How they do it
It started in 1995 in a garage. Now Pro Auto Rubber is one of the leading rubber extrusion suppliers in South Africa, with a comprehensive network of international partners and its own manufacturing plant. This is a brief insight into the world of its bus
Pro Auto Rubber
In 1995, Pro Auto Rubber started producing automotive extrusion rubber products. At the time, there was a clear gap in the market for the supply of extrusion rubber products such as door seals in the world of classic car restoration.
Nowadays, the company still supplies specialist products for the classic car segment, but the business has evolved and expanded into many other sectors, too. Pro Auto Rubber now specialises in the following fields: automotive, bus and truck body, railway, military, canopy, container, construction, garage door manufacturers, original equipment sub supply for vehicle manufacturers, gasket manufacturers, solar industry, shipping, building and the mining industry.
The headquarters are based in Boksburg in Gauteng, but it also has official outlets in Cape Town, George, Pinetown and Durban. Additionally, Pro Auto Rubber products are stocked by independent agents such as used car parts outlets, across South Africa. So from humble beginnings in a garage, the company’s footprint is now comprehensive.
Although Pro Auto Rubber has expanded into many other areas of rubber products, chances are pretty good that the company will be able to supply you with rubber extrusion products for that obscure vintage car in your backyard. On the subject of automotive: it has recently added a range of practical new car products to its inventory.
This includes rubberbased liners for the load bay of popular bakkies such as the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, as well as full interior flooring rubber solutions.
RUBBER? WHAT RUBBER?
Natural rubber is harvested from a tropical tree, a process that has been in existence for more than a century. However, the huge diversity of modern rubber-type applications has resulted in a range of alternative products being developed. These include synthetic rubber, silicone, ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), nitrile (NBR), nitrile food quality (NFQ), neoprene (CR) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Pro Auto Rubber offers a growing range of sealing systems. Different applications in diverse weather conditions require that companies supply the most ideal solution to specific conditions, a task right up the alley for this company’s dedicated team of technologists,
operating in state-ofthe-art laboratories.
This ensures that all the development is done in-house, under one roof: from the chemical research and development, to the design and fabrication of specific tooling for the creation of rubber extrusions.
BUT HOW IS IT MADE?
The raw materials that make up the different compounds are sourced from all over the world. For instance, a container filled with polymer arrives at the factory every month, all the way from the East. The materials are mixed in the plant. Once mixed, a compound is formed, and then, a raw, synthetic rubber produced.
Next, the raw synthetic rubber heads to the extruder and a die for a specific extrusion is fitted. To simplify this, this die is similar to a cookie presser. There are different shapes and sizes of ‘presser’, and once the synthetic rubber is pushed through the extruder, it takes on the shape of that specific die. Next, the product heads into the curing line, where it is first cured by microwave and then by heat.
At the end of the curing line, the finished product is coiled, packaged and dispatched to the relevant warehouse or outlet.
Some numbers: the factory processes around 60 tons of rubber per month. During busy periods – like when Pro Auto Rubber had to supply 300 000 metres of rubber extrusions to a company building a solar power station – the factory runs 24/7.
Pro Auto Rubber’s catalogue boasts more than 2 000 profiles... so that’s more than 2 000 different types of rubber extrusions the company can produce. If there is not a profile for a specific need, and there is enough supply potential, it will be developed. The company has also formed partnerships with several international firms.
One of those companies is based in China, and supplies Pro Auto Rubber with rubber extrusions with metal insertions embedded inside the rubber. However, Pro Auto Rubber, through its manufacturing partner, Hudson Rubber, will soon introduce the same manufacturing technology to be able to do the same here in South Africa.
And what about the automotive rubber extrusions, which originally spawned this company? Today, Pro Auto Rubber sells about 20 000 metres of automotive rubber products such as door seals every month. This company’s origin is courtesy of the automotive sector, and although it has expanded into many different areas as times and demands have changed, it’s still good to know it has not forsaken the very roots that laid the foundations of its current success.
Main, left: Pro Auto Rubber’s head office in Hughes, Boksburg. Above: Besides serving as national hub for the company, there is also a walk-in section for customers looking for rubber products. Below, clockwise from top left: The company has more than 2 000 rubber extrusion profiles in its catalogue. The company has grown to the extent that the retail and manufacturing divisions are now separate businesses – the manufacturing company is called Hudson Rubber. Rubber load bin liners are new in the Pro Auto Rubber catalogue. The raw synthetic rubber is fed through the extruder, fitted with a specific die.