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Compounder RheTech targets automotive

By: Frank Esposito

May 1, 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (May 1, 3:20 p.m. ET) — Compounder RheTech Inc. is finding success with its RheVision brand of bio-based compounds, and is considering adding a new extrusion line at its plant in Whitmore Lake, Mich.

RheVision can use a wide range of biowaste materials, including pine and maple wood, rice hulls, coconut, flax and agave fibers, strategic growth Vice President James Preston said at NPE2012 in Orlando. Biowaste content can be as high as 50 percent, depending on the individual application, he said.

To date, RheVision has been centered on consumer applications such as dog-food dishes, bird feeders and fencing. Whitmore Lake-based RheTech is working to get the material into automotive applications as well.

The new line in Whitmore Lake would replace an older line, which would then be shut down, Preston said.

RheTech’s plant in Blacksburg, S.C., is running well a year after opening its doors, he added. The plant specializes in compounding nylon, acetal and other engineering resins used in automotive under-hood parts, as well as in parts used in all-terrain vehicles and Sea-Doo water vehicles.

RheTech still does about 85 percent of its work in compounds based on polypropylene. The extreme price volatility of that material has been a challenge for the firm, Preston said. “It’s an industrywide problem,” he said of PP volatility. “You can’t get a yearlong [pricing] contract — it’s hard to even get one for a quarter.”

Overall, RheTech saw sales growth of 20 percent in 2011, and Preston said the firm should be able to match that rate this year. RheTech employs 150 and has annual sales of about $100 million. The firm generates about 65 percent of its business from the auto market.