Custom composite compounder Hughes Processing Inc. has invested about $700,000 in an extruder and auxiliaries for its La Mirada facility.
Hughes Processing began operating the conical counter-rotating intermeshing twin-screw extruder in October. The company uses the machine to make wood-flour-filled ABS, acrylic styrene acrylonitrile, high density polyethylene and polystyrene.
``Ours happens to be the first one put into production,'' said Thomas Hughes, vice president. His father, President Roderick Hughes, has more than four decades of experience in the extrusion, compounding and injection molding industries.
Cincinnati Milacron Extrusion Systems manufactured the TC96 extruder in Batavia, Ohio, said Tom Brown, product and general sales manager with the equipment maker's business unit. Brown said the machine - described as the world's largest of its type - cost $460,000.
The large-diameter screws taper to 96 millimeters from 202mm with a 30-1 length-to-diameter ratio. The previous comparable Cincinnati Milacron model tapered to 92mm with a 27-1 ratio.
The machine's dual-venting system is highly effective in removing residual moisture from the wood, according to Brown.
``Our original unit, a Cincinnati Milacron Atlas 93 parallel counter-rotating twin-screw, runs our patented, weatherable ASA compounds'' under the Sanoy brand, Tom Hughes said.
In total, he said, ``we now have the capacity to run over 1 million pounds per month.''
Hughes Processing extrudes the ASA mechanically, compared to the polymerization process used by mega-compounders.
``They might make a 100,000-pound batch, where we can make a 5,000-pound batch,'' Rod Hughes said. The smaller batches allow for custom work that can vary the luster of a finish.
Rod Hughes established the processing business in 1973 and formed a sister company, Extrutech International, a coextrusion and tri- extrusion tooling specialist for foaming applications, in 1986.
Tool shop Capitol Machine Co. of Santa Ana, Calif., manufactures heads for multilayer extrusions for Extrutech customers and often works with Rod Hughes on the designs.
``Rod looks at a customer problem as a challenge,'' said George Nys, Capitol owner and operations director.
``Rod is one of the most knowledgeable people in the plastics industry'' regarding formulations and screw mechanics.
That knowledge translates into the use of Hughes' compounds in pellet form across the country. Various technology and material licensees are located in Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Jet Plastics Inc., near Los Angeles, coextrudes its JetWood-brand spa skirting using Hughes' Sanoy compounds of wood-filled ABS for the core and ASA for the cap stock.
``The product has gone over so well that we are not accepting new customers, and we are having a ninth [extrusion] line built'' in-house, said Lowell Johnson, vice president in charge of Jet tooling and quality control. He and two brothers run a business that their father, Lloyd Johnson, founded in 1948.
On May 10, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to Rod Hughes and Lowell Johnson for the process of using encapsulated microspheres as a foaming agent with wood filler. Jet and Hughes developed a product with improved characteristics in ultraviolet-light protection, heat deflection and expansion-contraction.
``You can make some very attractive-looking spa boards with great performance characteristics'' adding wood-grain streakers, embossing the profile and using ASA in gray, redwood, natural, beige or another color, Tom Hughes said.
Wood replacement for redwood and cedar for spa siding is a major market driver for Hughes Processing, as costs for those woods have increased. In addition, young strands of redwood have a high sap content, reducing the natural product's appeal.
Actual redwood is now 10-20 percent of the market vs. 50 percent five years ago, Rod Hughes said.
That means more than 80 percent of today's portable spas have composite siding.
Some other applications for Hughes' material include:
* Nupla Corp. of Sun Valley, Calif., which added to its line of hammer handles. With a 350-ton injection molding press, Nupla overmolds a blend of 25 percent Hughes' wood fiber and HDPE onto a pultruded fiberglass profile core. Handle colors simulate wood grains, and a user can smell a wood scent, said Jody Hill, Nupla vice president of operations.
* Profile extruder Tri-Ex Composites Corp. of Newnan, Ga., uses Hughes' wood-filled ABS for the core and impact PVC for the exterior in its railing production. The Hughes compound creates a railing core that is more rigid than a PVC core and more cost effective than steel stiffeners, said Kevin Fidati, Tri-Ex president.
* Iso-Teck Industries Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., uses Hughes' compounds in profile extrusion of horizontal window blinds for rail and tilt-rod applications.
Hughes Processing is conducting in-plant tests of stiffeners with a high modulus, low expansion-contraction coefficient and significant heat resistance. Targeted for 2006 introduction in the building materials market, the ABS composite will contain a proprietary material and up to 33 percent of wood and short-glass-fiber filler. Probable cost: 2-3 percent more than a traditional wood-filled composite.
During 2004, Hughes Processing produced about 3.4 million pounds of wood-filled composites and 1.1 million pounds of ASA materials. Respectively, this year's targets are 5 million and 1.8 million pounds.
Hughes Processing employs 13, had 2004 sales of $4 million and occupies 34,000 square feet in La Mirada and, about 26 miles away, 2,000 square feet in Costa Mesa for administration.