Forecasting growth of 25% this year in medical sales, Sil-Pro (Delano, MN) recently expanded cleanroom molding capacity and is already planning a new cleanroom with additional equipment.
The current growth is coming in thermoplastic injection molding for Sil-Pro, which was launched in 1998 as a silicone molding specialist and now has 20 LIM machines. The company also operates a Davis-Standard silicone extruder.
“We expanded our current cleanroom by 1000 sq ft to accommodate growing demand for thermoplastic parts,” said Brian Higgins, VP sales and marketing, in an interview with PlasticsToday. The two new presses (60 to 100 tons of clamping force) are from Sodick Plustech. “We added our first two thermoplastic molding machines two years ago, and now we’re gaining traction with that and we need to add capacity.”
The Class 7 cleanroom has about 18,000 sq ft. Molding capabilities are supplemented by cells incorporating post curing, microscopic trim/inspect, and wash and package operations. The new Sodicks are electric hydraulic hybrid injection molding machines. Sil-Pro wanted the control benefits of electrics while maintaining the injection speed of hydraulic machines. Additionally, a 5-ton press was converted to thermoplastics from existing production of LSR and is used to support increased demand for thermoplastics micro-molding.
About 95% of the company’s sales are in the medical market covering a wide range of applications, including long-term implants, disposables, surgical instruments, and parts for cardiovascular, urological, and diabetes applications.
Major customers asked Sil-Pro to add thermoplastic capabilities, sometimes for overmolding, and sometimes for parts that are included in an assembly with silicone parts.
“Adding thermoplastic processing is not difficult because much of our engineering and other staff generally have backgrounds in thermoplastic molding,” said Higgins. “We actually have more years of experience in thermoplastic on our engineering team than in silicone molding.”
Higgins said the next expansion is expected to come in a new building the company acquired 18 months that is across the street from the current manufacturing location. The tool shop has already moved into the new space.
“That’s a 55,000 sq ft building and we occupy about a third of it. So we have the other two-thirds available for future growth.” The current plan is to set up a new clean room dedicated to thermoplastic molding. Higgins said the company may buy two more molding machines when that facility is complete.
The company has 145 employees and also operates 14 transfer presses. Investments made for the toolroom expansion last year include a Hermle 5-axis CNC machining center coupled with a System 3R WorkMaster automation system.