Sponsored By
Clare Goldsberry

July 10, 2016

3 Min Read
PlastiComp christens R&D lab to further research into long-fiber thermoplastics

PlastiComp Inc. (Winona, MN), a company specializing in long-fiber thermoplastic (LFT) technology, recently completed a capital improvement project at its manufacturing and corporate headquarters.

Dubbed the Da Vinci R&D Lab by the company in honor of renaissance inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci, the space serves as an isolated environment for the firm’s smaller long-fiber composite pellet pultrusion line and auxiliary equipment for conducting evaluations of new raw material feedstocks and processing enhancements.

“PlastiComp is one of the few long-fiber compounders actively engaged in advancing long-fiber technology into new markets and applications instead of just producing commodity long-glass-fiber polypropylene products,” said Steve Bowen, President and CEO at PlastiComp. “Our new Da Vinci Lab provides the ideal environment for PlastiComp to evaluate different fiber and polymer combinations as well as try out new processing techniques to assess their effect on material performance.”

In addition to engineering the performance of LFT materials to meet customer-specific application requirements, PlastiComp also performs contract research and development work for industry suppliers and partners seeking to adapt LFT technology.

“Our many industry partners really like the plant-within-a-plant concept [of] the new lab because it provides a secure environment for our Technical Development Center activities in which we can conduct confidential trials separate from our primary production operations,” said Eric Wollan, Vice President of Technology and Business Development at PlastiComp. “Plus, it has opened up valuable floor space for future expansion that will allow PlastiComp to quickly add more composite pellet pultrusion lines as our business continues to grow.”

PlastiComp’s portfolio of Complet composite pellet products incorporate long glass, carbon and specialty fibers into thermoplastic polymers ranging from polypropylene to PEEK. PlastiComp’s expertise is in the tailored development and manufacture of innovative LFTs using engineering resins, often in tandem with long carbon-fiber reinforcement. Available globally, the LFT composite pellets are formed into finished components by customers via injection molding or profile extrusion processing methods.

PlastiComp was awarded Frost & Sullivan’s 2015 North American Award for New Product Innovation. Identifying the need to reduce the cost and weight of products, PlastiComp introduced its Complet Hybrid long fiber-glass and carbon-fiber-reinforced composite materials for customer applications requiring higher performance.

PlastiComp uses a proprietary pultrusion compounding method to manufacture Complet Hybrid long glass and carbon-fiber-reinforced composites as an alternative to heavier metal materials.

Integrating continuous glass and carbon fibers in the right proportion to obtain effective long-fiber composites is a key focus of the company. When compared with conventional thermoplastic materials, long-fiber composites are stronger, tougher and lighter while offering a similar life cycle and ability to be recycled or re-ground.

LFTs are desirable for their high strength and toughness properties, which cannot be achieved in tandem using other plastics reinforcement methods. They provide a lightweight alternative to metals and are widely used in transportation, aerospace, defense, sporting goods, industrial equipment and consumer goods applications.

Kirk Fratzke, Media Marketing Coordinator for PlastiComp, told PlasticsToday that the 13-year-old company has about $20 million in annual sales, with about one-third of that in carbon materials. “We do a lot of metal replacement with our materials, and sporting goods is our largest market that we serve currently,” he said.

In 2011 the company purchased a larger facility from the state of Minnesota that had formerly served as a building for a technical college for aviation mechanics. “Basically our production floor is an airplane hangar,” Fratzke explained, “which gives us plenty of room for expansion for the R&D lab. We’re looking to provide total vertical solutions for our customers, providing customized materials when needed, and to mold test bars with our small injection molding machines. We also have the capability to test tooling for customers,” said Fratzke.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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