HUDSON, Ohio—Alttran Inc. made big strides in its goal to increase the firm's mixing capabilities in 2016 when it invested about $250,000 in new laboratory equipment and equipment upgrades.
But that was just the initial phase of a multi-year plan that will enhance the capabilities of the research and development laboratory, according to Dave Topliff, president of the Hudson-based specialty elastomer compounder and development company.
Alttran, which was formed by Topliff and his wife Debbie in 2005, mixes a wide range of polymers with a focus on applications that require high performance rubber.
"We have separate lines for mixing black and color compounds," Topliff said. "This allows us to make very consistent, clean color compounds. We also provide technical support to develop new compounds, investigate new applications and solve problems with existing customer formulations."
He said that the company has grown steadily over the past 11 years and continues to seek new customers and opportunities.
"The vision for Alttran has remained the same as we have moved from start-up mode to a more mature company: Provide strong technical support to our customers and conduct business with a more personalized approach," Topliff said.
Alttran wanted to increase its R&D capabilities because, in addition to its internal need for compound development, it has a business unit that provides contract testing to the rubber industry, he said.
As the company worked with new clients on lab testing, he said "they expressed a need to capture more data from the mixing equipment. Customers were also looking to solve processing issues in molding and extrusion.
"By adding specific lab equipment, we can develop better models to predict compound behavior in extrusion, transfer molding and injection molding processes," Topliff said.
Alttran installed a MonTech D RPA (dynamic rubber analyzer) 3000 in its lab in early 2016. "The RPA is an amazing tool," according to Carlee McCowin, an application development engineer at the firm. "We have been able to model different molding processes and identify how compound changes impact scorch times and mold flow. The post-cure dynamic testing opens up a new area for us to study."
Its laboratory is located within the privately held company's plant in Hudson in order to support both the mixing and contract testing business units.
Alttran also purchased a lab scale extruder with a digital data acquisition system to make compound development more efficient. The extruder has reduced the time needed to optimize extrusion compounds and provides quick feedback on the dispersion of fillers, the firm said.
Another upgrade was the installation of data acquisition systems on the company's lab mixers, using touch screen panels to control and display the mixing process.
Alttran said key data is displayed on the screen and is continuously captured on a dedicated computer. It said the increased level of detail has improved the success rate as compounds scale up from the lab to the factory.
"There are two main objectives that drive our investment in the lab," Topliff said. "We want to decrease the time it takes to develop a new compound or optimize an existing compound. The faster we can move projects to a successful conclusion, the faster a customer gets the answers they need to grow their business.
"Secondly, we believe that increasing our technical knowledge of rubber processing will improve the performance of our compounds."
He said the company has grown at an average rate of more than 20 percent per year during the last decade by adding equipment regularly to keep up with demand for the firm's mixing services and to meet specific customer requirements.
"Alttran will continue to invest in equipment and staff to support our compounding and lab testing businesses," Topliff said. "The technical needs of our customers help us focus on the type of equipment and test capabilities that are needed.
"Rubber is exposed to a wide range of environments that impact product service life. Being able to predict how a compound will perform in high heat or extreme cold is one area of expertise that our customers require. We also expose rubber to a variety of fluids to study their impact on product performance."