Lighter and tougher nanoresins soon will be rolling out the door at Zyvex Performance Materials LLC, a technology firm that recently moved from Texas to a site just a few miles away from Ohio State University's football stadium in Columbus.
``We had outgrown our logistics in Texas,'' Zyvex Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Von Ehr II said at the firm's grand opening, a July 31 event in Columbus that was attended by Mayor Michael Coleman. ``We were pretty full there and were having difficulty finding qualified people.''
``There's a lot of concentration of materials firms in Ohio, and it made a lot of sense for us to be plugged into the entire food chain. The state welcomed us with open arms.''
Ohio ``is Polymer USA,'' added Lance Criscuolo, the firm's vice president of global sales. ``This is the right ecosystem for us to grow our business.''
Zyvex's product combines its own proprietary Kentera-brand polymer with nanotubes supplied by French materials firm Arkema Group. That mixture then can be worked into epoxy, polycarbonate or nylon resins.
To date, Zyvex has made the materials in commercial amounts at a site in South Dakota. Moving to Columbus will allow the firm to be closer to material suppliers like Ashland Inc., as well as tap into the state's knowledge base in polymer science and nanotechnology, Criscuolo added.
Zyvex initially will use about half of a 26,000-square-foot leased space. The site now employs about 20, but that number could climb as high as 100 in three to five years.
Early commercial successes for Zyvex have been in the sporting goods market, where its epoxy-based materials are used in all-composite softball bats made by Easton Sports Inc. of Van Nuys, Calif. Other sporting goods applications include forks and handlebars on mountain bikes and shafts on golf clubs.
``Adding 1-2 percent nanotubes, by weight, can increase stiffness by 30-50 percent,'' Criscuolo explained.
The firm also is developing a number of aerospace and defense products, said Von Ehr, who owned a computer software firm before opening Zyvex in 1997. Earlier this year, Von Ehr split Zyvex into three separate companies - the materials group, Zyvex Labs, and Zyvex Instruments - to help customers better understand each unit's focus.
Von Ehr owns about 80 percent of the materials firm, with employees owning the remaining 20 percent. The Michigan native also holds five patents in software and one in nanotechnology, and has donated $3.5 million to open a University of Texas branch at Dallas NanoTech Institute.
Beyond sporting goods, Zyvex materials can be used in lighter, stronger aircraft parts and ballistic devices. They also can be used in high-end auto parts such as nonconductive nylon fuel lines.
Zyvex's current lineup of mixers could see the addition of twin-screw extrusion lines. The firm also is looking to partner with outside firms on production of some of its materials.
Ohio is home to several nanotech startup firms, such as Nanofilm Ltd. of Valley View, Five Star Technologies Ltd. of Cleveland and Ecology Coatings Inc. of Akron. Compounders PolyOne Corp. of Avon Lake and Ferro Corp. of Cleveland also use the technology.
Several Ohio colleges - including the University of Akron, Ohio University, Case Western Reserve and Ohio State - have active nanotechnology programs.