More than two years ago, Hughes Processing Inc. was looking for ways to make its cap surface technology appear more like wood.
Until that point, the company had been pleased with its acrylonitrile styrene acrylic caps, but their opaque nature created limitations, said Thomas Hughes, president and chief executive officer. Those limitations also were shared in the industry.
The Costa Mesa, Calif.-based firm then invested about $200,000 in raw materials, labor, testing and development costs to create a woodlike composite, he said.
Acrylic and polystyrene, as base polymers, drive the new technology. Hughes Processing makes the resins at its La Mirada facility for commercial sales.
``Due to the relative clarity of our resin technology, the cap provides depth to the overall profile, creating varnished or lacquered woodlike looks,'' he said.
Typically, the firm extrudes the acrylic cap over foamed or unfoamed, wood-filled ABS, and sometimes uses rigid PVC or ASA in the sublayer.
The PS cap is extruded over foamed or unfoamed, wood-filled PS.
The technology is being marketed to the decking, fencing, spa siding and window industries.
Hughes Processing uses a TC96 conical counter-rotating intermeshing extruder. The Cincinnati Milacron, twin-screw machine runs wood-filled composite products and accounts for most of the firm's output.
In other news, the company has ordered a coextrusion line for laboratory use and demonstrations at its La Mirada facility. The line will show its polymer processing capabilities and sister tooling company Extrutech International Inc.'s coextrusion technology.
``We will be able to extrude various profiles from our stock of dies or trial customer tools when properly fitted,'' Hughes said.
He projects the firm will invest $500,000 for the lab line and about $50,000 for installation.
Milacron Inc. will supply a 55-millimeter, conical counter rotating twin-screw extruder for the core material and an Akron Milacron 2-inch, single-screw extruder for the cap material. The lab line will have several self-contained vacuum loaders and is expected to be functional by May.
For the core extruder, Novatec Inc. will supply a hot-air dryer and 400-pound material hopper for first-stage virgin pellet drying and two desiccant dryers with two material hoppers.
``One [desiccant] unit is for second-stage virgin pellet drying, and the second unit is for the regrind drying stage,'' he said.
A pair of Novatec desiccant dryers and material hoppers will operate with the cap extruder.
``Two separate dryers will allow us to add more than one cap-stock material to the extruder to create woodlike looks when applicable,'' Hughes said.
Hughes Processing employs 10 and may add two to four more by midyear. The firm had 2007 sales of $5 million, up from $4.5 million in the previous year.