EASTON, Pa.—Two years after initially announcing its pending move to a new facility, Smooth-On Inc. has started operations at its new site in Pennsylvania, marking just the third location for the company in its 120-year history.
Smooth-On is a leading manufacturer of silicone rubbers, polyurethane rubbers and plastics, rigid and flexible urethane foams, epoxies, polysulfide rubbers, adhesives, coatings, release agents and other material technologies. Smooth-On has distributing centers in major cities across the U.S. and in Europe, but the Easton location is the company's lone manufacturing plant. The new factory will require some significant upgrades, such as electrical work, to make it compatible with Smooth-On's equipment.
The firm's previous 80,000-sq.-ft. building occupied eight acres in Easton. Smooth-On's new building spans more than 370,000 square feet and sits on a 30-acre campus. It includes new and fully equipped production, warehouse, lab, training and office areas.
Details of the investment in redeveloping the newer facility were not made public, but Smooth-On Vice President Clay Western called it “significant.”
“We've been fortunate to have been in a growing phase for a few years,” Western said. “We're adding to our ranks, taking on new lines and expanding.”
Among those ranks are about 60 new employees at the company's headquarters, hired over the last several months. Those positions largely were staffed in such areas as production, back office, and sales and marketing.
Smooth-On's products require mixing of various chemicals, which are considered hazardous waste materials. That added some complexity to the company's move, which was completed in early 2015. A buyer for the firm's old facility also was secured around that time.
More than quadrupling its space allowed Smooth-On to open a retail location onsite at its headquarters as well. Smooth-On distributes products under the name Reynolds Advanced Materials, as a supplier of mold rubber and casting resins. It specializes in helping customers convert concepts and project designs into finished products.
Reynolds Advanced Materials has nine locations around the U.S., with a full line of retail products ranging from epoxy and sculpting materials, such as masks to retail special effects goods made of silicone and urethane. Those retail stores are in such markets as Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Also included within the retail space are areas that showcase how Smooth-On materials are used for different applications. Intended to inspire visitors with new project ideas, it is a themed area that features company products used to make movie figures, props and special effects for Star Wars, The Hobbit Trilogy, Iron Man, Harry Potter and James Bond movies, as well as the television show The Walking Dead and others.
The store also has different molds and castings on display made with company products for industrial applications including casting concrete, prototype model making, architectural restoration and sculpture casting.
“We're involved in (custom) manufacturing of products made of silicones and urethanes for companies as well (through the Smooth-On name),” Western said. “It includes private labeling work both domestically and outside of the U.S.”
A newly equipped research and development laboratory was built at the new plant and will continue to be the driving force in developing new products according to customer specifications. Additionally, Smooth-On has built new classroom areas dedicated to training people on how to use these materials for a variety of applications. At more than 18,000 square feet, the firm claimed the “seminar room” is the largest space in the world dedicated to materials training. It is fully equipped and themed to feature hundreds of models and castings made with the company's products.
“We have many groups of people come to our classroom each month, including individuals from different branches of government such as Homeland Security and the FBI,” Western said. “They come here to train for how best to use these materials.”
In fact, Smooth-On increasingly supplies materials for the military, particularly training weapons for new recruits during basic training. Urethane is used to make indestructible weaponry ideal for a training scenario, Western said.
“Without the new facility, all these add-ons and options wouldn't have been available,” he said. “We're operating three production shifts here that run 24 hours a day, six days a week.”