In 1989, chemical engineer Larry V. Montsinger left a corporate research and development job for the confines of a Char-lotte, N.C., garage. During the next six months, he worked to develop high-performance thermoplastic composite processes and materials, on the way to starting Montsinger Technologies Inc.
``Some of the major corporations have been unable to perform in this niche,'' he said.
His process creates a hybrid technology, drawing on pultrusion, extrusion, fiber processing, polymer compounding and sizing chemistry.
In 1990, Montsinger moved to a plant in nearby Matthews, N.C., and soon commercialized a combination of long-glass and aramid fiber with the thermoplastic polyetherimide for a CEM Corp. microwave oven. The application received a Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Composites Institute award in 1991.
``It has revolutionized the way [research] labs use composite vessels in high-pressure and high-temperature experiments,'' he said.
He received a U.S. patent in 1993, and has applications pending elsewhere on his process for producing long-fiber thermoplastic compounds and continuous-fiber-reinforced materials and profiles.
``The process uses counter-current flow to melt-impregnate continuous-fiber roving with thermoplastics,'' Montsinger said.
The process is particularly effective with high-viscosity polymers and minimizes damage to the reinforcements, allowing use of a variety of fibers. Fiber loading may range from 20-70 percent by weight, depending on fiber and matrix polymer.
Currently, Montsinger Tech-nologies operates two research lines that produce 25- to 10,000-pound quantities of material for market support to a license candidate, or for sales of Thermo-Stran compounds to an injection molder or original equipment manufacturer.
In 1994, Montsinger Technolo-gies granted an exclusive PVC license to a resin and compound manufacturer for production of continuous-fiber-reinforced PVC profiles.
In another profile market, players in the oil patch are testing Montsinger's cables of continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic in deep-well applications.
A potential customer is examining Montsinger's thermoplastic rebar.
``It gets around the corrosion and weight problems of steel rebar,'' he said, ``and it is environmentally friendly.''
Montsinger and other compounders are working with AlliedSignal Inc.'s engineering plastics business unit to demonstrate the application of long-glass-fiber-reinforced PET injection molding compounds in automotive components, according to Bruce DeBona, an AlliedSignal senior research scientist. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is partially funding the advanced technology program.
Montsinger, 43, maintains a sales and marketing office in Charlotte and looks toward the day when orders for long-fiber compounds will require a full-scale production facility. Mean-while, the entrepreneur relishes the opportunities he has found beyond his former employment at Hoechst Celanese Corp.
He said he has experienced ``tremendous personal growth'' in dealing with technical, financial and marketing issues and, as an entrepreneur, learned how disciplines come together. He receives counsel from an advisory board of three former executives from the Charlotte operations of Hoechst and BASF AG.
He has endured many sacrifices and the creative pain of visualizing, building and operating a business.
``You have to develop the skill of seeing what is not there,'' he said.