Americhem Inc. is celebrating its 70th anniversary while making plans for additional growth.
On Oct. 1, the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based compounder and concentrate maker will begin manufacturing operations at a 40-acre campus in Liberty, N.C.
The site, with three buildings totaling 185,000 square feet, has rail access and silo bays, and is near the regional transportation hub of Greensboro, N.C.
“We felt that in our other facilities in the U.S., we could expand the physical buildings, but we really could not do multiple buildings of 50,000 square feet or greater. So [Liberty] allows us to have a campus setting and to specialize our plants to make certain products,” Dave Bouton, Americhem vice president and general manager for fibers, engineered resins and film products, said May 31 by phone.
The Liberty site will manufacture high-end white masterbatches, specialty masterbatches, high-performance black dispersions and specialty compounds, he said.
The complex — Americhem's seventh plant — will have annual production capacity of 25 million pounds by year's end, according to Bouton.
The campus represents the seventh capacity addition in five years for the company, which operates plants in Concord, N.C.; Cuyahoga Falls; Dalton, Ga.; Mansfield, Texas; Manchester, England; and Suzhou, China.
According to a Dec. 13 news release from Gov. Bev Perdue, Americhem will spend $22.6 million on the Liberty plant by the end of 2013, and eventually will employ 71. Company officials would not comment beyond what was in the news release, except to say they closed on the property Feb. 8.
Americhem received a $225,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund to aid the project.
Besides the new manufacturing facility, Americhem also is focused on aiding customers' research and development efforts: The company recently added new coextrusion capabilities to the customer concept center at its corporate headquarters.
A new pilot line inside the design and testing facility can produce mono- and coextruded, thick foam plastic cladding and decking.
Engineers modified an existing American Maplan 40-millimeter conical twin-screw extruder to launch the pilot line, adding downstream equipment including die sizers from VinylTech International and a puller and saw from Technoplast International, Americhem research scientist Rick Keatley said in a May 18 interview.
The tooling enables the company's customers to test lighter-weight options for the composite-decking and thick-cladding industries.
“We've had mono capability for quite a while,” said Chris Piazza, Americhem's extrusion business manager. “Basically, what we've done is to reconfigure it so we can make coextruded boards as well.”
The coextrusion project, which began in September and wrapped up in April, cost about $50,000, officials said.
The new line, which has been operational since May 1, also allows for evaluating products and materials, including pigment and additive masterbatches and fillers, and is geared toward helping customers increase the speed-to-market of new decking products
“You can use a variety of exothermic and endothermic [foaming agents] and mixtures of the two, and we can get different densities. A lot of the deck boards that are out in the industry that are cellular are going to have different densities,” Piazza said. “We felt the need to have something [at the headquarters], so that our customers could do some of that product development here.”
Americhem, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, has embarked on a series of customer-friendly moves that include new Web pages with data sheets and white papers about its artificial turf, textiles and carpet products.
The company also is touting its natural and accelerated weathering laboratories, which use natural weather conditions and Xenon arc and fluorescent ultraviolet condensation devices to measure the effects of outdoor exposure on products for automotive and siding or roofing applications.
Americhem will unveil sample chips for its 2012-13 health and beauty color trends June 28-30 at the HBA Global Expo in New York. On June 29, the winner of Americhem's annual Project 5th Avenue student packaging design contest will be announced at the trade show.
Spokesman Scott Blanchard said during a May 17 tour of Americhem's headquarters that the company is trying something new at the HBA show. Using the Web-based version of its vDesign plastics color-matching software, visitors to the company's booth can order customized color samples, which will be made at Americhem's labs and shipped overnight to the show floor in New York.
In 1941, Sylvester Caldwell founded what was then known as Caldwell Co., on Nov. 29, in Akron, Ohio. The company originally supplied fillers and additives to the U.S. rubber industry. In 1959, under the ownership of then-President Richard Juve, the company changed its name to Americhem, and in 1965 moved to the Akron suburb of Cuyahoga Falls.
In 1993, current CEO Rick Juve succeeded his father as president, and the company remains privately owned. In addition to its manufacturing plants, Americhem has sales offices in Manchester; Luxembourg; and Monterrey, Mexico.