By David Krotz | Winona Daily News
An old friend of the Winona composites industry visited from overseas and, before he left, signed a business agreement with one of Winona’s newest companies. Mukesh Sanghvi is taking PlastiComp, Inc. technology to India, where it will be used by his $10 million-a-year, 80-employee company, Indore Composite. As for the impact in Winona, PlastiComp has formed a third global partnership to go along with agreements made earlier with Europe and Japan. It is a 1-year-old company that markets “Pushtrusion®,” a new injection mold system that removes one step from the manufacturing process and saves money.
Sanghvi taught at Winona State University from 1989 to 1992 in the then new composites department. After writing his thesis on long fiber composites at the University of Akron, Sanghvi found “the whole composites industry represented here.”
“Winona gave me the practical side of composites (compared to) what I did in school,” he said. “I got the wide exposure to applications here I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else in the world.”
Sanghvi cited companies such as RTP, Fiberite, PCI and Wenonah Canoe for his exposure to “the U.S. business culture” and “entrepreneurial drive,” all of which led to his success in India. Though his father and brother were successes in the textiles and pharmaceutical industries, Sanghvi returned to his country and started his composites business from scratch.
His company produces strengthening material for fiber optic cable and has customers worldwide, including Russia and the Middle East.
Through his association with president and chief executive Steve Bowen of PlastiComp, Sanghvi might be tapping into a new resource.
Bowen’s new Pushtrusion process can be used by makers of molded parts including seat assemblies, instrument panels and floor panels in vehicles, large industrial parts for the agriculture market, pallets, formed plastics that can conduct electricity and pig pen floor panels.
In the product area, PlastiComp is currently working with a major shoe manufacturer for components to be used in athletic shoes.
In one year, the company has altered its business model to fit the markets it encountered. Customers believed the new process would save them money, Bowen said, but they wanted to see it. As a result, PlastiComp built a technology center that opened in October in Goodview.
There, Bowen can demonstrate the Pushtrusion process, but can also produce sample products using a potential customer’s molds. When he encountered customers who wanted test parts made too large for his equipment to produce, Bowen made long-fiber pellets, with the Pushtrusion process, that enabled the company to make test products on its own equipment.
That experience led to a new profit source for PlastiComp selling long-fiber pellets. Still another revenue source that didn’t appear in the business plan — occurred when manufacturers requested research and development.
Bowen said he has been fortunate to be able to hire skilled composites workers from his previous 20-year run as president of Celstran.
“It’s kind of like a reunion of people from my previous plastics business,” he said. “I see the glass as half full. Start-ups are hard work. You have to be prepared when there are opportunities.”
PlastiComp, Inc. focuses on developing and providing long fiber reinforced thermoplastic composite technologies to partners worldwide. These include ready-to-process reinforced long fiber thermoplastic (LFT) pelletized compounds, along with process development and manufacturing equipment licensing for LFT pultrusion, in-line direct long fiber thermoplastic (D-LFT) Pushtrusion®, and in-line direct glass mat thermoplastic (D-GMT®) technologies. PlastiComp’s injection moldable Complēt® LFT composite compounds are available as standard and custom formulations that combine long glass, carbon, and other specialty fiber reinforcement with thermoplastic polymers from polypropylene to PEEK.