CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio—Graphic Arts Rubber is a lot like many of the smaller players in the rubber custom mixing business.
The Cuyahoga Falls-based mixer is focused on quality and service. It has diversified during its history when needed. The firm doesn't try to be all things to all people.
And its 19-person staff can take on multiple roles to make sure that everything is done as the customer requests.
Graphic Arts, like most others in the rubber industry, also made it through a difficult pandemic-driven 2020, and is dealing with pricing and logistics issues that have made 2021 almost as crazy as last year.
Most of all, though, General Manager Dave Corron said Graphic Arts Rubber is a company that is proud of its 50-year history and poised for what he believes is a bright future.
"I think our history speaks for itself," Corron told Rubber & Plastics News. "We've been around for a long time, and I see us being around for a lot longer. For the size company we are, I think we do a great job."
Expanding its focus
Given its name, it follows that Graphic Arts started out with a focus on mixing elastomers for the printing industry in 1971, with a large percentage of its output for printing and rubber roller usage. But as photo polymers came into play, rubber saw a shrinking share of that market.
"We decided we had to diversify, so we stretched out," said Corron, who has a 23-year history with the company.
While it still mixes a good amount of rubber for graphic arts, printing and roll covers, other end markets have grown in stature. Those include mixing rubber for belt covers; pharmaceuticals and Food and Drug Administration compounds; general molded goods; military specified and ASTM compounds; fabricated articles such as bladders and hoses; cement and paint gums; and certain tire-related applications, including white and colored sidewalls, stain barriers and calendering of control and testing stocks.
Its 44,000-sq.-ft. factory boasts three calenders, sizes 24, 54 and 66 inches, along with four 60-inch mills, an 84-inch mill and a 42-inch mill that Corron said was purchased when it began receiving an increased number of requests for smaller batches.
"We can get orders as small as 10 pounds, up to 10,000 pounds," he said. "It's a broad thing for us. Bigger orders aren't as frequent. But with the smaller mill, we can do that as well. Because of what we do, it's all over the place."
Graphic Arts uses a broad range of natural and synthetic rubbers in its mixing, and sees its ability to match a customer's need for color as one of its strengths. Corron said many times the color is specified, where the customer has to match a Pantone color, while others need a variety of light and dark shades.
In some applications, the colors are critical, according to the Graphic Arts GM. Some customers will dictate the type of compound and its hardness, using different colors to represent particular characteristics. Some belting firms will use different colors to designate wear levels, so when the material gets to a certain color, the end user knows it's near time to change the belt.
"The way we're set up, we can do those colors quickly," Corron said. "We're clean enough that we can go from one shade to the next in a matter of minutes on our equipment."
Because of its work with color, Graphic Arts doesn't use any loose carbon black in its compounds, ensuring there will be no cross-contamination.
For compounds that need carbon black, Graphic Arts uses black masterbatch mixed outside its premises. The Cuyahoga Falls firm is owned by Rex-Hide Industries Inc., which owns a number of other rubber mixers that can provide what's needed. Some of those sister companies include Dyna-Mix, Pinnacle, Rainbow Master Mixing and others.
"They all mix, but we're the only one that does calendering as well," Corron said. "Rex-Hide is a super company to work for and full of resources."