Nina Ying Sun | PLASTICS NEWS CHINA
Published: Friday, March 27, 2015 10:21 AM Beijing Time

TPE compounder Polymax has ramped up its global production.

The company’s a production site in Waukegan, Ill., near Chicago now boasts 9 million pounds (about 4,000 metric tons) of annual capacity with German production equipment, co­founder and Chairman Martin Lu told Plastics News. In China, the company added a 3,500­ton line at its Nantong facility at the end of 2014, boosting its total compounding capacity at that facility to about 12,000 tons.

In addition to capacity expansion, Polymax is also focusing on new product development and positioning itself as a premium custom compounder, said Tyler Xu, co­founder of Polymax and president of Nantong Polymax Elastomer Technology Co. Ltd.

Xu shared two new products that are currently under development. One is TPE filament for 3­D printing. “We have a dedicated team in China to research the product and the market. We are also working with two Chinese 3­D printing firms.”

Just like Polymax’s existing product offerings, TPE 3­D printing supply can be used for food packaging, automotive and other applications.

The other R&D project is looking into moisture­absorbing TPE, which can be particularly useful for medical applications such as wound care products.

“We are very much focused and strive to a leader in technology,” Xu said.

Sometimes, technology can find different applications in the market. The sensory­sensitive thermoplastic elastomers Polymax recently rolled out was developed for food packaging applications as a primary market. However, once in the market, the low-extractable, neutral­organoleptic material has also drawn much interest from business and consumer applications.

“I think that’s the trend ­ people prefer materials that enable better user experiences,” Lu said.

Lu and Xu, both U.S. citizens, first established Polymax Elastomer Inc. in the US as a Delarware company. Polymax then formed Nantong Polymax in 2005 in the form of an 80:20 US­Sino joint venture.

“So Polymax is a U.S. company,” Lu said. “Now we are back in the U.S. Our investment and expansion in Chicago is
essentially part of the bigger reshoring trend.”

Polymax started selling its Maxelast­brand materials in North America in 2010 through distributor Alliance Polymers & Services L.L.C. of Romulus, Mich. “We still work with them,” Lu said.

At present, Polymax generates more than 80 percent of its sales from China.

Vice President of Sales Tom Castile believes the key to grow in the U.S. is being responsive to customer needs. “Putting together not only the technology but also the processes.”

The company has R&D capabilities both in Chicago and in China. “That’s our strength, a synergy of both locations,” Lu added.

Lu holds a PhD degree in Chemical Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ and a MBA from the University of Chicago. Before starting up his own business, he was a technical director for Xerox Corp. in Chicago.