In the realm of diversification, it's hard to top the investment that resin exporter Cresset Powers Ltd. has made in a nanotechnology-based nylon resin plant in Taiwan.
Since 1986, Pasadena, Calif.-based Cresset has exported off- and wide-spec grades of nylon and other engineering resins from the United States to Asia. The firm's customers include DuPont Co., GE Plastics and Bayer Corp. Cresset employs 43 and operates warehouses in Los Angeles; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Belpre and Little Hocking, Ohio.
But in recent years, Cresset founder and owner Orrin Addis has seen the writing on the wall.
``The major manufacturers are reusing their own material,'' Addis said in a recent phone interview. ``That's driving secondary prices up. The business is eroding to the point where it won't be here anymore. I realized we had to be in a new business.''
With that goal in mind, Cresset and about a dozen other investors established Nanopolymer Composites Corp., an independent firm that has built a nylon resin plant with 20 million pounds of annual capacity in Tainan, Taiwan. The plant, which employs 50, began producing commercial quantities of material in mid-2005.
At the plant, standard nylon 6 is combined with nanoparticles during the polymerization process. The resulting material has a much higher oxygen-barrier rate than standard nylon 6 and can compete with glass-filled nylon in injection molding applications, Addis said.
Injection molded parts can be made with the nano-nylon using only 80 percent of the material needed from a standard nylon resin, he added.
In the film market, NCC's nano-nylon material can be used in stand-up pouches and frozen-food packaging. The materials are being tested by large film extrusion firms, such as Bemis Co. Inc. of Minneapolis and Toyoba Co. Ltd. of Osaka, Japan.
``Other companies like BASF and Honeywell and Ube are making this material, but they're not making it accessible to the regular Joe,'' Addis said. ``We want to get samples to everyone.''
Cresset is the exclusive global distributor of the NCC product. To date, all the firm's commercial sales have been in Asia, but Addis said he hopes to add North America soon.
NCC uses its own proprietary technology to produce the nano-nylon. Addis declined to provide a cost estimate for the project but said 2006 sales are expected to be more than $40 million.