On the Shoulders of Giants
The History of Epoxy in Olean, New York
In 1948 Russell Houghton, former chief chemist of the Daystrom Furniture Corporation formed his own business, the Vilex Corporation. The company occupied the basement room in a building located on North Forth Street in Olean, New York. Vilex Corporation’s main activity involved the custom dip coating of electroplating racks. Mr. Houghton’s former employer, the Daystrom Corporation, was the primary customer at that time.
As the company began to prosper and expand, the name was changed to Houghton Laboratories, and it converted a brick manufacturing plant on Olean’s Seneca Avenue, which became the new headquarters in 1949. Houghton Laboratories began to manufacture a line of electroplating rack coatings called plastisols. Plastisol coatings are liquids with a low percentage of volatile solvents compared to paints and they were described as products with high solids content. The contraction of the words “high solids” into “Hysol” became the trade name for all of the company’s products.
A portion of the company’s profit was used to support research and development work on a new material developed in Switzerland, known as epoxy resin. Using imported epoxy resins some two years before their availability in the United States, Houghton Laboratories became the first American firm to specialize in adapting the unique properties of these resins for electrical insulating compounds, adhesives, and sealants.
Houghton’s scientists searched for every potential application of these new epoxy materials. The electronics market was one of the most promising, and in 1950, Houghton Laboratories produced the first liquid epoxy compounds for potting and encapsulating electronic components in the US.
In 1955, Houghton Labs sold the first epoxy coating powder for electrical insulation, marking the start of the Dri-Kote product family. This product used the recently developed fluidized bed coating process to coat products such as bus bars, motor armatures, resistors, capacitors, and other electronic components.
Growth and expansion drove Hysol’s physical size and market diversification from 1955 to the middle 1960’s. The company expanded into Canada, California, England, and West Germany through joint ventures, acquisitions, and new construction.
By 1960, Hysol products were so well known that Hysol was adopted as the company name. When the company applied for the rights to use “Hysol” it was discovered that the word was already being used by two brothers, Messrs, Hyman and Solomon, who jointly owned a store in San Diego. Their attorney persuaded them to sell the name for $4,000 – a nice price in light of the fact they were planning to dissolve their business anyway.
In the early 1960’s, Hysol developed epoxy molding powders for coil encapsulation, electrical connectors, circuit modules, and insulating bushings. Then, in 1964, manufacturers started high volume production of transistors with the TO-92 plastic epoxy package, using a highly efficient transfer molding process. Transistor prices dropped by 90% compared to the older metal can packages and production volumes increased tremendously. Hysol molding compound appeared in many of the all transistor color television sets and portable transistor radios manufactured during that time.
By 1966, many additions to the Seneca Street plant had been completed. Soon, more space was needed and Hysol purchased a 250,000 sq. ft. building from Daystrom Furniture Corporation, located at 211 Franklin Street in Olean. At this location the full line of Hysol products were researched, developed, and manufactured. These included liquid encapsulants for the electrical and electronic insulation market, transfer molding powders, coating powders, and high strength structural adhesives.
In 1967, Hysol Corporation merged with The Dexter Corporation, which at the time was the oldest company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Founded in 1767, The Dexter Corporation’s head offices were located in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. After 1967, Hysol became known as the Hysol Division of The Dexter Corporation. The company further expanded into Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.
Dexter commercialized the first optically clear, transfer grade epoxy molding compound in 1970. This compound allowed the same transfer molding process that revolutionized transistor manufacturing to be applied to the high volume production of light emitting diodes and LED digital displays. Dexter optoelectronic molding compounds were used in the first touchtone telephones, the first affordable pocket calculators, and the first digital wrist watches.
From 1970 and onward, Dexter maintained strong relationships with the major electronic component manufacturers such as Western Electric, GE, RCA, Corning, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Fairchild, Kemet, and International Rectifier. Dexter developed compounds for packaging integrated circuits and rode the wave of growth in the electronics industry; first to Silicon Valley, and later to Southeast Asia. Dexter supplied the world with epoxy compounds manufactured in Olean. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Dexter continued the development of new compounds for these core product lines. In addition, continual improvements were made in the quality, consistency, and performance value of these products, which was demanded by the rapidly advancing electronics marketplace.
In 2000, Henkel Corporation – already the world's leading producer of adhesives – strengthened its grip on the adhesives industry by purchasing Dexter's specialty materials business through its U.S. subsidiary, Loctite. Henkel continued the unrivalled product development and leading-edge manufacturing solutions that have been associated with the Hysol brand name since its inception. Much of this R&D was done at the Olean location.
In 2004, Henkel slowly began moving production of certain product lines to other Henkel locations as part an overall strategic manufacturing plan. Nevertheless, the Olean site continued to maintain its outstanding performance for operational efficiency, on-time delivery, product quality, and safety.
SolEpoxy, Inc. was founded in 2010 by Western New York investors who admired the remarkable legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship that endured at the Olean R&D and manufacturing center. Today, SolEpoxy, Inc. stands upon the shoulders of giants, providing standard-setting epoxy-based specialty materials, along with the very best insight and know-how for customers who rely upon these materials to enable their own products to perform.
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