Anaheim, Calif. — Injection molder Quadion LLC, doing business as Minnesota Rubber and Plastics, is building a 9,000-square-foot innovation center next to the company's corporate headquarters in Plymouth, Minn., to design, build and test prototypes.
The primary focus of the center is to grow the company's medical business to more than half of its overall sales, Don Bonitati, global medical market director, told Plastics News at MD&M West 2021 in Anaheim.
Medical projects currently make up 37 percent of overall sales for the molder of thermoplastics and elastomers, including liquid silicone rubber.
"A lot of the strategic initiatives we put into place a couple of years ago we're seeing through, and it's really making a difference," he said.
New business makes up about 40-45 percent of its overall sales, Bonitati said.
The company expects to break ground this fall and for the center to be operational in the spring of 2022.
Through investing in new capabilities and improving response time, the center is "really going to transform the way we do business and interact with customers," Bonitati said, "especially when working with folks early on in development to be able to carry that through into commercial product."
The company previously outsourced a lot of its prototyping, he said. But customers "can't wait" three to four weeks for prototypes.
When the center is complete, Minnesota Rubber and Plastics will able to turn a prototype around in a week, Bonitati said.
"Being a custom molder that does a lot of things that are very unique to anyone out there in the market and having the material formulation capability, [customers] are really excited to get started," he said.
The innovation center will include an in-house tool shop, molding presses and a secondary operations space next to the company's corporate headquarters, which houses its advanced materials group, tooling engineers, and product and process engineers, he said.
"The idea is to have state-of-the-art technology … that is comparable to what we have in production," Bonitati said. "So what we're doing early on in development can be translated, as far as the process and tooling, by scale, to align to what we're going to approach for a customer in production."
Bonitati declined to comment of the cost of the new center's construction, infrastructure, capabilities and equipment, but he called it significant.
The center is expected to create six new positions initially, he said. "As we get things up and running, there are plans to bring more support staff," and some of the company's current employees will adjust their roles to support the facility.
Now, the company is "close to finalizing the exterior structure design" and "all the contract approvals are complete."
"It's just a matter of breaking ground and starting to see some progress," Bonitati said.
New and existing customers can engage with the process in person or online, an Aug. 9 news release said.
"We're excited to show the industry how bringing these processes under one roof will remove weeks from the component development process, resulting in unrivaled production-ready prototyping speed," CEO Jay Ward said in the release.
"Our customers have told us that they desperately need their partners to help them get their new products to market faster," Ward said.