Positioning itself on the high end of the blown-film market helped insulate this blown film processor from the recent economic downturn.

Click Image to Enlarge

Windmoeller & Hoelscher has been a mainstay supplier of ISO Poly as it has expanded its position in multi-layer films for food and other high-end markets, notes company founder and president Jon McClure (inset).

It pays to play in high-end markets. That certainly has been the experience of ISO Poly Films, Gray Court, S.C., which, even during the Great Recession, experienced strong growth furnishing custom films for food and other specialty packaging.

In fact, ISO Poly’s production has tripled over the past three years. This has encouraged this blown film processor, which is part of the Sigma Plastics group, to continue to invest in new equipment and to open a new 30,000 ft², state-of-the-art facility in Vancouver, Wash., that started turning out multi-layer food packaging film at the end of September.

ISO Poly processes a wide range of specialty films, from monolayer structures up to seven-layer, high barrier films. The company was founded in in 1998 by Jon McClure, who still serves as its president. McClure’s original plan was to furnish packaging films to what was then a fairly robust textile industry. But as that industry started to shrink, McClure and his team quickly shifted gears to focus on coextruded specialty films instead.

Today, ISO Poly operates 18 blown film lines. Of those, 15 are designed for coex films with up to seven layers and structures with nylon or EVOH barriers. “We are in a variety of markets and even have a small footprint in medical films, but the mainstay of our business is still food packaging,” remarks McClure. “And that position has helped us grow despite a rough economy.”

The new plant in Vancouver gives ISO Poly easier access to West Coast markets. The facility will have three-layer coextrusion capacity and seven-layer barrier capacity to produce films for converting, coating, printing, and laminating markets. It houses five lines—a combination of new and refurbished, supplied by Hosokawa Alpine American, Natick, Mass.—that are expected to add 50 million lb/yr of specialty films to ISO Poly’s mix, bumping up the firm’s total capacity to about 130 million lb/yr.

Expansion has been part of ISO Poly’s culture since its early days. The Gray Court plant was built initially for six lines. But over time the firm added more lines and, in 2006, completed a major expansion that more than doubled the square footage of the plant.   

The final phase of the expansion included construction of a 35,000 ft² site that increased ISO’s capacity for higher-end multilayer films for medical and food applications. The South Carolina complex is currently 135,000 ft², and employs 110 people on either a full- or part-time basis.

Gray Court houses 13 advanced film lines, including monolayer, three-layer, five-layer, and seven-layer high-barrier coextrusion lines, furnished primarily by Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp., Lincoln, R.I. These include two recently ordered Varex blown film lines, one three-layer and one seven-layer. The three-layer Varex line has a working width of 110 in. It includes three grooved-feed extruders (90, 135, and 90 mm, all with 30:1 L/D); a Maxicone C die; Optifil P2K automatic gauge-control system; Filmatic S surface winder; and Opticool air ring.

The 87-in., seven-layer Varex line will be furnished with seven extruders (three 70-mm and 60-mm machines plus one 90-mm, all 30:1) and will also be outfitted with a Maxicone C die, Optifil P2K, and a Filmatic S winder, but will instead use the Multicool dual-lip air ring. Installation is scheduled for early 2013.

ISO Poly became part of Sigma Plastics, headquartered in Lyndhurst, N.J. in February 2009. Sigma Plastics, which consists of 17 companies producing blown and cast film, will have more than 26 blown film coex lines from W&H. In just over a year, nine Varex lines have been installed at or ordered for Sigma companies.