Minnesota Rubber & Plastics Navigates Pandemic, Starts Plymouth Expansion
Plymouth-based Minnesota Rubber & Plastics (MRP) is trying to inspire the next wave of innovation. The 76-year-old company broke ground last month on a $7 million expansion that will not only allow it to grow, but help its clients get products to the market faster.
The company makes custom rubber and plastic components for a wide variety of industries, including medical device firms, water filtration companies and the automotive sector. Clients include Fridley-based Medtronic and New Brighton-based Wilson Wolf Manufacturing, which develops cancer treatment systems.
“We touch the lives of so many people in so many different ways,” said Karthik Viswanathan, vice president of product development at MRP. “The diversity in what we get to do and the number of projects we get to work on really makes this quite an exciting place to work.”
MRP currently employs 100 workers in Plymouth and more than 1,200 globally. It specializes in components containing black rubber, liquid silicone, gum silicone and thermoplastics. But its capabilities don’t end with those materials.
“We’re also able to combine these materials, combine them with metals, combine theme with other types of substrates you may see in the marketplace,” said Viswanathan.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold globally, Minnesota Rubber & Plastics quickly adapted to meet urgent needs. The company ramped up production to help supply components that go into hospital ventilators. It also produced parts used for COVID-19 testing kits, as well as vaccine and antibody delivery systems.
“All of these types of medicines pass through some form of our drug delivery or fluid connector type products,” said Viswanathan.
Evolution of Water Filtration
Among its developments, MRP produces O-rings and seals for water filters. Its products play a role in delivering clean water around the globe.
“It’s really exciting here that we are at the forefront of new compounds that really can be used globally,” said Jerry Schmitz, vertical market director for the company’s water, food and beverage product lines.
Schmitz said the company’s filter seals must meet a host of local and global regulations. And he says there’s special attention paid to seals so they don’t impact taste.
“That is historically a big problem with rubber. You kind of get an off-taste to it. And it’s because it’s sometimes the seals are in contact with the water flow, and they’re giving off some odor,” Schmitz said.
The water filtration market also continues to evolve with new technologies.
“They’re using LEDs with UV to kill all the potential contaminants or organisms in there,” Schmitz said. “So there’s all kinds of new technologies that are happening, and some of those shapes of those seals are getting kind of complicated.”
A Role in Electric Vehicle Revolution
The Plymouth company also finds itself playing a role in cutting-edge developments in automobiles. Its transmission seal rings, for example, reduce friction, providing better fuel efficiency.
“All of these products are not only challenging to design and design the tooling for, but have very tight tolerances,” said Dan McArdle, director of transportation at MRP.
McArdle said products go through rigorous testing requirements. He says the company’s rubber-plastic sealing parts will play an integral role in the development of electric vehicles.
“There’s even more of those types of components in those high-end electric vehicles,” said McArdle. “Whereas the legacy technology was very metals based, we’re positioned well as a rubber and plastics manufacturer for the next generation of vehicles.”
Innovation Center Under Construction
Right next door to the Plymouth facility, construction has begun for expansion. Billed as the company’s Innovation Center, the facility addition will allow product development to significantly increase.
Viswanathan said processes that once took months will be cut down to weeks. The company will accomplish this by bringing a wide range of development and manufacturing expertise under one roof.
“For us to be able to invest and give our employees new tools and capabilities for them to be more effective at their jobs, it’s just really an exciting time for us,” Viswanathan said.