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OTech adds extruder, grows in elastomers

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

November 1, 2013

Thermoplastic compounder OTech Corp. is boosting capacity with a new 70-millimeter twin-screw extruder that will allow the Rolling Prairie, Ind.-based manufacturer to expand further into the elastomers arena and offer more flame-retardant olefins.

Founded in 1999 by its president, Jack O'Donnell, OTech has grown every year selling predominantly flexible PVC materials to the electrical wire and cable, footwear, housewares, roofing, agricultural parts and automotive industries.

The move toward elastomers such as styrene butadiene styrene will help OTech seize new opportunities and meet demand, O'Donnell said in a telephone interview.

"We're presently serving a lot of industries by selling them vinyl products. Now it's a natural outgrowth for us to pursue these other polymers," O'Donnell said.

OTech hired four new employees and plans to hire four more for a second shift. He sees opportunities in footwear molding, such as the soles of snow boots, profile extrusion, computer wire for high-speed transmissions and zero-halogen products.

"Then, there's a whole market segment of the soft-touch type products like a toothbrush or hair brush," he said. "You have the hard plastic but then there's a nice soft piece where you grab it. It makes it more comfortable.

"We also sell a lot to the electrical cable and wire industry. There's a whole family of products called flame-retardant olefins and that's another target for this twin screw."

The new machine has capacity for an additional 15 million pounds of materials a year. It will be OTech's sixth production line.

"I have a 6-inch single-screw extruder [for] some thermoplastic elastomers," O'Donnell said. "The 70mm will give us a much more aggressive mix and allow us to really broaden our product offering. We have the line set up so it's available [for] underwater pellets and a strand cut. Depending on which polymer we decide to manufacture, we have the capability to go in either direction."

The company expects to sell 50 million pounds of polymers this year, excluding new business from the twin-screw extruder, which went into production about 2½ months ago, he said.

"We should do pretty well with it," he added. "Our really big focus is in the wire and cable businesses, where we presently sell 65-70 percent of our material. Probably another 25 percent goes into the profile extrusion and molding markets, and the balance to the footwear industry."

All compounds, including some PVC alloys, are manufactured at OTech's 250,000-square-foot facility, which has about 70 employees.

The materials are shipped throughout the U.S., and to China and the Caribbean.

O'Donnell said he has always been in the flexible compounding business and started OTech after a stint as vice president of sales and marketing for a division of a company acquired by Tekni-Plex.

"They decided they didn't want to be compounders for the wire and cable industry," he said. "They were making changes there and I saw there would be an opportunity … and thankfully it has worked out pretty well for us."

For the most part, OTech is a small, specialty compounder.

"We're a little bit of a 'boutiquey' place," O'Donnell said. "We do some commodity stuff to pay the light bill but we like to be the guy who can come up with the right solution when nobody else can. We'll use that same philosophy with this new production equipment."

O'Donnell projects sales will hit $45 million this year at OTech and $4 million at a wholly owned subsidiary called Color Resource LLC in Leominster, Mass.

Color Resource also has expanded recently, adding a line of colors for moisture-cure, cross-linked polyethylene compounds for the emerging low-voltage, automotive and appliance wire markets.