FRANKLIN, Wis.—Lubrizol Corp. is again investing in its Vesta unit, part of its larger commitment to the medical device market.
The Cleveland-based firm will spend $10 million to add 71,000 square feet and separate Class 7 and 8 clean rooms for the production of implants and drug-eluting devices produced using both liquid silicone rubber and high consistency silicone rubber.
"We've had some significant wins in the implant market," Vesta General Manager Mark Stuart said. "In the last year, we've started up some very significant jobs and expanded our business by more than double digit growth. In fact we anticipate more than 40 percent increase in volume from the result of two recent wins we've made."
Lubrizol, through its LifeSciences unit, acquired Vesta in 2014. The silicone-focused operation is based in Franklin and now spans about 200,000 square feet with 570 employees. Stuart said the project will increase employment by more than 250.
Stuart said Franklin brings many advantages for the firm being 80 miles north of Chicago, which is home to some significant players in the medical field and has a strong talent base to pool from.
"We've found that Franklin is a very employer-friendly city," Stuart said. "They've been very supportive in trying to help us with job creation, which is very important to the city, of course. They've been very friendly here and that's why we're expanding here and not in one of the other locations. As we hire people on over the next several years, we anticipate they'll be helping with funding for that."
The project will bring eight total clean rooms—four Class 7 and four Class 8—combining to occupy more than 60,000 square feet. The firm purchased an additional building adjacent to the current Franklin facility for the expansion. Stuart said now the firm is getting the site ready for medical grade manufacturing.
"We're building independent modular clean rooms, which gives us a lot of separation between processes," Stuart said. "The drug-eluting devices have very strict controls around drug handling, so it makes sense for it to have its stand-alone clean room unit to eliminate any potential for contamination or any kind of problems."
The key focus of the project is breast implants, Stuart said. But the expansion will target other drug-eluting delivery devices, technology that falls under the firm's sister-company Particle Sciences—a 2015 Lubrizol acquisition based in Bethlehem, Pa., that specializes in drug development and manufacturing organization.
The Franklin operation specializes in injection molding, assembly, packaging and sterilization. Stuart said there are about 20 new projects in the pipeline getting ready to launch either later this year or in 2018.
Implants is a recent development. Stuart said Lubrizol has identified an increase in demand for breast implants from the market, and now is focused on bringing Vesta's expertise to customers seeking more implantable devices.
Vesta and the Lubrizol LifeSciences unit have seen a significant influx of capital through its parent company over the years. In June, Lubrizol disclosed its commitment to investing $60 million into the LifeSciences unit, including this project in Franklin.
Since joining Lubrizol, Vesta has been able to take advantage of new partnerships in addition to seeing a total of 13,000 square feet of Class 7 clean room space added to its footprint under Lubrizol.
Vesta also provides precision thermoplastic extruded tubing at its site in Corona, Calif. It operates a third site in Victor, Mont., that specializes in tight-tolerance medical-grade silicone sheeting and dip cast silicone elastomer components and devices. Both sites have expanded their capabilities in catheters and silicone sheeting under Lubrizol, Stuart said.
"It's opened up the opportunity to partner with companies like Particle Sciences and the Lubrizol resin technology," Stuart said. "Lubrizol has phenomenal technology capability in resin design and manufacture. So by combining these three legs, it's opened up the opportunity to move forward into the emerging market of drug eluting."