In São Roque, Brazil, the balloon industry is poppin’—literally.
In the latest episode of the Popular Mechanics series “MADE HERE,” Valter N. Sakaguchi, production supervisor at Latex São Roque, walks us through the latex balloon factory he’s worked at for almost three decades.
The company originally used Brazilian latex until demand became so great that it had to start importing latex to keep its production up. Now, Latex São Roque only uses imported latex.
Like his job title implies, Sakaguchi oversees several facets of production at the balloon factory. When a product doesn’t meet company standards—for example, if a balloon pops during testing—Sakaguchi doesn’t get upset. Instead, he sees it as “an opportunity to do a quality test.”
Latex São Roque makes a whopping 659 types of balloons for all kinds of occasions. They come in different sizes, colors, finishes, and even feature custom designs. To maintain high output, the company runs 24 hours a day and will soon begin operating 7 days a week. But Latex São Roque doesn’t stop at balloons—the company also produces latex gloves.
“A portion of [the] latex goes to the manufacturing of balloons, and the other part goes to making the multipurpose gloves,” Sakaguchi tells Popular Mechanics.
Latex São Roque was founded in 1953 and counts several generations of families among its workforce. “We’ve had grandparents, then children, and today we are in the third generation who are the grandchildren,” Sakaguchi says. “More than half of my life is here. I belong to this family.”
For Sakaguchi, balloons evoke a feeling of wonder and happiness. “A world without balloons, I believe, would be a world with less joy.”
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