Centrifuges made locally used worldwide

A Hamilton manufacturer produces the sugar separating device.

HAMILTON — A Hamilton business has the distinction of being a world-wide supplier of a device crucial to international industries.

That device, a centrifuge, is used by both the sugar and nonsugar industries to separate solids from liquids.

“They produce about a thousand gravities,” said Doug Buckner, the company’s president and CEO.

“They’re fairly sophisticated machines and they have a lot of moving parts. It’s a heavily-engineered product.”

A centrifuge can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $400,000 each. That price tag may be determined not only by the size and complexity of the machine, but by the amount of time it takes to engineer and manufacture it.

Companies in the sugar business generally have a line of three to six centrifuges.

Companies in the chemical or pharmaceutical business usually need one or two centrifuges.

“On the chemical side, the machine tends to be larger,” Buckner said.

“On the pharmaceutical side, the trend is toward smaller machines.”

Western States has been making centrifugals for nearly 100 years.

Founded in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1917, the company moved to Hamilton in 1937 when it bought the Columbia Machine Tool Company.

“They moved here because of the skilled labor force that was here and the proximity to the financial markets on the East Coast,” Buckner said.

In the 1950s, Western States expanded its centrifugal line to include centrifuges for nonsugar industries including separation of fine chemicals, agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

The company remained on the Ohio 4 Bypass until a decade ago, when it moved to 530 N. 3rd St.

Eugene Roberts, Western States’ founder, invented several patented devices and methods for perfecting the centrifuge, Buckner said.

The company has agents in South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, Korea, Central America and South America, he said.

It employs 60 people locally in its 110,000-square-foot facility, which also creates parts to help service decades-old Western States centrifuges worldwide.

Western States’ location puts it in a prime spot for doing business, Buckner said.

“This is one of the centers of manufacturing in the country,” he said.

“There’s a lot of suppliers and subcontractors here that we rely on heavily because we don’t make the whole product, we just make the critical components of the product.

“It’s a good location to be for what we want to do.”

Since its inception, the company has built and installed more than 6,000 centrifuges for sugar and chemical companies.

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