Materials maker RTP Co. has entered the sheet market by opening a production facility in its hometown of Winona, Minn.
RTP, one of North America's 30 largest compounders, earlier this year began commercial production of sheet based on polypropylene, ABS, acrylic, PEEK, glycol-modified PET and polycarbonate. Sheet properties range from anti-stat, flame-retardant and light diffusion to a variety of reinforced grades.
Sheet production is taking place on three extrusion lines in a separate building already owned by RTP, spokesman Joe Arras said in a June 5 phone interview. Sheet made at the site is based on compounds made by RTP, he added.
RTP does not sell many of its compounds to sheet producers, so there's not much chance of the firm competing with its own customers, Arras said.
“We had been playing around with [sheet production] for a few years, and wanted to take a fresh look at the market,” he added.
It's the third time in seven years that RTP has made a move into downstream production of plastic products. In 2006, the firm bought film extruder Wiman Corp. of Sauk Rapid, Minn.
RTP added to that business in 2009, when it bought a film plant in Dupo, Ill., from Omnova Solutions Inc.
“We're trying to pattern the sheet business after the Wiman [film] business, in operating it as a separate entity,” Arras said.
Sheet made at the new RTP site can be used in transportation, medical, electronics and similar markets, he added. It also can be thermoformed or compression-molded. Thicknesses for the new sheet range from 0.02 inches to 0.25 inches, while widths range from eight inches to 56 inches and lengths range up to eight feet.
North American compounding leader PolyOne Corp. also made a major move into sheet production last year when it spent almost $400 million to buy Spartech Corp., a leading maker of sheet that also had a sizable compounding business. RTP's Arras said that sheet now being made at RTP isn't similar to most of Spartech's sheet output.
The expansion into sheet continues a hectic 15-month period for RTP that's included:
- Buying a line of conductive compounds from Clariant International Ltd.
- Opening a technology center in Shenzhen, China
- Doubling the size of its compounding plant in Ladenburg, Germany
- Licensing nylon-bondable Santoprene-brand thermoplastic vulcanizates from ExxonMobil Chemical Co.