Whitewater, Wis. — Sim Lim Technic LLC, an injection molder specializing in technical parts made from liquid silicone rubber, is growing in Wisconsin.
In December 2018, the company moved into a modern 10,000-square-foot plant in Whitewater. That was a big step up from the 1,600-square-foot building in nearby Burlington, Wis., where Michael O'Hara started the company in June 2015.
Part of the credit for the growth goes to a New Zealand-based partner. In 2018, O'Hara sold a 35 percent stake in Sim Lim to Skellerup Holdings Ltd., a publicly traded company based in Auckland, for US$1.1 million.
Skellerup already owned Gulf Engineered Rubber and Plastic, a rubber and plastic molder with operations in North Carolina, Australia, Italy and New Zealand.
"Gulf/Skellerup is a well-financed organization, well-resourced organization, which Sim Lim will benefit from, in contrast to the early days of my startup," O'Hara said.
"It's a partnership that gives Sim Lim a much larger commercial reach," O'Hara said.
When it bought the stake in Sim Lim, Skellerup said it was seeing increasing opportunities for LSR products in the United States, which is already its largest market. The company's existing rubber business was focused on potable water customers.
"We will combine the knowledge and reach of Skellerup and the technical expertise of Sim Lim to deliver high-quality solutions to existing and new original equipment maker customers," Skellerup CEO David Mair said.
Mair said Skellerup wanted to take Sim Lim's LSR expertise to a wider market, saying the product is ideal for sterile environments and for use in high-precision medical and consumer products.
"The business that I had was attractive to them because it was a new company. It ticked a lot of boxes, and they weren't inheriting any sort of culture. It was a blank sheet," O'Hara said.
Skellerup's interest is managed by Gulf Rubber US. Michael Robins is the group president. O'Hara is vice president of engineering and technology.
On a recent tour, O'Hara showed off the molding area, which included four injection presses turning out a variety of high-precision parts. The largest was a 500-ton Engel press with a 70-millimeter screw. O'Hara said the company plans to add two fully automated production cells in 2020.
"That's where I want to drive the business," O'Hara said. He remains the principal of the company, and he stressed that he has a mechanical engineering background.
"My intent was always to drive Sim Lim to be a technical resource. It's not often that you find engineers at the helm of a business like this," O'Hara said.
"My background is with fully automated production LSR systems." he added.
O'Hara had about 15 years of experience in LSR before he started Sim Lim, including stints at Quality Synthetic Rubber Inc. in Twinsburg, Ohio, and at Freudenburg NOK Northfield, N.H., and Cleveland, Ga.
O'Hara is optimistic about Sim Lim's future growth potential.
"I am pleased with the progress so far," he said.
"Gulf US is a large global organization. We are starting to inherit and develop a lot of their business processes," O'Hara said.
Sim Lim was ISO-9001-2018 accredited in July, and is working on ISO-13485 and NSF certification.