Originally Published on Rubber & Plastics News

DES PLAINES, Ill.—Rahco Rubber Inc. has invested in two 350-ton vacuum presses to increase production capacity and update its fleet of machinery as it takes on new projects.

Founded in 1972, the family-owned company is growing with its existing customers and adding clients, Rahco President Steve Anton said.

To meet demand, the company purchased Pan Stone vacuum presses with intuitive controls that Anton said support the exacting parameters of projects and meet two other company goals.

The new presses also have a plate handling system that improves the efficiency of the demolding process, which in turn improves throughput and makes it easier for operators of all physical sizes to manufacture parts, Anton said.

Rahco Rubber Inc.
Rahco Rubber has grown from three employees and four machines in a small space to 100 employees and 50 machines with 45 to 850 ton capabilities in a 60,000-sq.-ft. plant.

Rahco now has about 50 injection, compression, transfer and vacuum presses. It manufactures products such as gaskets, O-rings, battery straps, electrical ties, feeding nipples, milking inflators and cleaning tips for customers in the plumbing, agriculture, energy, food service, transportation, marine, electronics and appliance markets.

These two new presses will run work mostly from brand new accounts that we’re transitioning into production,” Anton said.

He declined to name the markets where Rahco is growing, but said, “a lot of our opportunities come when there’s field failure of somebody else’s part. We’re able to look at the application and specification and align a solution.”

Rahco has about 100 employees designing, engineering and processing a wide array of materials—from natural rubber to ethylene propylene, butyl, nitrile, urethane, silicone, fluorosilicone and fluorocarbon—and mixing internal compound formulations.

“That’s a big thing we offer that our competitors don’t,” Anton said. “We specialize in custom formulating our own recipes that we either mix ourselves or have others do for us. It gives us a tremendous amount of control and services to offer.”

Rahco Rubber also has picked up some business because of offshore quality issues and tariffs, said Dennis Askew, the company’s business development manager.

“The formulation of a part made offshore can be changed or manipulated, and the customer would never see until there’s field failure,” Askew said. “We’ve seen business grow because of that, and tariffs have complemented the onshoring.”

Across all industries, original equipment manufacturers and suppliers are demanding greater attention and support from their partners, Anton said.

“OEMs realize the total costs of ownership of Made-In-USA rubber components to be lower on average and declining,” he said. “Beyond production and sourcing location, however, they also realized that the custom molder and OEM partnership has become more important than ever.”

Anton pointed to increased collaboration on designing and improving parts to meet lifestyle demands, mitigating risk and building competitive advantages.

“It means that today’s rubber suppliers must immerse themselves in the client’s vision and understand their role in making it real,” Anton said.

Anton has been in the rubber industry since 1976, when he took a leadership role in the company co-founded by his father. In 2016, he was named Rubber & Plastics News Rubber Industry Executive of the Year.

Anton has seen the business grow from three employees and four machines in a 5,000-sq.-ft. facility. His brothers eventually joined him, with Jim Anton now serving as vice president of manufacturing and purchasing, and Jack Anton serving as vice president of sales.

Rahco Rubber now boasts 100 employees and 50 machines with 45 to 850 ton capabilities in a 60,000-sq.-ft. plant.

The facility has fully equipped laboratories for research and development and quality control, as well as secondary assembly operations that range from simple packaging to automated cells for part assembly and boxing, rubber part slitting and robotic removal of molded parts.