Sterigenics International Inc. is reporting strong sales of its Raprex-brand irradiated polymers in 2006, and the Oak Brook, Ill.-based firm expects even better results in 2007.
For Sterigenics, 2006 marks its first full year of Raprex production. Sales for the year are expected to hit 500,000 pounds, product manager Ed Phillips said in an interview at NPE in Chicago. In 2007, that total is expected to hit the 2 million-pound mark, he added.
Sterigenics is producing Raprex at an e-beam radiation site in Gaithersburg, Md. Its technology irradiates pre-processed polyethylene to create long-chain branching, allowing high-density materials to behave like low-density ones. The process is proving helpful in extrusion blow molding and melt-phase thermoforming, said Phillips, who joined Sterigenics in 2005.
In addition to Raprex production, Sterigenics offers contract irradiating services for materials such as polypropylene and fluoropolymers, which then are converted into powder. The firm also does gamma-radiation polymer work in Salem, N.J., and research and development scale work in San Diego. In 2005, Sterigenics installed a new continuous pellet-handling line in Gaithersburg for the Raprex product.
A big opportunity for the irradiated plastics can be found in the foam market, according to Phillips.
``Foams are one of the most exciting things we have going right now,'' he said. ``We can achieve the right balance for low density [PE] foams from [linear] LD or HD. Those are usually hard to process for insulation or energy absorption foam.''
The firm has selected specific resins from PE suppliers that respond best to the irradiation process, according to applications development manager Song Cheng. Sterigenics also is considering adding a PP grade to its Raprex line.
Sterigenics ranks as the world's largest supplier of radiation sterilization services to the medical and health-care industry. The firm generates about 60 percent of its sales from medical sterilization and employs 1,000 at 40 locations worldwide.