Originally published on the Money & More cover of the York Daily Record/Sunday News on Sunday, October 2, 2011.
Wrote this story a while ago. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Things aren’t always simple on the manufacturing beat. I try to boil it down for the common folk. Here is a prime example of that:
By LAUREN BOYER
Daily Record/Sunday News
Adhesives Research likely isn’t a household name.
The company, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, sits nestled in Springfield Township farmland off the Interstate 83 exit for Glen Rock.
With a sign stamped “Adhesives Research,” the uneducated onlooker probably assumes the complex produces . . . well . . . adhesives.
But it’s much more than just transparent tape or the paste you used to sniff in art class.
It’s complicated concoctions — secret recipes — like the ionically crosslinked water-absorbent graft polymer, a name stamped in a plaque on the company’s wall of patents.
“They are very unique and they’re confidential. It’s not something you can find in a cookbook,” said George Cramer, vice president of marketing and commercial development. “Basically, we make tape here, but it’s very specialized tape.”
Adhesives Research has come a long way, he said, since the garage in North York, where it was started in 1961 solely to support Top Flight, a label manufacturer.
A decade later, the company expanded outside the label industry, manufacturing, among other products, foam bonding tape used to mount the original Dixie cup dispensers.
In the early 1980s, Adhesives Research creates a custom film used to stick vinyl tops on General Motors cars.
In recent years, the company has developed adhesives used in solar panels. They conduct electricity, insulate, and encapsulate, making sure the system is water-tight, Cramer said.
Here are some more sticky situations in which Adhesives Research may have lent a hand:
Pregnancy tests: Remember that pregnancy scare you had in college? You went to a local drugstore, bought a pregnancy test and crossed your fingers.
Then, that tiny stick delivered the news you’d been waiting for. Somehow, you had dodged the parenthood bullet.
There’s a chance Adhesives Research participated in that reassuring moment. The company makes components used in diagnostic test strips like those in pregnancy tests and glucose monitors for diabetics.
Got gas? Adhesives Research’s ARx division, created in 2006, produces dissolvable films that deliver the flatulence-reducing drug Gasex. Theraflu and Triaminic also are placed into the company’s film, which is cut into tiny pieces resembling breath mint strips.
“With the Gasex,” Cramer said, “we’re not saving lives, but we’re making the world a much better place.”
Ever have a bedsore? The sticky stuff that held the gauze onto your keister might be an Adhesives Research product. The company works with makers of advanced wound care products to develop adhesives capable of having antimicrobial properties and holding bandages in place. Meanwhile. The company works to develop a “gentle adhesive” that hurts less when a bandage is removed.
Trying to quit smoking? That nicotine patch on your arm might be held in place by one of Adhesives Research’s polymers.
Trying to prevent fraud? The company makes microscopic tags used to prevent counterfeiting.
“I can’t tell you where they’re going,” Cramer said. “It sort of defeats the purpose.”
The covert markers can appear in everything from meat and pet food to designer watches and government documents.
“The image can be as detailed as a picture of you,” Cramer added. “That’s an invisible tag.”
Adhesives Research timeline
1961:Adhesives Research opens. The company works solely as an adhesive division for the label manufacturer Top Flight.
1970s: The company expands its product offering and begans manufacturing foam bonding tape used to mount the original Dixie cup dispensers.
1974: The company moves to its current facility on Seaks Run Road in Springfield Township.
1984: Polymer reaction capabilities are installed at the plant, which is now able to develop its own adhesive polymers.
1987: A fire rips through the Adhesives Research plant. Workers were mixing chemicals Dec. 14 when a static spark set the solvents on fire. Two firefighters and an employee were treated for injuries.
1993: The company opens a 13,000-square-foot building at its Springfield Township campus to develop pressure-sensitive adhesives. The new building doubles the size of company’s research and development laboratories.
1999: The manufacturer opens a facility in Limerick, Ireland, which serves as the company’s European headquarters.
2000: A sales office opens in Singapore to service Asian customers.
2006: A January fire that tears through an Adhesives Research storage building at the plant on Route 216. No injuries were reported, and the 30 to 40 workers inside got out safely.
2006: In April, the company breaks ground on its pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. The 25,000-square-foot plant, part of its ARx Division.
2007: Adhesives Research adds an office in Shanghai, China.
2011: The company employs 360 people at its Springfield Township location and 460 globally.