polyMaterials AG, a research-based startup, was founded by three persons with industry experience in the polymers and plastics segment of the chemical industry who utilized the fact that industry challenges shape business opportunities. Its development so far is characterized by ups and downs.
Main challenges of the plastics industry between 1990 and early 2000s were that demand for new materials would no longer be satisfied by new polymers due to high development cost, time to market and fast cycle-times for products determined by the end-users of other customer industries as well as the re-engineering of the R&D and innovation process.
As a response the main focus was no longer on totally new plastics, but development by combinations using the vast amount of existing polymers – new blends (mixing polymers, formulations, recipes) or getting plastic materials with various properties by compounding, processing a basic plastic with additives and modifiers in very small amounts.
Therefore, polyMaterials could assume service providers to play an increasingly important role in the customer- or application-specific development of compounds and market-ready products that big suppliers shy away from developing themselves.
Correspondingly, as its major business polyMaterials operates as a service organization for the plastics segment, but also other industries needing high-performance materials (automotive, electrical & electronic, medical technology).
It is a Contract Research and Contract Manufacturing Organization (CRO/CMO). But it also runs R&D projects on its own account. Manufacturing is still on rather low levels or small numbers of samples.
In the end polyMaterials positioned itself as an independent provider of R&D and manufacturing services in the field of polymer materials and functional polymers addressing industrial and academic research and including support of the various process steps of “invention to innovation”, from generating ideas to R&D to production of polymeric material, usually by collaborative product-oriented development.
But with more than 100 basic polymers and more than 10,000 blends of 2 polymers and more than 1,000 additive variants per blend compounding or blending induces fundamentally a “combinatorial explosion” of recipe variations and a time-consuming search for an optimum.
Ultimately polyMaterials succeeded in developing a high-throughput compounding (HTC) technology for plastics compounds (Compound R&D). HTC is an integrated technology for accelerated development and optimization of plastic formulations for customer-specific requirements which creates (new) plastics recipes 10-20 times faster than the empirical processes used so far.