TBL Performance Plastics (TBL) is a privately-owned company with over 50 years of experience in plastics and related life science industries. I became interested in the company, because it offers fully-integrated manufacturing capabilities that could support the explosive growth of the cell and gene therapy (CGT) industry, where there is an ever expanding need for manufacturing equipment to support the production of innovative products.
TBL fills this role by providing tailored solutions to companies from across the life science spectrum. At its facility in Sparta, New Jersey, TBL operates ISO Class 7 cleanrooms for fabrication and packaging, follows cGMP’s, and specializes in tubing, fittings, and connective technologies for an endless array of fluid-transfer processes.
One of TBL’s most compelling products is its aSURE™ instrument fitting. The product was developed as a means to maintain a sterile barrier where disposable manifolds are used on hybrid single-use process equipment. Fixed or tethered pressure-monitoring devices provide extremely high accuracy and are often hard wired into a central control panel. The aSURE™ instrument fitting provides a practical means of maintaining a sterile barrier on a complex manifold set, and provides a barrier without the need to have a gauge present during the sterilization process.
Because of TBL’s growing role in life science manufacturing, I am honored to release this interview with Chris Ray (President), in which we discuss his background, the mission of TBL, the design of the aSURE Fitting, and the future goals of the company. Enjoy!
Interview with Chris Ray, President of TBL Performance Plastics
Cade Hildreth: What is your background and how did you become involved with TBL Performance Plastics?
Chris Ray: I started working as an intern for TBL in 2010 while earning my chemical engineering degree from the University of Florida. After graduation, I worked as a chemist, and in plastics R&D. I came on board full time with TBL in 2014 and am currently the President and a Co-Owner.
Polymer chemistry was a focus area for me in college, and I have had an interest in plastics manufacturing and applications ever since. I am also perusing an MBA at Louisiana State University.
Cade Hildreth: When was TBL Performance Plastics founded and why?
Chris Ray: TBL was founded in 2002 as a sister company of Rubberfab Technologies Group. We spun out in January 2016 as an independent/ privately owned company. We were originally founded as a tubing extrusion company but have evolved over the years to become a provider of integrated solutions for drug manufacturing and life sciences companies.
Cade Hildreth: What is the company’s core focus?
Chris Ray: Our focus is exclusively on the life sciences markets, and our main expertise is in non-metallic fluid-transfer and storage solutions. Our four pillars of manufacturing are injection molding, tubing extrusion, cleanroom assembly/ integration, and plastic fabrication.
We do all of this at our headquarters in Sparta, New Jersey.
Cade Hildreth: What is the aSURE Instrument Fitting and how is it superior to other alternatives?
Chris Ray: The aSURE instrument fitting was designed to be a better alternative to single-use pressure sensors. In fact, it makes them obsolete in many cases.
On stainless steel process lines, users can choose their pressure gauge of choice for a particular application because the systems are mostly sterilized in place. However, the industry is moving toward pre-sterilized non-metallic single-use systems, which are either gamma irradiated or autoclaved in many cases. Most available pressure gauges are either not compatible with these sterilization processes or cannot realistically be included with every system as the systems are often made in advance and in bulk quantities.
For these reasons, end users are forced to use single-use disposable sensors, which require additional equipment to process the signal. This adds cost and complicates processes in many cases, especially where complex control systems are in place. Our aSURE Instrument Fitting allows them to utilize the pressure gauge of their choice.
Other advantages of using traditional pressure gauges over single-use sensors are reduced calibration needs, increased accuracy, and elimination of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) associated with single-use pressure sensors which can be costly to dispose of. In summary, our fitting provides a connection point for a sanitary pressure gauge while maintaining a closed system after sterilization.
Companies can now sterilize single-use systems without a pressure gauge and then install the pressure gauge of their choice at the point of use.
Cade Hildreth: How have life science advances created a growing need for your products?
Chris Ray: Single-use systems have allowed drug manufacturing companies to cut down on validation/ operating costs, and their use has significantly decreased the time to market for new drugs. In the old days, companies would have to install and validate stainless steel process systems which commonly have a fixed use and are difficult to repurpose. We specialize in designing and manufacturing turnkey single-use systems that have helped many companies get to market faster with new drugs and respond more effectively to changing market conditions.
Cade Hildreth: What are your 5 year goals for TBL Performance Plastics?
Chris Ray: We will continue inventing and bringing novel products to market. In 5 years, we plan to be an indispensable part of the global life sciences industry.
Cade Hildreth: How can people get in touch with you to learn more?
Chris Ray: Your readers can visit our website at tblplastics.com or call our office at 973.383.2834.
Cade Hildreth: Thank you for taking the time to explain the unique aspects of TBL’s manufacturing capabilities. It was pleasure to do this interview with you.
Do you have questions about TBL Performance Plastics or the aSURE™ Instrument Fitting? Ask them in the comments below.