Cover Story: Stretching into new markets
By Michael Legault
You can't talk about Botex the company without first talking about Botex, the material, and Botex, the process.According to the company's executive vice-president, Kevin Parkinson, Botex (the material...
You can’t talk about Botex the company without first talking about Botex, the material, and Botex, the process.
According to the company’s executive vice-president, Kevin Parkinson, Botex (the material) is a hybrid resin that encompasses the varying elastomeric and durability characteristics of rubber, plastic and urethane. On a more technical level, the material is a thermoset elastomeric polymer and falls within the class of materials known as “elastoplastic”. Rosato’s Plastics Encyclopedia defines elastoplastic, “as a substance which exhibits a greater or lesser degree of resiliency and will return to, or close to, its original size and shape if deformed to some extent below its elastic limit, as opposed to a brittle substance.” What this means in practical terms, says Parkinson, is that the Botex compound has the elasticity of latex rubber and the strength and versatility of plastic. It is this combination of exceptionally high abrasion and flexural strength, and rubber-like elasticity, that makes the material unique.
Parkinson was motivated to create the Botex compound by his love of water sports and his desire to develop a new aquatic shoe that would possess the properties of neoprene, latex and plastic. Working after hours in a spare lab, he experimented with various latex and plastic mixtures arriving, after two years of labor, at the proprietary formula of polymers and additives in 1991. Shortly afterward Parkinson founded Wetless Aquagear to produce and distribute the Wetless Aquaboot for use in windsurfing, barefoot water-skiing and other water sports. The company name was changed to Botex in 1998, and taken public in 1999.
But the material is only half of the story. Equally important to the Botex process is the company’s production technologies, which include a 3-D molding system and an open-cavity injecting system. Parkinson describes the 3-D molding technique as a full axis (XYZ) rotational dip system involving the submersion of open three-dimensional molds into the elastomeric material. The process can produce a part or product with four colors or four different durometers, all of which are chemically fused. The open, multi-cavity technique involves injecting Botex formula into an open, multi-cavity mold. Ideal for a “flat” type of part, this method also allows for a selection of six primary colors, or six designer colors, with varying durometers. Both processes are patent-pending and offer significant benefits, in comparison to other elastomeric or rubber molding processes, Parkinson notes.
“We design and create all of our molds out of aluminum, which are faster to make and significantly less expensive than comparable molds,” he says.
While aquatic gear still represents a major segment of sales, the company is diversifying into other markets such as athletic wear, orthopedic products such as joint supports and shoe insoles, and footwear.
Despite an innovative process, expanding business and revenues that grew by over 400 percent last year, the company has yet to turn a profit, a situation the newly appointed president and CEO Peter Jeffrey was hired to correct. Jeffrey, who has won several business awards for his management achievements at other companies, says his mission is to harness the tremendous growth potential of the Botex technology by upgrading equipment to increase throughput, as well as focusing sales and marketing efforts.
“When there are so many applications for our material and process it makes the marketing focus more challenging,” Jeffrey says. “Our intention is to license out our process in order to penetrate the market faster.”