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New company making floor tile from recycled polyethylene

By: Michael Lauzon

February 12, 2014

A startup company plans to commission a new factory at the end of February to make what it calls is an eco-friendly alternative to PVC sheet such as used in flooring.

Magma Flooring LLC has received a $2 million equity injection from New Capital Fund to help it get into production of sheet made from recycled resins and natural fillers.

"We're looking at various markets and will start with flooring and luxury vinyl tile," said Magma vice president of sales and marketing Cory Erickson in a phone interview. "We are seeing the market needs low-cost yet green and sustainable products."

Magma's plant in River Falls, Wis., will install a continuous, double-belt press to make sheeting from recycled post-industrial polyethylene and a proprietary menu of natural fillers, according to Erickson. The company claims the sheet it has developed is chlorine-free, phthalate-free, plasticizer-free and has virtually no odor and is recyclable. As well, the sheet can be printed and embossed.

Magma was formed in 2012 in a spinoff from contract research firm Interfacial Solutions LLC of River Falls. Magma CEO Gregg Bennett and two partners established the company after working in upper management and technical positions with 3M Co. Their material science expertise helped them develop the new sheet.

Magma has been running pilot scale trials of the new sheet at its equipment supplier, TechnoPartner Samtronic GmbH of Goepingen, Germany. Among TechnoPartner's equipment offerings are double belt presses it claims can make homogenous and heterogeneous flooring, composites and products made from recycled plastics and fibers. The machinery creates webs from powdery or granular thermoplastics and other materials. TechnoPartner says the double-belt system provides uniform surface pressure and handles temperatures of up to 482° F.

In addition to floor coverings, Magma envisions sheet applications in printed graphic media and industrial sheeting. Its initial products have natural filler levels of 50-80 percent.

"Using its proprietary technology platform, Magma will be a pioneer in leading the transition away from PVC plastic sheet in a variety of markets," Bennett predicted in a Feb. 4 news release. "Over the last year, we have hired an excellent team to support the launch, production, sales and marketing of our products."

"We are impressed with the Magma team's experience in taking innovative ideas successfully to market," commented Charlie Goff, New Capital's president and general partner, in an email. "There are not many entrepreneurs who have the breadth of experience as the Magma team while having the willingness to risk their own capital on a new market idea."

New Capital, based in Little Chute, Wis., is a venture capital firm that focuses on high-technology businesses. Its portfolio includes Xolve Inc., an early stage nanomaterials company that grew out of research at the University of Wisconsin. Xolve is working on nanotechnology applications in plastics, composites and energy storage.

Interfacial Solutions provides contract research and development to the plastics industry and claims that since it was founded in 2003 it has helped commercialize more than $300 million of plastic products in various markets.