Arox Industries claims it has developed a water-based, styrene-free liquid polyester that can reduce production costs and ease environmental concerns. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company has a patent pending on the only known heat-formed thermoset plastic that can be used to produce molded products, said Jim Brown, company president.
Preliminary tests by chemical companies are under way to validate Arox claims, and results should be completed within three weeks, said Brown, who joined the 8-year-old company in 1992. Then Arox hopes to license its technology to a company that will batch-mix the polymer and sell it, he said.
However, some people remain cautious about Arox's claims.
Terry Sprow, vice president of technology for Alpha/Owens Corning of Collierville, Tenn., said in a Sept. 22 interview that certain applications of the Arox product would have value.
However, he said mechanical strength and shrinkage would be two of his concerns.
``Water will come out of a composite over a period of time,'' he said. ``The new polymer system will find certain market niches, but in other niches it probably will not work.''
The process began eight years ago when Arox inventor W. Scott Hammond started his pursuit of a material for the construction industry that was flame-proof, fire-retardant, inexpensive and could bond to styrene foam.
The adhesive properties of the Arox-brand resin help reduce costs, Brown said, because the polymer binds well with all fillers except thermoplastics. Inexpensive fillers - silica sands, clay, fly ash and crumb rubber - can be used, thereby requiring a reduced amount of polymer to create equal or better end products. The filler-to-resin ratio can be as high as 15-to-1, he said.
Other characteristics include its high-impact resistance in either a flexible or rigid form with minimal expansion and contraction, and excellent performance at below-freezing or high temperatures, he said.
``Our big focus is to get companies to use this material to complete low-income housing in foreign countries,'' he said. ``A permanent shelter made of our lightweight material with 6-inch foam insulation would be a natural fit for a place such as Africa.''
Brown said he had preliminary discussions Sept. 20 with a business in Cameroon, where that firm could build 500-square-foot houses that would sell for less than $10 per square foot.
Arox also is touting the polymer's environmental benefit.
``The absence of styrene and its emissions - together with the elimination of [methyl ethyl ketone] and other activators - addresses a huge health concern problem for the polyester-based thermoset plastics industry,'' Hammond said.
Brown said the company - composed of 40 investors, including Chief Executive Officer Henry Creque - originally set out to be a manufacturer of the polymer with a 50,000-square-foot facility.
``We decided to go to construction companies, flooring companies, boat makers. But they know what they're doing with production and distribution, and we didn't. So, basically we decided to license our technology.''