Always time for a change

Middletown is a small city where the border traces along the blue curve of the Connecticut River. Since its founding in 1650, the city has evolved repeatedly, transforming from a busy port to a manufacturing hub for anything from firearms to typewriters. Habasit’s own Middletown Manufacturing Center has gone through nearly as many evolutions as the city itself.

The Middletown debut

Habasit arrived in Middletown in 1996, but the original building, built in 1976, has since undergone half a dozen additions as it has adapted to the innovations of a quickly growing industry.

Habasit Middletown has been known for our two seamless belt ranges: the traditional style seamless belts, Panther and Apache series, used as light conveyor and power transmission belts and rubber coated seamless belts, and the Grabber series, used as high-friction feeder belts. In 2005 the Middletown location was chosen as the first and only production site for HabaSYNC® timing belts. This product range supports conveying and linear movement applications that require optimal performance and precise product placement and component positioning.

The local debut required international collaboration. The machines for the extrusion line were designed and developed in Switzerland, built in Germany, returned to Switzerland for trial runs, and then disassembled once more before finally being shipped across the ocean to Connecticut. Finally, the equipment was installed in a 50,000 square foot addition, which had been built in preparation for the new machines.

By 2006, timing belt manufacturing was underway in Middletown with Habasit’s most experienced operators brought in to run the machines. Habasit Middletown began by manufacturing coils of one type of timing belt with a T10 pitch. The belts were 150 mm wide by 100 m long and made of Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) with steel or aramid cords. These belts could already be used in a wide variety of industries, from the medical field to energy production, but with this single product in motion, the developments were far from over.

Adapting quickly to the needs of the timing belt market has meant always being ready to develop new modifications even when the changes were not part of the original plan. Without having a ready-made design to follow, engineers reworked the extrusion lines in order to also manufacture fabric covers.

Since then, the R&D department and several engineers have developed over 17 different pitches and a wide variety of high-quality materials like different TPU grades, cords and fabrics. Apart from the recent manufacturing of wide timing belts in Reinach, Switzerland, Middletown remains the only location to produce open-end timing belts for the entire company and all its affiliates.

Innovation through teamwork

The ongoing work of innovation in Middletown is constantly expanding the efficiency and capability of each machine. In 2012, there was a joint effort between Reinach and the US sites in Middletown and Atlanta. The goal of the collaborative project between the R&D and engineering teams from the three different locations was to design a completely new extrusion line. Since Middletown engineers already had experience from the timing belt production, they contributed their expertise so that the new machine not only increased production and flexibility but also created the capacity for a quicker turnaround time.

It was also in Middletown that all the initial trials for Habasit Cleandrive™ took place. The R&D department traveled from Switzerland to Connecticut to become familiar with the extrusion lines before returning to Europe to design the product that would come to revolutionize the safe and hygienic food processing market. (ST)

Always time for a change

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