GRAY COURT, S.C. — Jon McClure is betting $4.7 million that his new company can crack the polyethylene blown film market.
ISO Poly Films Inc. opened its highly automated Gray Court plant in February and started full production on a second film line in April.
``We feel ISO Poly Films will be producing 50 million pounds a year in about three to five years,'' said ISO Poly Films President McClure. ``There's a real opportunity for us to step in and be a major player in high-quality blown film.''
The 25,000-square-foot facility, which sits on 35 acres and can be expanded to 100,000 square feet, was designed by Vice President Tom Saxton, who has 21 years' experience in PE film.
In fact, the firm's three top executives — McClure, Saxton and Russ Joseph, vice president of sales and marketing — all bring backgrounds in plastics to the venture. McClure worked at his father's plastic bag distributorship in Greenville, S.C., International Plastics Inc. Saxton and Joseph both hail from film extrusion firms: Saxton's last stint was as plant manager at Essex Plastics Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla.; Joseph was sales manager at Allied Extruders Inc. in Long Island City, N.Y.
At the heart of ISO Poly Films' operation are two Contracool air-cooled extruders from Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co., with combined capacity of between 15 million and 18 million pounds per year. Both blown film lines can run 100 percent linear low density PE. The plant, which is ISO 9002 and ISO 14000 certified, has room for six lines.
The company produces rolls of film for converters that require high quality for high-speed printing and converting, including bonded and laminated nonwovens.
``We feel the precision process of our plant is a valuable asset for us and for our customers,'' McClure said. ``Older manufacturers need four to five lines to keep up with our two Gloucester systems.
``The Contracool extruder has the power needed to push linear and the dies can handle it,'' he added. ``This capability gives ISO an economic edge because of the availability and pricing of linear material.''
The first line has a 41/2-inch screw with a length-to-diameter ratio of 30-to-1, and features a 16-inch Optiflow LP die for rapid changeovers, flow stability, low residence time and enhanced film quality.
A dual-lip air ring allows air flow at high rates to provide cooling and stability without film chatter. Bubble stability is enhanced with Gloucester's Digisonic internal bubble cooling control, which uses ultrasonic sensors to measure bubble diameter, a key factor in lay-flat control, McClure said.
``With the Digisonic control system, we can simply print documentation for a customer to prove how we are maintaining the critical lay-flat width,'' he said.
ISO Poly Film's second line has a 41/2-inch screw and a length-to-diameter ratio of 24-to-1 and is used for sheeting or bags from 0.4 to 8 mils. It features an 18-inch oscillating internal bubble cooling die and the dual-lip air ring. It is fitted with gusset board and slat collapsers for making a variety of in-line bags, mainly for the textile industry.
``We have tight gauge control,'' McClure added. ``The tighter the gauge the tighter the spec and this is where we will shine.''
The company has targeted three main markets: tape, agriculture and food industries.
``We have had good reception from all three,'' Joseph said.
In the retail agricultural market, the firm has laminated polypropylene to nonwoven materials at 1,000 feet per minute. The film has microembossing effects for porosity, allowing moisture to seep through. On the food side, ISO Poly Films uses about 6 million pounds per year to make bread bags for one large converter. And, Joseph added, it is entering the medical application industry with a PP/PE blend for laminates.
``We want customers who understand the cost savings of running 200 more feet per minute, companies that invest in technology and then in people,'' McClure said.
``We're searching for orders that maximize our equipment, to run the most optimal gauge in the most optimal width,'' Saxton added. ``We can run 40 inches to 100 inches wide and we want to come close to 80 percent, which would be 80 inches.''
When the lines are not running at 100 inches, the scrap is gathered and reground on site.
ISO Poly Films has shipped products as far as California and is gearing up to serve customers worldwide.
``We see real potential in Central and South America,'' said Joseph. ``Mexico is a likely customer for products such as embossed film and we will shortly be adding that capability.''
The new company employs 24 and runs 24-hour days, five days a week. On July 1, it will boost that schedule to seven days a week and add six workers. The firm also is adding a laboratory and will be able to test melt indexes; currently it tests width, gauge and average weight.
ISO Poly Films assembled economic development support for its project from several quarters. The South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development committed $50,000 for Laurens County to make public road improvements to serve the ISO Poly Films site. The company also received a $150,000 revenue bond for infrastructure improvements, and the state Department of Commerce committed $82,500 in community development block grants for an eight-car rail spur.
In addition, the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce worked to secure several grants for water and sewer lines and roads into Gray Court Industrial Park. Laurens County Council gave the new, 76-acre industrial park, developed by McClure, approval as a joint development between Greenville and Laurens counties, entitling new companies to a $1,000 tax credit per employee for five years.