The future of wood-plastic composites is bright, and Polymera Inc., a newly formed company, hopes to be a part of that future. Polymera announced that it has acquired state-of-the-art WPC manufacturing systems and a 160,000-ft2 facility in Hebron, OH, near Columbus.
Herb Hutchison, who spent part of his career with Milacron in international business development, said that the extrusion systems he and his partners in Polymera are in the process of assembling and installing were bound for a plant offshore. “This plant was originally destined for manufacturing outside the U.S., but my partners and I purchased the equipment and brought it back to the U.S.,” Hutchison explains. “In the truest sense, we’re bringing jobs back.”
Hutchison said there are a number of investors in the new company, and a core management group of four people. The company is led by its President, Maan Said, who has more than 25 years’ experience in polymer manufacturing operations and investment banking. VP/General Manager Herb Hutchison has more than 30 years of experience in plastics, and is one of the pioneers in developing the U.S. market for WPC. VP of Engineering, Matt Kollar, has more than 25 years of engineering experience in plastics-related fields, including the oversight of several plant openings that included three WPC manufacturing facilities.
Hutchison declined to reveal the number of extruders the company is in the process of installing at this point. “We’re still negotiating for more than we currently have,” he says, noting that startup for Polymera will be sometime during the second quarter.
Polymera offers material preparation, blending, and extrusion of materials and products that service the wood- and natural-fiber polymer composites industry. The company can supply wood and natural-fiber polymer composite materials in agglomerate, compounds, or extruded profiles with blending systems capable of over 50 million lb of compounds annually, supplemented with high-output, energy-efficient twin screw WPC extrusion lines for custom profile production.
Hutchison says that Polymera has companies lined up to supply the wood-fiber materials as well as other natural-fiber materials. “The systems that we have are very flexible— based on where that equipment was originally headed—so we’ll use a lot of different fibers such as rice hulls, for example,” he explains. “But wood will be the primary product for the U.S. market. However, in specific applications some other fibers have advantages.”
Hutchison prefers to call Polymera’s offerings “natural-fiber composites.” “If we could roll back the clock 20 years and re-do the industry, I think we’d call it natural-fiber composites, rather than just wood composites,” he adds, noting that peanut shells and coconut husks have also been used. “Anything that is fibrous, and that you can dry and get to the right particle size, works well.”
“Natural-fiber composites is a growing industry and that growth will continue in double digits,” Hutchison states. “Other products will be introduced in the future that will expand the use of WPC and natural fibers. It’s a great industry for us to be getting involved in—an opportunity to grow and make an impact.” —Clare Goldsberry