For Aspen Research Corp., its latest expansion in capabilities is a new Crown 72-millimeter custom twin-screw compounding extruder that boosts the firm's manufacturing capacity nearly fivefold.
During the course of the last year and a half, the Maple Grove, Minn.-based company also has moved to a new building, doubled its analytical space and added 24 new polylactic acid alloy formations, according to market research manager Nathan Koenig.
The custom compounder and materials development company has been around for about 27 years, but was purchased by a local investor group, Aspen Acquisition Corp., in 2011. It formerly was part of Anderson Corp., the window and door maker.
"In 2012, we moved from 48,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet to accommodate a larger expansion," Koenig said in a telephone interview.
The move relocated the business from the northeast to the northwest side of Minneapolis. It also paved the way for more changes, including the new compounder.
"It essentially increases our manufacturing capabilities five times overnight. Together with our existing 58mm compounder, we are now able to produce at a capacity in excess of 25 million pounds annually," said Rick Burnton, Aspen's president and CEO, in a news release.
Koenig said Aspen has been working with PLA for quite a while and "we're really trying to pull PLA into different lines and really push the green market."
The new PLA formulations have many of the performance characteristics of conventional plastics but offer a sustainability factor because they are made from corn and other plant-based sugars.
They are geared for such applications as point-of-purchase displays and shelving, lighting and fixtures, sanitary ware, as well as the construction, automotive, packaging and electronics markets. Aspen also is working on additional materials that it expects to be commercialized by the end of 2013.
Its analytical arm offers a full-scale certified testing lab that is ISO 17025 accredited.