A manufacturing revolution has arrived in northwest Missouri. Ray Riek, CEO of Carbolytic Materials Co., and his operations staff in Maryville are applying a recently developed proprietary method to produce carbon black, a substance much like graphite with a multitude of applications in everyday products.
The extraordinary manufacturing process has brought a new production plant and a couple of dozen manufacturing jobs to northwest Missouri in the past year.
Carbon black is among the 50 top industrial chemicals produced worldwide. It's used as a reactant in rubber to provide abrasion resistance. Its primary use is in the manufacture of tires. In addition it has a variety of industrial rubber applications, and it acts as a tinting agent in almost every product tinged black.
Until this new manufacturing process was developed, carbon black production relied on two manufacturing methods — furnace black and thermal black — which involve incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons from primarily petroleum-based sources.
CMC's new approach to carbon black production relies on discarded tires as the raw material. The process reduces the amount of used tires going to landfills, while simultaneously recovering carbon black and oil.
The resulting product — ApexCM™ — possesses physical properties comparable to other types of carbon black. It comes in pellet or powder form. Applications include hoses, gaskets, belts, rubber boots, roofing material, bags, plastic pipe and sheet plastic in the automotive, agriculture, construction, electronics and industrial equipment markets.
Decades of experience in chemical engineering and R&D work in product development set the stage for Riek's latest venture.
He is a 30-year veteran of product and process research and development with the St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. After leaving Monsanto in 1997, Riek worked as a product commercialization consultant. It was during this stage of his career that Ray learned of a new technology for carbon black production.
"We assembled a team of folks with experience in the industrial chemical business in late 2006," recalls Ray. "We are quite proud of what has been accomplished to this point by both the management team in building the company, and the operational team in Maryville in learning to operate a new technology and produce a product that has been well accepted."
CMC's arrival in Maryville was based on a series of factors.
"Maryville was one of several sites we were considering for our first manufacturing facility," says Ray. Its proximity to several urban-based sources (Kansas City, Des Moines and Omaha) of the process's raw material (shredded tires) was a major advantage.
However, a more important consideration was the interest CMC received from local agencies and institutions.
"The reception and assistance we received from the city of Maryville, Nodaway County and Northwest Missouri State University was an unbeatable combination," says Ray. "Frank Veeman (director of the NWMSU Small Business and Technology Development Center) and NWMSU were involved from the beginning. Indeed, they were instigators in getting us to investigate Maryville and see what the community had to offer."
Among the pluses were laboratory facilities at NWMSU's newly established Center for Innovation and Entreprenurship (which also serves as home to the SBTDC); a prime location on the east side of town for CMC's plant; a pool of talented and dedicated labor; and sufficient financing secured with the help of Lee Langerock, executive director of the Nodaway County Economic Development Council.
In the spring of 2008, Riek and NWMSU President Dean L. Hubbard announced CMC's plan to build its first plant in Maryville and to become the first tenant of NWMSU's CIE. Later that year CMC broke ground for its plant and began production in the summer of 2009. Today the 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility employs 25 people while processing (and recycling) 15,000 tons of shredded tires annually. The company currently produces and sells 10 million pounds of ApexCM carbon black material and two million gallons of recovered oil.
Ray says plans call for a doubling of capacity in the next 12 months at CMC's flagship facility in Maryville. The company's management team hopes to take the production model to other locations in the Midwest in the next few years.
"The University has been a great host, the county has helped connect us locally and with the state, and Frank helped make some critical introductions," Ray says. "It all builds on itself."
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This story was featured in the July 2010 newsletter.
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