By Frank Esposito, Plastic News Staff
Romulus, Michigan -- Flying objects are boosting sales at materials firm Alliance Polymers & Services llc.
Sales of thermoplastic polyurethanes into flying discs made by Discraft Inc. are on track to be up 20 percent this year for Alliance, a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) compounder and distributor based in Romulus. The discs are used in Ultimate, a sport played by almost 5 million people in the U.S.
In Ultimate, two seven-player teams compete on a 70-yard (64m) field. Points are scored by catching a pass in the opponents' end zone. The US now is home to 3000 Ultimate fields and the sport's governing body - USA Ultimate - has 30 000 members. The game is played in more than 42 countries.
Alliance has worked with Wixom, Michigan-based Discraft since Alliance opened its doors in 2009. Alliance co-founders Stephane Morin and Roger Huarng each also worked with Discraft while they worked at BASF Corp.
Ultimate competitions across the globe are giving a boost to Discraft's TPU flying discs.
"Sports sales are growing," Huarng said in a recent phone interview. "They don't seem to be affected by the recession."
Alliance provides Discraft with special blends of material based on BASF's Elastollan-brand TPU. Discraft manufactures millions of the discs each year, including its Ultra-Star 175, which is the only flying disc used in sanctioned tournament play.
Discraft officials chose TPU for the flying disc application because of the material's toughness, grip characteristics and flexibility in all types of weather. TPU also provides consistent weight distribution when the discs are molded. The discs can be hot-stamped with company or team logos for competitions or promotions. Discraft also makes discs used in Disc Golf.
Another recent sports-related application for Alliance is a TPU strip used in the pockets of lacrosse sticks. "We're trying to balance our portfolio," Huarng said of the sports work.
Sales for 2011 are on track to be up 4-6 percent at Alliance, which also distributes thermoplastic elastomers for Polymax Elastomer Technology Co. Ltd of Nantong, China. Alliance's sales into the automotive market are up 7-8 percent this year, Morin said, as that sector continues to rebound.
"There have been some peaks and valleys, but overall automotive has been steady for us," he added.
Sales for 2012 are expected to exceed this year's 4-6 percent mark. Morin also said that Alliance has benefited this year from its turnaround time of two or three days.
Customers "normally would give us more lead time," he explained. "But now they're being cautious and careful in getting only the material the need. We're promoting our ability to supply them with material when they need it."
Earlier this year, Alliance added a pair of twin-screw compounding lines in Romulus. The investment of almost $1 million was made after the firm received numerous requests for more specialized grades of TPU and TPE."