Oxford Polymers, an engineering resins compounder based in New Britain, Conn., has signed an agreement with Dow Chemical Co. to produce compounds based on Dow's Questra-brand crystalline polymers. In a separate move, Midland, Mich.-based Dow announced Questra distribution and application development deals with Entec Polymers Inc. of Maitland, Fla., and Prime Alliance Inc. of Des Moines, Iowa.
"Connectors and electronics will be a good market for our Questra products," Oxford marketing director Scott DeFelice said.
Questra — a syndiotactic polystyrene — will join polyetheretherketone in Oxford's high-end, high-performance product offerings. The firm began making PEEK compounds under license from Infinite Polymer Systems last year.
Most of Oxford's business is in low-cost nylon, polycarbonate and ABS compounds for the automotive market. The 40-employee firm will open its fifth compounding line this year, increasing its annual capacity to 25 million pounds. The privately held firm does not release sales figures.
With the deal, Oxford becomes Dow's fifth Questra licensee, joining LNP Engineering Plastics Inc. of Exton, Pa.; RTP Co. of Winona, Minn.; Lati USA Inc. of Mount Pleasant, S.C.; and M.A. Hanna Co. of Cleveland.
The Oxford deal "reflects our decision to start expanding a little bit," said Scott Moore, North American product manager for Dow's engineering plastics unit.
"Oxford is even more of a specialty compounder than our previous licensees," Moore added. "They're very good at formulating solutions, and geographically they're a little bit different with more of an East Coast presence."
Oxford's DeFelice said he's not worried about competition from other Questra licensees, even though they're larger than his company.
"We're well-positioned strategically to market [Questra]," he said. "A larger company with a broad product line might not be well-positioned to hone in on a handful of products."
DeFelice expects Questra to compete with liquid crystal polymers and polyphenylene sulfide. He added that Oxford is "very open" to other licensing agreements.
Dow's Moore also said that Dow "is more open to expanding our list [of Questra licensees] than we had been.
"Questra's had an advantage because it starts with an inexpensive monomer in styrene and then a metallocene catalyst gives it improved performance," he said. "We're looking at competing in the whole range of crystalline polymers from polybutylene terephthalate up to liquid crystal polymers."
Dow's first commercial-scale Questra plant, with annual capacity of 80 million pounds on two lines, opened in Schkopau, Germany, in late 1999.
The Entec and Prime Alliance deals will allow Dow to expand markets by working with two distributors that are focused on and have experience in engineering resin markets, Moore said.