Here is how condoms are made

2015-12-21 11:11
(Amanda Khoza, News24)

(Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Durban – Have you ever wondered how condoms are made? Well, wonder no more.

News24 got a rare opportunity to tour RRT Medcon, the only condom manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere.

It is the strong smell of latex that welcomes you into the basement of RRT Medcon, situated in the heart of Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal.

This is where we meet the team.

For RRT Medcon CEO Sikhulu Mtshali, condoms are what separate life and death.

"If you don’t use a condom, you might as well commit suicide because you don’t know what diseases that person may be carrying."

Mtshali, a qualified microbiologist, has been at the helm of the company, which was started by the Kohrs family in 1993, for seven years.

Mtshali said the company started off as a distributor and then later evolved into a fully-fledged male condom manufacturer.

"We supply male Choice condoms to the National Department of Health through a tendering process. We also do packaging for Trust, Lovers Plus, Contempo and many other South African brands."

From liquid, to rubbery state, to balloon texture

The company, which employs 80 staff members, has just been awarded a R122m three-year tender from the department of health to spice things up with the production of new Max condoms, which will replace Choice.

"The government did a study and found that condom usage increased with coloured and scented condoms. So we have begun the process of manufacturing Max."

He said the facelift was aimed at increasing condom usage, particularly amongst the youth.

Speaking about the manufacturing process, Mtshali said the condoms were dipped in latex imported from Malaysia.

"That latex gets mixed with other chemicals and then it goes through dipping lines. There will be several quality control measures where we check for any defects."

Each condom went through a total of 17 quality control checks at the warehouse.

"The condoms take shape from liquid into a rubbery state and then into a balloon texture. All those stages go through quality control tests, where we check for leakages and the strength of the condoms in the labs."

Before the condoms are sold, they have to be checked by the South African Bureau of Standards [SABS].

"There is a perception out there that if something is cheap or being handed out by government that it is not good quality. This is not true."

With a demand of one billion pieces a year in South Africa, the company has the capacity to produce about 260 million per year.

The company has plans to expand, both locally and internationally, to address the demand.

"We are in the final stages of being accredited by the United Nations Population Fund. This will allow us to export to other African countries."

'Using a condom should be the way of life'

The company has secured land in Durban for a new warehouse, which will take 12 months to build.

"Those premises will produce up to a billion pieces per annum. This will address the issue of supply, especially in South Africa. All the government wants is the security of supply."

In 2012, the company secured a loan of R15m from the National Empowerment Fund to procure more machines and equipment. "We are still paying it off."

He said condoms should not only be used in World Aids Month.

"Using a condom should be the way of life because it will prevent you from serious diseases.

"It is better to be safe than sorry.

"We commend scientists for coming up with new measures, but it is still early days. We urge people to continue using condoms, it does not mean that now that there is a pill, it is a free for all.

"There are ethics and people need to promote a good life," said Mtshali.

The process begins with large machine conveyor belts where the condoms are dipped into latex on glass moulds. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

The condoms come out at the end of the conveyor belt. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Then they go to the washing and drying process and after that to an electronic testing machine. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

They are then taken an electronic testing station. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

The condoms are separated into good and bad batches. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Then they go through a foiling process where each condom is lubricated and sealed into its own package and marked. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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