Materials firm Network Polymers Inc. has added a new twin-screw extrusion line to make glass-filled compounds.
The new line “gives us more flexibility,” said Alan Woll, CEO of the Akron, Ohio resin distributor that makes compounds under its Diamond Polymers brand. “We had been farming out production of these products to toll compounders, but thought that we'd be better off making them in-house. In manufacturing, it's always best to control your own destiny.”
The new line replaced an older one at the site, keeping Network's production line total at seven. Nameplate annual capacity for the new line is 12 million pounds.
Network bought the line from NFM/Welding Engineers Inc. of nearby Massillon, Ohio. Network also purchased auxiliary equipment from NFM as part of the project, which represented an overall investment of about $1.4 million.
“We were happy to find an Ohio company,” Network Chief Financial Officer Michael Neumann said in a phone interview. “They set up a turnkey system for us, so it helps that they're in our backyard.”
The line will be used to make glass- and talc-filled grades of polypropylene, ABS and polyethylene, with loadings of up to 35 percent.
The materials will be sold into moisture-critical applications in plumbing and other industrial uses, excluding the automotive market.
“We'll be able to run more specialized products than we could before,” Woll said. “And these products will have better physical properties.”
Adding the new line also has created a need for new employees at Network. The firm will need to add at least three, and as many as six, operators. Neumann said the firm wants to make the hires by the end of the year.
Officials already are thinking about adding another twin-screw line and additional mixing equipment next year. Such a move also might include adding space to the firm's 72,000-square-foot building.
The Diamond brand's product mix has changed in recent years. At one point, about 80 percent of its production had been in ABS-based compounds. ABS now makes up only 35-40 percent of the firm's output, Neumann said, with more materials based on acrylic styrene acrylonitrile and polycarbonate alloys. “We've switched from commodity to specialty,” he explained.
The new line is part of an ongoing upswing at Network. The firm posted sales of $65 million in 2010 — the highest total in its 25-year history. Sales for 2011 are on track for a new record of around $75 million.
“We have a really good team of people here,” Woll said. “And we're glad to be growing.”