Founded in 1987, Niche Polymer continues to grow both organically and through acquisitions, focusing its product development efforts on changing market needs. Adding value to industrial and post-consumer waste is an important part of these efforts. #sustainable development
It seems that Dr. Saurabh Naik was ahead of his time in proposing an entire circular economy. Back in the 80s, he began looking for a market for recyclable post-industrial waste. He received his PhD in polymer chemistry from U-Mass Lowell in 1978 and then worked briefly for Martin Marietta and International Paper developing mica as a filler in thermoplastic formulations.
Today, Nike is the founder and CEO of Niche Polymer LLC, one of its product lines called PoliPCR, which is made from recycled materials for automotive interiors, engine compartment components, lighting, window profiles, flooring, wall cladding and durables. such as furniture and appliances. PoliPCR is based on polypropylene, nylon 6, nylon 66, polycarbonate, ABS and PBT.
Dr. Saurab Naik, CEO of Niche Polymer, was ahead of his time in finding markets and applications for plastic waste.Photo: Niche Polymers
Sunny Nike, son of Niche Polymer founder and vice president of operations, said: “We believe in actively supporting sustainability by working with resin suppliers, molders and OEMs to divert plastic waste from the environment and increase recycling. value added products. The ethical source of our material flow is our social responsibility. Sustainability is our ability to repeat this process at a constant pace.”
Niche Polymer has plants in Ravenswood, West Virginia and Washington, Neskehonin, Pennsylvania, and Killen, Alabama, as well as distribution centers in Washington, DC, and Toronto. An 80,000-square-foot facility in Musle Shoals, Alabama, is scheduled to open this year to produce soft polymers (TPEs and TPVs). The company plans to equip the plant with three new twin-screw compounding lines. It will focus on supplying automotive OEMs in the southeast. In addition, this year Niche opened a PCR center in Florence, South Carolina, and next year Niche will open a compounding plant in Queretaro, Mexico, as well as a technical service and distribution center in Texas. The Nesquehoning plant is the result of Niche’s 2021 acquisition of Ametek/Westchester Plastics, which added grafting, reactive compounding and processing services to the company’s capabilities.
Compounding operations of Niche Polymer are supported by state-of-the-art twin screw extrusion technology. The company operates 18 production lines in various factories.
Dr. Naik spent much of his early career in polymers, focusing on recycling. When Niche was founded in 1987, he was selling scrap from the Black & Decker manufacturing process to China and India. When he got more sources of supply, he opened a recycling plant in Baltimore to downsize and pack. By the 1990s, he was shipping 20 million pounds of scrap a year to China, which was looking for cheaper materials to support the booming injection molding market.
At the turn of the century, the recycling market became more complex. “Chemical prices were high, so primary resin was expensive,” recalls Dr. Naik. “We collect a lot of scrap, but the problem we face is how to add value to it.” In 2001, Niche opened its flagship facility in Washington, D.C., next to the DuPont plant, where defective lots are sorted and new polymer lots are returned. A manufacturer providing additional services to the resin giants of the time. In 2008, Niche Polymer began compounding at a former fiber factory purchased from DuPont in Ravenswood.
Ravenswood tripled in size as Niche began developing its own products. In 2014, Niche added two compounding lines and its R&D lab received ISO 17025 accreditation. Three years later, Niche added a polyolefin and polystyrene compounding line. Ravenswood currently has a capacity of 150 million pounds a year. Products made there, mainly based on nylon, include glass-filled, mineral-filled, impact-resistant and heat-resistant grades.
Niche also manufactures PC/ABS alloys and PIR glass-filled polypropylene. The facility near Washington operates as Polymer Alliance Services. The 400,000-square-foot facility serves as Niche’s central storage and distribution center for materials, but it also handles many other operations: optical sorting, shredding, cryogenic grinding, packaging, blending, drying, and more.
Then, in 2020, Niche added TPE and TPO formulation capabilities with the purchase of Polymer Technical Services (PTS) in Heath, Ohio. PRT compounds PP, PE, TPO, ABS, PC, Nylon 6, Nylon 66, PBT and their alloys. From a 60,000 square foot facility with two employees, PTS has grown to over 40 employees. The plant was equipped with a fully equipped laboratory from the very beginning. In January 2011, PTS opened an additional 80,000 square foot recycling plant in Hebron, Ohio, more than doubling its recycling and storage space.
The acquisition of Ametek/Westchester Plastics in 2021 will add about 220 million pounds of production capacity. Westchester Plastics is America’s leading independent manufacturer of engineering resins, alloys, blends, reactive modifiers and other thermoplastic materials.
Niche Polymer expanded its toll business in 2021 with the acquisition of Ametek, Westchester Plastics, which is claimed to be the largest toll manufacturer in North America.
Niche Polymers operates 18 compounding lines 24/5 in all of its factories. According to his estimates, the growth rate by 2022 will be about 30%. Its production capacity is about 100 million pounds per year through its own products:
• PoliPIR certified products are 100% recycled (PIR) and are designed for applications requiring standard PIR certified products for cost savings. • PoliSP soft polymers are based on SEBS and are similar to vulcanized rubber, but can be processed like thermoplastics. Applications include gaskets, cable sheaths and soft injection molding.
• PoliPCR products are custom-made compounds of nylon 6 and 66 and PPC (polypropylene carbonate, a copolymer of carbon dioxide and propylene oxide). The PCR content can also be customized. The PCR raw material flow is based on a constant material and the process is optimized to create a clean and reliable composite raw material for internal use. The main sources of Niche Polymer’s raw materials here are nylon fishing nets (about 640,000 tons are landfilled annually), carpet, hangers, pallets, sign waste, and PP labels for PET soda bottles. The Florence facility is a Niche Polymer PCR collection facility and performs sorting, cleaning, grinding, metal detection, compaction, mixing and packaging.
All Niche Polymer facilities are backed by the latest laboratory and test equipment.
With the depth and breadth of its product line, Niche Polymer competes in a wide range of end markets. This includes consumer durables such as automobiles, construction, furniture and appliances, electronics, plumbing, power tools, sporting goods, and toys.
“The automotive industry will be a major focus for the development of future Niche Polymer products,” commented Thomas Moccia, vice president of sales and marketing. Niche already offers material solutions for light vehicles; antimicrobial polymers for frequently touched components such as steering wheels, displays and door handles; carbon fiber reinforced polymers for strong and lightweight body panels, roof panels and wheels; battery and bumper systems provide materials. for strength and safety.
But automakers are also pushing for their material suppliers to offer grades containing up to 30 percent PCR for dashboards and other interior components. “OEMs want to market PCR as a value-added material and we regularly work with their development teams to develop compounds suitable for this purpose.”
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Post time: Feb-01-2023