Special hoses for the Middle Kingdom

Regardless of whether it's sealings for synthetic material windows, tubes for medical infusions or jackets for cables with no end - anyone who wants to manufacture anything like that needs special machines, like the ones that are developed and built at Rubicon Gummitechnik und Maschinenbau GmbH. The company, from Halle, is what one would call a "global player". Its products are exported to 50 countries. The company has customers in India, Russia, the Ukraine and Brazil, as well as other countries. The latest order is for a production line for a Chinese supplier working in the automotive industry. It's an elaborate project, a whole conglomerate of machines linked together, which were built and assembled in Halle in advance.

Dr. Christian Köhler travels a lot. He spends about three months a year abroad - at trade fairs, visiting business partners or in one of the twelve representative offices that the company has outside of Germany. Köhler's company, Rubicon Gummitechnik und Maschinenbau GmbH from Halle, currently has 45 employees and occupies a special position in Saxony-Anhalt: It has an export quota of approximately 80 per cent, far above average. Köhler brings new orders back to the Saale from his business trips. One of these, a new production line for an automotive supplier in China, has just been completed and is currently in the huge new factory building, ready to be shipped. And, just like every time that a shipment begins its journey, Christian Köhler is hoping that everything will go to plan. That's because, for him, the order is only complete when the machine is working perfectly in the customer's factory. "It's only then that I'm truly satisfied," he says. Over the course of a year, a team of design engineers and technicians designed and built the new, 26 metre long production line for the Chinese company. It is made up of 14 individual machines which are arranged one after the other and are linked together. This production line will be used in China to produce the special hoses required in the engine compartment of a diesel car.

"Requirements for such hoses are high," explains Christian Köhler. "They must be resistant to heat and oil." Extrusion is the name of the multiple stage process used here. In this process a high viscous rubber mixture is firstly plasticised into a kind of screw conveyor, then, under high pressure, it is squeezed out of an extrusion die and is then heated and vulcanised. This is a continuous process. An endless hose runs permanently to the end of the production line from the belt. Rubicon has been able to score on the market in the Far East several times already. "We have had good business relations with China for a while," says Köhler, who was born in the Ore Mountains and who has lived in Halle for many years. At the end of 2011 a complex machine was produced for rubber extrusion for the Middle Kingdom. And the next contacts are already looming.

"Each machine is an individual solution which has been produced in accordance with our customers' requirements," explains the process technician, who founded Rubicn himself. That was in 1991. Shortly before that his previous company was closed down by the Treuhand. Köhler's new start as an entrepreneur was, however, rather modest: two employees and two co-partners in an undecorated, unrenovated engineering office. "But we had learned to improvise in the GDR," remembers the plastics engineer, who bought his current company premises back then and rented some of it out. Money started to come in and things slowly started looking up.
With the development of machines and production lines, such as those for the Chinese market, company founder Köhler had found a niche in the market, because there are only a few competitors offering similar products and services worldwide. The breakthrough came in 2003: That was when the Halle company delivered its first complete rubber profile extrusion systems to Saudi Arabia and Russia. Since then approximately 40 similarly complex systems have left the factory. And the work is getting bigger and bigger. The longest production line produced so far measures 90 metres and is currently operating in South Korea.
Rubicon boss Köhler celebrates his success quietly and modestly. He is also quietly hopeful that his son Philipp will take over the business one day. The 31-year-old also studied mechanical engineering, focusing on plastic and rubber technology, and is currently working in China. His dad's reckoning could come to be, as Philipp Köhler is currently a co-partner at Rubicon.

Author/Photographer: Ines Godazgar

Rubicon Gummitechnik und Maschinenbau GmbH
Dr. Christian Köhler
Managing partner
Hans-Dittmar-Straße 3
06118 Halle (Saale)
Web: www.rubicon-halle.de