Compounder RTP Co. has created a separate division for its newborn sheet extrusion business, but officials at the Winona, Minn.-based firm said they have no intention of competing with its customers in the sheet market.
``We're targeting niche developments and tough-to-develop type applications,'' said Bill Minogue, who will serve as general manager of the sheet division. ``We're not expecting to compete in commodity areas. We're not going to compete with our customers.''
The division started out as a product development effort for its compounds, with commercial sheet production beginning late last year. To date, most of RTP's sheet output has been polycarbonate-based, but the firm also has done some work in nylon and other resins.
Current markets for RTP's sheet include thermoformed products for the signage and automotive segments.
``We're on the fringes of each industry,'' said Minogue, a sheet industry veteran who joined RTP earlier this year. ``We're not really targeting any particular one.''
The sheet business also could hold other rewards for RTP.
``As people want us to solve different problems [in sheet], we hope to sell more [compounded] pellets as a result,'' Minogue said.
RTP's sheet operation employs about 12 and is located in a separate building near the company's Winona operations. A third extrusion line was added earlier this year, and a fourth is set to be in place by the end of October. Production is centered on ``small runs'' of 500-1,000 pounds, Minogue said.
First-year sheet sales are expected to be between $5 million and $10 million. If the program proves successful, Minogue said sheet production could be added at RTP sites in Europe and Asia.
RTP's overall sales were around $170 million in 2003. The privately owned firm specializes in engineering resin compounds and ranks among North America's 30 largest compounders, according to a recent Plastics News industry estimate.