By Mike Scott, Crain News Service
SCARBOROUGH, Maine (July 24, 2015) — Water is one of the world's most valuable natural resources, and one Maine-based company believes it has found a solution to the unnecessary use of water in the rubber industry.
The firm believes it can save companies in the rubber industry thousands of dollars per year.
Superior Formulations L.L.C. recently unveiled a new line of “instant” slab dips that its founders figure will cause a positive paradigm change for any company that mixes rubber. These slab dips will help manufacturers of compounds, belts, hoses, tires and other rubber goods save money in a variety of ways, according to Superior Formulations.
Branded under the name OverCoat, the slab dips provide significant freight savings, savings in floor space, better convenience and the complete elimination of product spoilage, said Nicholas Hill, who runs Superior Formulations with his son, Kristopher. The firm said OverCoat can help protect products from freezing and having to recycle drums and totes.
“People in our industry pay a lot of money to ship water when you consider that 50 to 86 percent of a shipped product is water,” said Nicholas Hill, a formulating chemist with more than 30 years in the industry. “But we wanted to create a properly formulated and mixed solution ... one we could do onsite and on demand.”
The process allows customers to hydrate stearates on demand so it won't thicken, Mr. Hill said.
Kristopher and his father began working on a solution four years ago, and they have encountered many twists and turns along the way.
“Our challenge was figuring it out without spending a king's ransom,” said Kristopher, a computer hardware and software professional. A major part of the solution was his creation of the Constituter, which meters the water, heats it to the proper temperature, adds an appropriate amount of OverCoat power and produces slab dip slurry on the plant floor.
The Constituter helps to “protect” the intellectual property aspects of the solutions, Kristopher said. It is housed with four computers, and Nicholas calls it a “straightforward but complex” instrument.
“If someone could figure out how to replicate what they have, they wouldn't be able to (duplicate) the Constituter,” Nicholas said. “One unique feature is that the technology for managing the dip tank is outside of the device itself.”
Shrinking a conventional slurry plant to the size of a drum is one of the other benefits, Kristopher said. They accomplished this by automating the dip tank. A component was designed to monitor the solids level in the dip tank in real time. The Constituter then adds water or OverCoat slurry to the dip tank to maintain a stable solids level.
The OverCoat slab dips, the Hills claimed, provide a uniform coating and outperform conventional slab dips. “We like to say you can set it and then forget it,” Nicholas said. “They don't waste floor space with drums and totes that are full of water that you don't need.”
The line of OverCoat slab dips is now commercially available, and Superior Formulations is working with a sales and marketing firm to promote it. If demand is high, the company has facilities in Georgia and other parts of the U.S. that can produce the components quickly to scale.
The ideal target market is any organization that deals with rubber, but particularly those that require more than eight drums of conventional slurry per month, Kristopher said. The Hills declined to quote an exact price for their OverCoat solution, but they said it offers better control and consistency so the cost savings realized can be so significant and broad that it would be “hard to quantify,” according to Nicholas.
“We were able to do something that others weren't sure could be done,” Kristopher said. “Our company has built a reputation on creating solutions, and this is our best one yet.”
Mike Scott is a correspondent for Rubber & Plastics News, an Akron-based sister publication of Tire Business.