid management and ear plugs, dental applications, shunts and septums, and silicone seals, stoppers, gaskets, valves and clips.
This is the fourth expansion of GW Silicones, which now has 12,000 square feet of Class 8 clean room space equipped with all-electric and hybrid molding machines that the company said provide tightly controlled processes and consistency.
The presses also have multiple screw and barrel assemblies for a wide range of molding capabilities from fractions of a gram to larger pound shots.
In addition, six-axis robots operate within the machine envelope for insert loading and molded-part extraction.
For mold making, GW Silicones said its in-house tool experts can build high-cavitation, fully automated, tight-tolerance LSR molds for customers that are designed for manufacturing at a lower cost with competitive lead times.
"Working closely with our in-house thermoplastics mold division has allowed for this type of flexibility, improvement and growth," said Mark Hammond, GW Silicones general manager. "There are not many companies who can say that they have the capabilities to build molds like these, and we could not be prouder or more excited for the future."
Earlier this year, GW Plastics completed a 30,000-square-foot expansion of clean room and warehousing space at its manufacturing and technology center in Royalton.