Specialty compounder RTP Co. is adding capacity for its long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics in China, while also launching a new line of compounds with improved electrical properties.
Two LFRT production lines will be installed by the end of the year at RTP's plant in Suzhou, China, technology Vice President Steve Maki said during an interview at NPE 2006 in Chicago. The 172,000-square-foot plant opened in late 2005.
In the last year, Winona, Minn.-based RTP has added new LFRT lines in Indianapolis and Beaune, France. The firm also increased LFRT capacity in Winona by 10-20 percent through a debottlenecking. LFRTs based on nylon, polypropylene and other materials increasingly are being used for metal replacement in a variety of industries, officials said.
New PermaStat Plus-brand compounds are aimed at meeting new ATEX electrical standards in Europe. The materials have increased contact resistance and no static buildup. They also feature higher conductivity and can be used in flashlights, hand-held meters, dust monitors and other equipment used in mining and other similarly sensitive operations.
RTP also has initiated production of nanoclay compounds that can be used in fuel tank applications for snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and lawn mowers. Tanks made with the nylon-based material could be commercialized in 2007.
Maki added that RTP is working with researchers at the University of Minnesota to find a way to use its nanocomposite technology with polyethylene and polypropylene. Customers have asked for the material, but to date, nanoclay exfoliation rates have been too low for general use.
On the sales front, RTP is making great strides, with double-digit growth in 2005 and the same expected for 2006, global sales vice president Joe Kluck said. The firm racked up sales of more than $200 million in 2005, and that total is expected to be about $250 million in 2006.
``The overall economy has been strong, and we've seen growth in all market segments,'' Kluck said. ``We've had a lot of growth with existing customers, and we've increased our efforts to penetrate new markets.''
Kluck added that the firm's decisions to branch out into commercial sheet production and into the color masterbatch market have boosted sales. Maki also pointed out that several medical applications that have been in development for a number of years now are producing commercial results.
RTP employs more than 600 worldwide, among four U.S. plants and plants in France, China and Singapore. The Singapore plant has tripled in size since its 2002 opening.
The firm produces custom compounds in more than 60 engineering resins for applications requiring color, conductive, flame-retardant, high-temperature, shielding, structural and wear-resistant properties.