POLYMERIC SYSTEMS, INC.
In 1961, two years after graduating from Villanova University, chemical engineer Ted Flint and a colleague founded Penn Valley Polymers in Phoenixville, PA to manufacture polysulfide sealants for construction and insulating glass.
These talented partners soon developed high-quality products that outperformed other commercial materials available, and business grew well. But in 1966 fire destroyed Penn Valley Polymers’ factory. With no production and insufficient capital to rebuild, the business was sold.
In December 1969 Ted Flint set out on his own, founding Polymeric Systems, Inc. (PSI) in a small, rented building in Pottstown, PA. Like its predecessor, PSI initially manufactured polysulfide-based insulating glass sealants. It was a one-man, one-woman operation: Ted handled product development, production and sales while his wife Debby kept the books and delivered finished goods.
The business grew but was limited in scope because of the lack of product diversity. Then, in 1972, came the first breakthrough.
Flint enjoyed the challenges of chemical conundrums, and he wanted to build his business. He had toyed with epoxy adhesives, frustrated by the messy, wasteful way they were used: The epoxy resin and curing agent/hardener had to be kept apart until ready for use, then they were scooped out onto a surface and stirred together with a disposable tool, often hardening too quickly. Sometimes the two ingredients weren’t mixed of precisely equal amounts, reducing adhesion.
His idea: Eliminate waste and simplify mixing by combining the two ingredients into one, easy-to-use product.
His solution: Side-by-side extruded epoxy putty ribbons or strips of the two parts, each sandwiched between protective plastic. Equal amounts were cut off, the plastic removed, and the two pieces kneaded together until a uniform color. The first product, Kneadatite® epoxy putty tape, was blue (for the epoxy) and yellow (for the hardener) that formed a green epoxy repair putty when completely mixed.
Kneadatite could be formed like modeling clay to sculpt, build up or wrap any object. After several hours, it hardened, remarkably resistant to chemicals, temperature extremes and shattering. Production began in 1972, and in 1973 Flint received the first of several patents for epoxy putties. Kneadatite is still one of PSI’s best sellers, especially among sculptors, who know it as “Green Stuff”.
Flint then sought to develop faster curing repair epoxies. But the original Kneadatite ribbon form adversely affected the new, faster hardener by permitting too much exposure to air, so it was back to the lab.
The ultimate answer: An inner cylinder of hardener wrapped with an outer cylinder of epoxy, not unlike one Tootsie Roll® wrapped around another. While there was surface-to-surface contact, no chemical reaction took place. And the faster hardener, which went bad when exposed to air, was protected by the outer epoxy.
The user simply cut off as much as he wanted, providing the perfect amount of each ingredient. Then the different-colored ingredients were kneaded together until they reached a consistent color, ready for application.
Using that technology, a whole line of application-specific epoxy putties was developed for the repair of wood, steel, concrete, aluminum, copper, plastic and fiberglass as well as general-purpose repair putty. The fiberglass version actually cures underwater, and the wood version floats!
Through the 1980s and 90s, the sealant line was expanded to include silicones, butyl- and acrylic-based products, urethanes, polysulfides, oxygen-cure polyurethanes and MS polymer sealants. PSI was the first small manufacturer to produce acetoxy-based RTV silicone sealants. As business flourished, PSI moved three times into larger facilities.