If they were having delivery, quality and consistency issues with the color compound they had purchased, most processors would
probably try sourcing material from another compounder. Instead, Anthony Kasmer saw an opportunity to start his own color compounding business and brought some young talent along with him.
That’s the basic story of LTL Color Compounders Inc. in Morrisville, Pa. (ltlcolor.com), which this summer celebrated its 20th year in business. This $26-million company, with a 70,000-ft² plant in the U.S. and other in Dongguan, China, has niched itself as a specialist in filling small orders (generally 2000 lb and under) in engineering polymers like PC, ABS, nylon, acrylic, and PC/ABS alloys.
Getting the color right every time is the Holy Grail for many plastics processors. Twenty years ago, color matching relied far more on art than science. Back then, Kasmer was running Tri-Lite Plastics (now part of Atlanta-based Pexco), making profile extrusions for the lighting industry. “We almost went bankrupt because not one of our suppliers really knew color,” says Kasmer, who now serves as LTL’s chairman of the board.
Two decades later, precise color formulation remains “the key to our success,” states Jim Figaniak, president of the company, a chemical engineer who was an intern at Rohm & Haas before joining Kasmer and Kasmer’s son Chris, another chemical engineer, when LTL was launched. The firm’s lab has the full scope of color measuring instruments, as well as other analytical devices.
Today, LTL’s services include custom and toll compounding, color matching, and product development. “We like to think of LTL as a small company with big-company capabilities,” says Figaniak. “We offer a level of service and personal touch typical of small companies, with the technical depth and know-how of larger firms.”
From the outset, LTL believed a key to its success is its ability to take on challenges other compounders eschew. “There have been instances where we have had problems landing accounts,” Kasmer says. “A lot of times, to get our foot in the door, our salespeople tell a would-be client, ‘Give us your craziest job, the one that gives you the most headaches,’” If we get that job and execute it, we’ve laid the foundation for future business with the customer.”
LTL employs about 45 people in the U.S., and another 20 in China. Its key markets include electronics, building/construction, marine, sports and leisure, and medical. LTL processes more than 9 million lb of material/yr on nine twin-screw extruders ranging in size from 32 to 60 mm, plus two single-screws of 2 and 2.5 in. It processes about 6000 orders/yr, and about half are unique in some way.
LTL expects sales to be 30% higher this year. Growth in China is one reason. Development of proprietary products is a more significant factor. Just a year ago, LTL added ISO 13485:2003 certification to its existing ISO 9001:2008 certification, allowing it to be a more significant player in medical—it launched the ColorRx line of medical-grade resins in PP homopolymer and random copolymer, PC, ABS, LDPE, and HDPE.
In 2008 LTL introduced the EcoFast line of recycled resins. It also offers the Surlyn Reflection Series under a licensing agreement with DuPont Co., Wilmington, Del. This is a patented alloy of Surlyn and nylon, aimed at applications requiring high gloss, toughness, and weatherability, including motorcycle shrouds and snowmobile hoods. LTL’s staple product is the ColorFast line, available in a wide range of polymers for high-performance applications.
“Our business has changed since we started, of course,” says Figaniak. “When we started we had capabilities in four polymers; today that number is 24. Our current customer base is much larger than in 1990. We’ve developed products and expertise in new markets. But our vision for the future is to remain dedicated to the overriding principle that formed the basis of the original business plan: to be a first-class custom color compounding operation.”