COMPOUNDER RTP CO. EXPANDS CAPACITY

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Specialty compounder RTP Co. has enlarged plant capacity by 50 percent over two years to accommodate orders for higher performing materials.

RTP added 50,000 square feet to its Dayton, Nev., plant this year. The facility opened in 1992 with 60,000 square feet, employs 60 and ships to western U.S. and Pacific Rim customers.

In December, RTP began operations at a 113,000-square-foot plant in Fort Worth, Texas, a new location that employs 35.

And, in 1995, RTP established a European site, buying a 67,600-square-foot facility in Beaune, France, from Codiplast SNC.

Hugh Miller, chief executive officer, attributes the growth to ``our ability to deliver specialty compounds correctly and promptly.'' The customized compounds cover a range of conductive, structural, wear-resistant, flame-retardant, precolored and high-temperature characteristics.

RTP also offers five-day lead times for standard materials.

For example, Winona, Minn.-based RTP developed a conductive elastomer to meet a customer's specific shielding require- ments. In turn, RTP adjusted the shielding and physical requirements to meet other customer needs.

Previously, operators cut sheet stock to make gaskets and seals with a two-dimensional shape of uniform thickness. Now, the injection-moldable elastomer opens design options.

RTP's fastest growth involves materials that protect systems from electromagnetic and radio-frequency interference and static discharge. Increasingly, the electronics industry shields material for computer circuit boards, military EM and RF systems and aircraft lightning-strike protection using compounds with polyacrylonitrile-based and pitch-based carbon fiber and metal-based additives.

RTP materials appear in several components of the tiltrotor Osprey V-22 aircraft. Textron Inc.'s Bell Helicopter unit in Fort Worth heads the development team.

RTP supplies a PEEK carbon fiber reinforced compound for the engine air particle separator door and door housings, the lost-core-molded fuel vent tanks and the nacelle blower impeller. An RTP thermoplastic polyimide compound is used in the drive assembly spline adapter, which RAM Inc. injection molds in Cisco, Texas.

In addition to the Nevada, Texas and France locations, Winona has 300,000 square feet and South Boston, Va., 100,000 square feet. The Winona, South Boston and Dayton facilities are certified to ISO 9002 standards.

The RTP name originated from the acronym for reinforced thermoplastics.

The company employs 500 and traces its roots back to a 1920s-era company that Joseph Miller formed to collect materials for reprocessing.

His sons, Ben and Rudy, joined their Plastic Trading Corp. and a reacquired business to form RTP Co. in 1980.

Chief executive officer Hugh Miller is a son of Ben's. Ben Miller remains active in the business at age 86.