WAUKEGAN, Ill.—Polymax Thermoplastic Elastomers L.L.C. is expanding its production operation with the addition of a new compounding line of machinery that will boost the company's TPE capacity.
It also intends to hire up to 10 new production personnel. The firm's work force at its 42,000-sq.-ft. facility in Waukegan, where the company is headquartered, will total between 25 and 30 workers once the new employees are added, according to Tom Castile, vice president of sales for the firm.
A manufacturer and custom compounder of thermoplastic elastomers, the company will add about 8 million pounds of annual TPE output with the new line. The firm did not provide figures on its current annual capacity.
Cost of the expansion was estimated at between $1.3 million and $1.6 million. But Castile said those figures only cover capital expenditures.
Polymax's expansion project is underway and the machinery is expected to be in place and fully operational in the next few months, he said.
Castile said the investment in the new line and additional production personnel "reaffirms our continued commitment to the engineering TPE plastics market in the U.S."
Expanding the TPE manufacturing and compounding operation "will play a key role in meeting the application development needs of our customers and further unlock new business opportunities and maintain our superior customer response time," he added.
"We started operating the plant in 2013," Castile said, "but full production didn't come until after that. So everything we have there is new."
Polymax's additional capacity will be run on a twin screw extrusion system made by Somerville, N.J.-based Leistritz that's equipped with an underwater pelletizer from Gala Industries of Eagle Rock, Va. Both are part of the new compounding line.
In fact, "all of our production lines are twin screw, underwater pelletized production lines," according to Castile. The Waukegan plant is also equipped with a twin screw pilot line that's used for testing and small production runs, as well as a fully equipped laboratory.
The company's TPE materials have experienced strong growth in the last few years, he said. They are primarily earmarked for the automotive, health care, electrical, electronic, building and construction, food packaging, consumer products, and industrial markets.
Its current volume leaders are food packaging, automotive and consumer-related applications, he said.
Polymax's TPE materials are used to produce injection molded, extruded and blow molded parts, including interior and exterior automotive trim, consumer grips and handles, beverage closures, overmolded gaskets and seals, sporting goods, and soft touch applications.
Castile said the company has regularly invested in new equipment at the Waukegan site to meet the needs of current customers as well as new companies coming on board, especially in the automotive and packaging industries.
It has also added regulatory accreditations, such as ISO 9001:2015 and IATF 16949:2016, which certify the company's ability to meet or exceed current performance for products, services and systems, ensuring quality, safety and efficiency, the firm said in a press release.
In addition, it said, statistical process control technique and analysis tools are applied to monitor process consistency and product quality at the plant.
Polymax and a sister company, Nantong Polymax Elastomer Technology Co. Ltd. in Nantong, China, were co-founded by Martin Nu. Nantong Polymax has about 30 million pounds of annual TPE capacity and a work force of between 110 and 140 employees. It ranks among the largest Chinese TPE suppliers, according to the company.
While the two firms operate independently, the firm said, they leverage each other's technical and manufacturing capabilities to create material solutions for customers.