Diverse Products Meet Many High-End Needs

The Martinsville, VA-based division of Solutia Inc. describes itself as the world's largest converter of solar control window film and its various components.

The company, with 700 employees, was purchased by Solutia in May 1999. It produces films for both professional and consumer use in the residential, commercial, and automotive glass markets, using a range of converting technologies including deep dyeing, sputter coating, vacuum metallizing, release coating, and coating/laminating.

At the same time, CPFilms enjoys a reputation as a “converter's converter,” manufacturing the various components that go into the finished products of other converters, such as coated and metallized films.

The ability — and the willingness — to sell both finished films and their individual components to other converters has been nearly as critical to the company's success as its broad converting capabilities.

“The one thing we offer that nobody else in the industry offers is these five capabilities under one roof,” stresses Doug Goldstein, new business development manager for CPFilms. “People generally come to us because they need more than one of our capabilities to produce their material structures. Otherwise, if you want, for example, a color metallized film with a pressure-sensitive and liner, you have to work with several companies, or the company would be sourcing materials from other suppliers. Here we can do it all within the same site.”

Specializing in the High End
CPFilms specializes in the design and manufacture of “enhanced” plastic films in a wide range of widths, gauges, and film types for applications requiring decorative, conductive, reflective, abrasion-resistant, adhesive releasing, antistatic, print-receptive, solar control, or other specialized properties.

“We feel we're high-end niche specialists,” suggests Goldstein. “We do a lot of difficult jobs, particularly where a controlled environment is needed. When people ask me what products and applications we're in, it's difficult for me to answer, because we're in so many, but they're all high-end.”

CPFilms has four converting locations: the 400,000-sq-ft Martinsville headquarters and additional facilities in Axton, VA; Canoga Pk., CA; and Runcorn, U.K. The Martinsville facility operates eight Faustel coating/laminating machines. The U.K. facility houses three coater/laminators.

The coating equipment at both facilities can apply various coatings onto flexible films and other substrates, or combine coated, metallized, or dyed films into laminated structures. Solvent, water-based, and ultraviolet coatings can be applied in thicknesses from 0.012-75 microns and up to 74 in. in width, using gravure (direct, offset, and reverse), slot die, and proprietary processes. Substrate thicknesses range from 12-375 microns from suppliers such as DuPont Teijin Films, Mitsubishi Polyester Films, and Toray Films.

The three thermal evaporation vacuum metallizers operating in Martinsville use high-purity aluminum wire to produce a uniform deposition of aluminum onto clear and dyed transparent films, to achieve anti-static, conductive, and reflective properties, among others. CPFilms can process substrates from 0.25-10 mils thick in widths to 80 in. Sputter coating, another vacuum coating process, also is available from CPFilms' production coaters, with three in Martinsville and three in Canoga Pk. (Sputter coating and vacuum metallizing equipment is in-house-designed and proprietary.)

Goldstein says sputter coating, unlike conventional metallizing, allows for the deposition of a greater variety of materials, including metals, alloys, and oxides. Silver, titanium, indium tin oxide (ITO), copper, and others can be applied to substrates with thicknesses from 12-175 microns, with depositions from transparent to opaque in widths to 80 in.

Vacuum-coated films produced by the company are used in a multitude of applications, including LCDs, transparent displays, digital proofing, graphic arts, reprographics, labels and decals, automotive trim, holograms, specialty packaging, and solar control window films.

Chemistry and Clean Rooms
CPFilms' release coatings are applied in a self-contained facility with two coaters. Its Clearsil® product line includes film-based release liners with chemistries including tin and platinum-catalyzed silicones, UV-cured silicones, fluorosilicones, and non-silicone release coatings. Various levels of release are available, from “very easy” to “tight,” as well as differential releases. Clearsil liners are produced in clean, environmentally controlled rooms to ensure they are contaminant-free with the highest level of optical quality.

Finally, CPFilms developed a patented process for colorizing film, called deep dyeing, which impregnates polyester films with colors and/or UV absorbers that reportedly cannot flake, scratch, rub off, or streak. Utilizing water- and solvent-based processes, CPFilms produces custom colors from basic black to fluorescent and patterned with virtually no color variation.

Dyed films also can be metallized for a more reflective brilliance, or used as a base for other processes. They are used in a variety of specialty applications, including filters for theatrical lighting, decorative laminates, protective overlaminates, solar control window films, and p-s labels.

Coater/Laminator Keys Expansion
To further enhance its capabilities and increase capacity, CPFilms recently completed the first phase of a planned $30 million corporate expansion that included a new 20,000-sq-ft production and materials storage facility at its ISO-9001-certified Martinsville headquarters. Part of that expansion was made to accommodate the company's eighth coating and laminating machine, a multipurpose Faustel unit that expanded capacity at that facility by 33%.

The 74-in. coater/laminator has an 80-ft drying oven that not only helped increase throughput by about 35% over existing machines but also reduced waste by 30%, says Goldstein. The machine can apply hardcoats on one side of film and PSAs with release liner to the opposite side — in one pass. Goldstein reports the unit is made even more versatile because it has both UV and thermal drying capabilities.

“This machine was designed specifically for window films, because everything [in that line] gets a hard coat, an adhesive, or both,” Goldstein says, “but its full range of capabilities really adds to what we can do.” The coater/laminator offers tandem coating heads with both gravure and slot die coating capabilities.

In addition to its other equipment, the company also operates six slitters and has pilot lines within its R&D facilities.

More Growth in the Plans
By year's end a new multimillion dollar, high-capacity coating machine will be operating at the U.K. facility, and a fourth sputtering line will be installed in Martinsville by third quarter '02 to produce window films and precision coated materials.

“Growth is definitely what we're all about,” notes Goldstein. “We invest heavily in equipment and technology. Whenever we design and install a new line, we try to take another step forward in technology. We rarely say, ‘Give me another one of those.’ It's always an upgrade or an improvement.”

What ultimately became CPFilms began as Martin Processing, a producer of dyed carpet fiber. In the early 1950s, Martin Processing began dyeing polyester film, which ultimately led to dyed solar control films. In the early 80s, then known as the Industrial Products Group, CPFilms began to seek out customers and applications outside of solar films, and in 2001 renamed this side of the business the Precision Coated Films Div., whose business is to convert various substrates for applications and markets outside of window films. The goal of Precision Coated Films is to grow its level of sales equal to that of the window films business.

“We're definitely positioned for growth,” sums up Doug Goldstein. That, like a good window film, is perfectly clear.

CPFilms Inc.
Box 5068, Martinsville, VA; 888/273-4567


Faustel, Germantown, WI; 262/253-3333

DuPont Teijin Films, Hopewell, VA; 804/530-9339; 800/635-4639

Mitsubishi PET Films LLC, Greer, SC; 864/879-5000

Toray Plastics America, North Kingstown, RI; 401/294-4511

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