Argotec unveils new world headquarters and manufacturing operation

Bruce Wilby, president and chief executive officer of Greenfield, Massachusetts-based Argotec, Inc., the world“s largest producer of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) optical interlayer film for the g…

Bruce Wilby, president and chief executive officer of Greenfield, Massachusetts-based Argotec, Inc., the world“s largest producer of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) optical interlayer film for the glass lamination industry, unveiled the company“s new 95,000 square foot world headquarters and state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in mid-September 2009. The addition of this new facility on Silvio O. Conte Drive increases the company“s total operation at the Greenfield Industrial Park to over 150,000 square feet. The new plant provides not only increased capacity and improved quality for existing customers, but also permits us additional flexibility to explore new markets and applications, Wilby stated. It will create greater efficiencies throughout our entire production process, letting us focus more of our resources on research and development. Company co-founder and co-chairman Steve Wolkenbreit added, We purchased the building from GBI Realty, Inc., the real-estate arm of Yankee Candle Company in Deerfield, Massachusetts. They used it as a 65,000 square feet distribution warehouse. We expanded the office portion and added 30,000 square feet of manufacturing space on the back end to make room for what is today the cleanest, most modern, polyurethane film extrusion operation in the world. Argotec“s new plant will house eleven extrusion lines, two blown film and nine flat-die. Seven of the flat-die lines are used for aliphatic TPU film production and will be housed in an 8,000 square foot hard walled clean room, with each individual extrusion line additionally enclosed in its own Class 10,000 soft walled clean room environment. This new facility is essential to the continued success of our customers. It will ensure their ability to meet the global demand for TPU optical interlayer film, as well as the ever-increasing quality requirements of new 21st century applications, stated Wilby. While producing custom-engineered urethane film and sheet for the medical, textile lamination and graphics markets, much of the production from these extrusion lines will be used as optical interlayer films for bonding glass and polycarbonate into high-strength, impact-resistant, laminated glass composites, as well as for automotive paint protection films. Wilby continued, Our customers dominate in both these markets, each of which demands extremely clean, clear, flat product. The investment we“ve made in our new facility, new extrusion technology and the best new measurement systems available, will help ensure that our films remain the cleanest and highest quality in the industry. To achieve this, Argotec laid out their new extrusion operation so that all seven extruders and the raw resin handling equipment are positioned outside the clean room, with only the final heated polymer passing through the wall to the flat die and winding apparatus. Add to that the clean room operator certification programme each of our personnel must complete, the separate changing rooms and gowning requirements we“ve instituted, and the interlocking entrance and exit doors to guarantee no one enters the clean room until the first of the two doors is securely shut behind them, said Wilby, and the net result is exceptionally clean product. Even finished rolls must first be wrapped inside the clean room on the extruder before they can be moved through a controlled containment exit system to finally be boxed for shipment to the customer. But cleanness alone is not a guarantee of quality. Which is why, Wilby stated, we invested in cutting edge, digital, in-line gauge measuring systems that allow the operator to make real-time thickness adjustments to maintain exacting customer specifications. Another recent quality assurance advance was the company“s purchase of computerized photographic inspection systems for each individual flat-die extrusion line. These custom-designed cameras scan and analyze 100% of the film being extruded, he said. They are able to detect and document pin holes, voids, gels, wrinkles, streaks, and dark or light contaminants as small as three-tenths of a millimetre, again ensuring our customers receive the highest quality film and sheet possible. Wolkenbreit added: When Dick [Barnes] and I started the company and built our Greenfield Street facility in 1988, there was a real need for a specialty film manufacturer who would work closely with customers to engineer the precise films to meet the demanding requirements of their specific applications. There were very few, if any, urethane film extruders who were willing to make the investment in time and resources required to work in that way. Wolkenbreit says that is why Argotec has been able to develop such close, long-lasting relationships with its customers, which in turn, lead to the construction their Adams Road facility just six years later. These two plants were given major additions in 2004 and 2005. Our philosophy back then remains the same today, he said. Listen to the customer, stay focused on problem solving, and keep technical service as our number one priority. To support its new facility, the company will convert its Greenfield Street plant to raw material and finished goods storage. It will also rededicate its Adams Road operation as a stand-alone research and development centre with its own, dedicated technical staff. The urethane film industry“s first-of-its-kind facility is aptly named the Argotec Innovation Center. Its purpose will be to develop improved urethane films and processes, both for Argotec and its customers. Argotec is a privately held company that extrudes custom-engineered, high-performance, polyurethane film and sheet in thicknesses ranging from 0.2 to 125 mils, and in widths up to 86 inches. In addition to flat-die, cast-on-carrier and blown-film-extrusion technologies, the company also has expertise in extrusion coating and multi-layer constructions.