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Polymera plans to tap WPC demand with new capacity

Polymera plans to tap WPC demand with new capacity
Polymera plans to tap WPC demand with new capacity
Polymera plans to tap WPC demand with new capacity

Polymera Inc. (Hebron, OH) is commercially producing wood and natural fiber polymer composite compounds after initiating installation of equipment in February of last year, meeting its estimated timeframe to fully outfit its 160,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility in central Ohio with 60 million pounds of WPC compound capacity.

Herb Hutchison, VP and general manager at Polymera, told PlasticsToday that after taking possession of its facility in December 2010, the work to unload and install 40 shipping containers worth of equipment began shortly thereafter. The facility was commissioned on time late last year with pilot runs undertaken after that.

Hutchison, whose extrusion and WPC resume includes time as the director of international business development at Cincinnati Milacron and as president of Crane Plastics, said the new company, now two years old, fulfills a need in the marketplace for WPC supply, which has been restricted due to the capital investment required to compound the fiber/plastic hybrids.

Hutchison said Polymera has invested more than $10 million in its production system, which is largely automated. He favors the company’s competitive position, saying in his view that there are no “significant players” in the wood-plastic compound market at this time. That’s largely because, he believes that companies that have invested the amount of capital Polymera has, are typically making compounds for their own use in the production of decking and similar products.

This lack of a supplier of wood-plastic compounds has handicapped the materials growth into new markets, like injection molding, according to Hutchison. “One of the issue in the industry, one that we recognized, is the capital cost necessary to get involved,” Hutchison said.

Compounding, consulting and spare profile capacity

Polymera’s primary business is intended to be compounding, but Hutchison said the company can do some profile extrusion where necessary, both for product development,  and as a “disaster recovery plant” providing stand in production for customers they sell material to who have had their capacity impacted by a natural disaster. They can also help companies in a transitional state while they ramp up their own production.

Polymera brought in a number of WPC industry veterans, including Jeff Brandt its VP manufacturing and technology, to support product development efforts.

The company’s proprietary production technology allows it to supply compounds from various fillers, including wood, in varying amounts. Hutchison said particularly unique is the ability to add up to nine minor ingredients on top of the base wood and polymer base.

Hutchison describes the resulting compound as an agglomerate that doesn’t have the heat history of a standard compounded and pelletized material. The compressed materials are reportedly easier to transport, and can run at rates up to 15% higher than powder-based systems, according to Polymera. In addition, their processing consumes 12-15% less energy in production.

“That’s a pretty good combination to increase the production rate while lowering the energy usage,” Hutchison said.
Plans for NPE

Polymera, which has around 10 employees at this time, will participate in this April’s NPE2012 show in Orlando (booth number 27045), occupying a booth in the materials hall. In addition to its compounds, Hutchison said Polymera will promote its consulting ability within the WPC sector, including assisting customers with things like profile design, tooling, plant set up, and material selection.

Its products currently include:

Merablend: A wood/natural fiber polymer composite material for injection molding, extrusion and compression molding, with varying fiber loadings in HDPE, PVC, and PP.

Meraplast: Consultation for companies looking to enter the wood/natural fiber polymer composite market, with Polymera assisting with materials, processing, technology development and recommendations for WPC processing equipment.

Merawood: Profiles extruded on high-speed twin-screw production lines specially configured for maximum flexibility and output.


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