Chinese TPE Compounder Reshores to Chicago Area

New TPE compounder in the Midwest launched by a Chinese-born, U.S. citizen who already had a successful compounding operation in his homeland.

Here’s an interesting and novel spin in reshoring: A brand new TPE compounder in the Midwest has been launched by a Chinese-born, U.S. citizen who already was running a successful compounding operation in his homeland.

PolymaxTPE, began producing product in the U.S. in February from a 42,000 ft² facility in Waukegan, Ill. The company currently has capacity to produce 9 million lb/yr of TPEs on a twin-screw extrusion system furnished by Leistritz, Somerville, N.J. equipped with an underwater pelletizer from Gala Industries, Eagle Rock, Va. The plant is also equipped with a pilot line for testing and small production runs, as well as a fully equipped laboratory.

PolymaxTPE was co-founded by Dr. Martin Lu. Born in China, Dr. Lu graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., obtained his MBA from the University of Chicago, gained his U.S. citizenship, and married and started family in the Chicago area. About 10 years ago, after serving as director of development and production for Xerox,  Lu cofounded Nantong Polymax Elastomer Technology Co., Ltd. in China. It has about 25 million lb/yr of TPE capacity and ranks among the largest Chinese TPE suppliers. It has also been designated the TPE Research and Development Center for Jiangsu Province.

The two sister companies operate independently. Nantong Polymax serves the Asian market, including some processors that are satellites of U.S. operations. PolymaxTPE will focus on North America, the world’s second largest market for TPEs. Lu says, “Polymax now can provide the same premium quality products and services, with the added value of shorter delivery lead time and better cost control for our customers from the two continents.”

PolymaxTPE delivers a broad range of TPE products for consumer, packaging, automotive, healthcare, and electronics uses. The company specializes in providing FDA-grade, “sensory-neutral” materials that have low odor and low extractables. One niche is liner film for caps and closures, where Lu says the material offers low compression set for good sealing and can replace TPVs. Polymax TPEs are also said to offer a unique combination of exceptionally low gel content, outstanding organoleptics, and easy processing in thin-film packaging. Polymax products were distributed since 2010 by APS Elastomers, Romulus, Mich.

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