RheTech Inc. is looking to shake up its old image as an old-school compounder.
The company is offering new specialized, natural-fiber blends that it hopes will tap into an increased interest in environmentally friendly resins in the auto, consumer and construction industries.
To help jump-start its RheVision line, the Whitmore Lake, Mich.-based company has put its natural-fiber composites into bird feeders being sold at national retail stores, rather than wait for placement on a car two or three years from now.
I hate launching a product and not being able to make it commercial quickly, said Andy Hopkins, executive vice president for RheTech. Hopkins spoke in an Aug. 3 interview at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars, held in Traverse City.
RheTech and Hopkins have been busy introducing the firm's blends to an auto industry that has been using natural fiber in door panels, trunk structures and storage bins. RheVision uses fibers from waste materials such as wood fiber, rice hulls and flax and combines them with polypropylene in blends that boast lighter weight and a reduced carbon footprint for individual parts.
The consumer can understand this, Hopkins said.
The company is offering RheVision with natural content ranging from 10-60 percent, building on the company's history of providing custom materials its buyers need.
Consumer products like bird feeders will also continue to expose buyers to the look of natural-fiber thermoplastic, which could spur their interest in other products made from the material, which in turn will help automakers feel more comfortable with using it in more and more parts, he said.
They more they see them, the more they use them, Hopkins said.