BARBERTON, Ohio—R.D. Abbott, based in Cerritos, Calif., now has an additive manufacturing and warehousing facility in Northeast Ohio for its Novation Solutions L.L.C. subsidiary, a supplier of modifiers, additives and colorants for liquid silicone and high-consistency rubber.
R.D. Abbott purchased the existing facility, which officially opened Oct. 8. Investment costs for the 127,000-sq.-ft., 40-person facility were not divulged.
"Barberton had the real estate available, and we knew we needed to expand," Jerry McCall, vice president of sales and marketing at R.D. Abbott, told Rubber News at the International Elastomer Conference Oct. 6. "We have a warehouse in the east (for silicone additives) but we wanted to own our own facility in Ohio."
R.D. Abbott purchased Novation Solutions in 2017, and the Barberton facility is a function of the full service distributor for the rubber industry seeking to be closer to its customers, McCall said.
About 67,000 square feet in Barberton is for customer service and research labs and the remaining space is for warehousing.
The facility, McCall said, brings a versatile presence for R.D. Abbott, as the plan is to maintain design and development, formulation and material testing, among other services, under one roof.
"This is especially true as it relates to getting into the education of the industry with technical webinars on processing and applications, and how to use proper performance additives for whatever type of applications that is needed or being sought by the customer," McCall said.
R.D. Abbott, which began as a pure distributor of raw material products, has been involved with the material development and engineering of silicone for many years now, along with distributing other goods related to the industry. Its vendors include Dow, Arlanxeo, Parker Lord, Lanxess, Cancarb, Alpha Technologies and 3M products, among others.
Both HCR and LSR are burgeoning fields, and R.D. Abbott is looking to increase its footprint in these markets, McCall said, especially since self-lubricating LSR is the material of choice for electrical sealing in automotive applications.
With constant changes in the industry, the performance requirements of this material can be challenging and the related material formulations more complex.
"Bonding comes into everything—it's a real door-opener," McCall said. "We really wanted to expand our reach with an LSR processing center. LSR can be a long road from concept to finished part, between the press guys, tooling guys and application fabricators.
"That is what this facility is: a hub for all of it—bringing them all together with a focus on education."
With the LSR center, R.D. Abbott will look to provide technology to help fabricators make their final products. No molding or fabrication will take place there—only proving out raw materials.
"We will then sell this LSR and HCR, helping to bridge the gap within supplier part portfolios, using dispersions and modifiers," McCall said.
"This facility brings things together ... and offers a custom approach to those who desire a custom approach."
McCall said NovationSi—as the Barberton location is known—represents a continuation of the same markets R.D. Abbott already serves, from automotive to aerospace and construction—"everything and anything that has rubber in it," McCall said.
"Our markets are broad and we have an applied curiosity here," he said. "This is what gets us out of bed in the morning—tinkering, helping people to overcome challenges in their products."
McCall added that the branding, once the modified raw material hits the market, will be as an R.D. Abbott product.
R.D. Abbott already sponsors and teaches industry material development and processing classes on the West Coast, many to the Los Angeles Rubber Group.
"We want to do something similar with LSR on this coast, training young people in the industry on a press or a mold. We want people to look at us as a trainer, with all of the education going toward a finished product," McCall said.
McCall compared the NovationSi subsidiary to a stop at a local big box hardware store.
With its specialty color dispersions and modifiers for performance elastomers—like the addition of anti-friction, conductivity or static dissipation characteristics—Novation "is like a stop at Home Depot," McCall said.
"You select a paint swatch, and we match it," he said.
And placing a premium on education and technology at the Barberton location (and others) should help the industry at-large, which has experienced hiring and retention challenges since before the pandemic began.
"When people think of rubber, they think of tires and door mats—that it is a black and dirty business with the use of carbon black—and that's just not the case anymore," McCall said. "Think of all the engineered elastomers and silicone used on an aircraft—the seals that keep you from being sucked out.
"We understand the rubber industry is aging, and our long-term goal is to bring awareness to the industry. Rubber has all the things that we covet and appreciate in day-to-day life. We want to expose young people to how important rubber is in everyday life."
McCall, a former chair of the ACS Rubber Division, added that R.D. Abbott, specifically, is having some difficulties in the manufacturing job space, but "not on a large scale."
"R.D. Abbott does not have much turnover. Folks who come to work for us tend to remain here for long periods of time," he said. "Our product in many ways is our people, the culture, the family atmosphere here, all individuals shooting for a common goal, buying into the mission, vision and values.
"We owe the rubber industry and we know we need to give back. We are passionate about education, one of our core principles—but make no mistake, we owe the rubber industry."
R.D. Abbott was founded in 1948 by Robert David Abbott after he retired from C.P. Hall. Abbott was a former Los Angeles Rubber Group chairman.