That exclusivity period has now ended and Cabot can work with other customers. "I am excited to see us transition to the next phase of growth," he said.
Its exclusive pact, which began in 2008, had been with Michelin. Under terms of the agreement, Reynolds said Cabot now is free to work with other tire customers to supply elastomer composites and offer technical support on how to best use Cabot's materials in their products.
Cabot's elastomer composites are a unique class of materials made primarily of natural rubber and reinforcing materials such as carbon black, the company said. It claimed that the composite products are produced in a proprietary and patented mixing process that enables a superior level of carbon black dispersion, creating materials that are structurally different from compounds produced by conventional methods.
When mixed with curing agents, molded or extruded and then vulcanized, the firm maintained, the composites transform performance through dramatic improvements to rubber properties that are critical for OTR applications such as energy and resistance to abrasion, cutting or chipping.
At this point, Cabot's elastomer composites commercialization efforts are focused entirely on the OTR tire market, Reynolds said. "We believe that our current generation of elastomer composite technology provides the most value in applications that use natural rubber, and this is a critical material in many OTR compounds."
Reynolds said OTR tires and rubber tracks are used in a number of applications "where their performance determines the overall productivity of high value assets.
"For example, longer-lasting aircraft tires can enable increased utilization of commercial, and rubber tracks with lower operating temperatures can enable faster operation of heavy industrial or agricultural, equipment. Our elastomer composites have been proven to both lower the operating temperatures and extend the life of off-the-road tires."
Cabot's long-term goal is to commercialize elastomer composites as a premium offering for select, high-value rubber applications, he said.
Investing for growth
Expanding the elastomer composites' capabilities and establishing a dedicated team for the business is the third key investment in its operations Cabot has made in less than a year.
In June 2016, the firm put plans in place to establish a new application innovation center in Shanghai, China., and in September 2016 it announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Cabot China Ltd., had signed a joint venture pact with Inner Mongolia Hengyecheng Silicone Co. to form a joint venture to produce fumed silica in China.
Cabot's new center in Shanghai will serve as its Asia Technology Center with infrastructure and laboratories supporting all business within the region. The company said the new facility will be pivotal in Cabot's continued delivery of world-class and innovative materials to customers across the globe.
Construction of the facility is expected to be completed by mid-2017 and likely will be operational in August, Cabot said.
It is being located at the company's regional headquarters in Shanghai and will feature state-of-the-art analytical and application testing equipment, the firm said. The operation initially will be staffed with more than 30 researchers and scientists working together with research teams located throughout the company's global network.
"We already have strong manufacturing and commercial operations in Asia," according to Yakov Kutsovsky, senior vice president of research and development and chief technology officer. "With a highly experienced team and state-of-the-art equipment, the Asia Technology Center will enable us to offer our customers more collaborative services, faster development times and extensive testing and trialing in Asia."
Cabot's new center will support a number of product lines, including activated carbon, rubber and specialty carbons, fumed metal oxides, masterbatch and compounds, and ink-jet colorants with testing and development capabilities that closely represent Cabot's customer applications, the firm said.
Its other major investment in China involves construction of another facility in the country, where it has had operations for almost 30 years and currently has four plants.
Cabot (China) will hold an 80 percent share of the JV with Mongolia Hengyecheng Silicone and is investing about $60 million to build a fumed silica manufacturing plant in Wuhai, China. The new facility will have capacity to produce about 8,000 metric tons of fumed silica annually.
Construction on the plant began in early 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2019, the firm said.
"Cabot has achieved tremendous success over the years in China, and we continue to see great opportunities to innovate and support our customers while being a model for sustainable production in China," Keohane said.
The company has grown steadily across the globe over the last several years, Reynolds noted. "We have an over 130-year history of leadership in our chosen markets, an unparalleled global footprint and have delivered technology innovation in a broad range of applications.
"We have a strong portfolio of businesses with solid macro drivers for growth, and the opportunity for innovation has never been more compelling than in recent years. We have also executed successfully over the years to strengthen many of our business positions with investments such as our Mexican carbon black operation."