Raumedic brings German plastics expertise to "largest, most innovative medical market in the world"

Bullish forecasts for the U.S. economy, especially compared with Europe, and sustained growth in contract manufacturing for the medical device sector may have played a role in Raumedic's decision to set up its first facility outside of its native Germany in Mills River, NC, but the company is characteristically tight-lipped about its inner motivation. The supplier of contract molding, extrusion and assembly services to the medtech industry will simply admit to responding to demand from customers for a local presence.

"Raumedic Inc. has been marketing products developed in Germany for more than 10 years to customers in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries and end users in hospitals and clinics in North America," Frank Richter, Head of Communications, told PlasticsToday from the company's headquarters in Helmbrechts. "The development and production center in [North Carolina] will ensure that customer-oriented and application-related products are [produced] for the largest, most innovative medical market in the world."

The company has deep roots in plastics processing. It's a spin off of Rehau Plastiks GmbH, later renamed Rehau AG + Co., which emerged from the rubble of World War II in 1948. A supplier of polymer-based products for construction, automotive and industrial applications, the company steadily grew into a global business with a presence in 54 countries. Its innovations include cross-linked polyethylene pipes, a windshield molding design that eliminated micro cracking at the edge of the windshield and a wood-polymer composite used for decks. The company began extruding medical tubing shortly after its founding, and it made history in 1957 when its tubing was used in the first surgical procedure using a heart-lung machine in Germany. Many other medical milestones followed, which Raumedic has built upon since it was founded in July 2004. True to its heritage, the company is committed to innovation through research and development and takes the long economic view, placing medium and long-term objectives ahead of short-term profits.

Since it was spun off, Raumedic has developed the world's first catheter with a microchip that measures pressure, temperature and oxygen in brain tissue and the first CE-marked transdermal telemetry system that measures cranial pressure through the skin. The company currently operates three production sites in Germany with extrusion, injection molding and assembly capabilities and partners with manufacturers of medical devices and pharmaceutical products worldwide. The facility it is building in Mills River is its first outside of Germany and will offer services similar to those it provides in Germany. The plant will include a state-of-the-art cleanroom that will swallow up over one-third of the total $27.1 million budget.

The size of the U.S market and the innovation it spawns are key factors contributing to Raumedic's continued growth, says Richter. The Mills River area was chosen as the company's base of North American operations for several reasons, he adds. First and foremost is the availability of a skilled workforce that meshes well with the company's core capabilities.

"Mills River provides Raumedic with a very good basis for the new center with its qualified specialists in polymer processing as well as medical product manufacturing," says Richter. During the site selection process, "it was very important that we find a location with a pool of qualified personnel."

Accessibility was also a primary consideration. The proximity of "regional and international airports in Asheville and Charlotte, as well as interstate connections (I-26 and I-40) in all directions played a role in the decision," says Richter. And of course, "excellent support in the implementation of the construction site and the quality of life that the Mills River area offers" sealed the deal, he adds.

Raumedic has earned a global reputation as a development partner and supplier of German-made tubing, precision moldings and catheters as well as assemblies and systems to the medical and pharmaceutical industries. It will soon be poised to offer those same capabilities made in the USA.

Norbert Sparrow

Norbert Sparrow is Senior Editor at PlasticsToday. Follow him on twitter @norbertcsparrow and Google+.

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