Innovation in Olean

You may have played softball at Hysol Park in North Olean but did you know that Hysol was a famous name among electronics innovators? Founded in Olean by native son and chemist, Russ Houghton, Hysol invented the epoxy powder coating that has since become common on items like park benches, chrome automobile wheels and that green concrete reinforcing rod you see during road construction.

Hysol focused on electronics. Epoxy plastic with “high solid content” was one of the first plastic composites, able to achieve outstanding strength, toughness and electrical insulation. Hysol powder coatings were used on early electronic components like capacitors, and resistors. In the 1960’s Hysol invented the first epoxy plastic that could be molded directly around a silicon chip.

This breakthrough enabled America to win the Space Race – among other things, and it made the factory on Franklin Street which is now occupied by SolEpoxy, the world’s largest semiconductor plastic production and development center! Scientists and workers in Olean developed and manufactured critical materials for Texas Instruments, Motorola, and National Semiconductor – just to name a few.

Then the world changed. The Soviet Union collapsed, the cold war ended and China welcomed western firms to tap its vast population for cheap labor. Microelectronics firms, who had already moved production to places like Malaysia and Taiwan, bolted for China.

This made Olean far, far away from the action. Henkel Corporation, the last owner of the Hysol tradition, scattered the ashes. They moved the Olean labs to California, the Olean Customer Service Department was spread among call centers as far away as Manila. Manufacturing of semiconductor plastic was moved to China in 2007.

SolEpoxy was formed in 2010 by local investors determined to operate these assets and restore the Hysol Tradition in Olean. This year we’re proud to announce new products, better processes – and to introduce some of our people!

Melissa Wiegand is a Chemical Engineer and Material Scientist from Stevens Institute of Technology. She led the development of two breakout products last year – a liquid epoxy adhesive for metals like stainless steel, and a pure white plastic mold compound that is used to frame and protect LED lights.

Phil Farris is an experienced Chemist from Olean. He and his team of technicians developed the world’s strongest composite epoxy plastic that is both moldable and uniformly strong in every direction. It’s also flame-retardant and electrically insulating. It’ll find use in critical applications like explosion-proof industrial facilities and oil drilling platforms.

Kyle Custard, an Allegany native,  is an Analytical Chemist from Purdue. He’s developing important variations of our world’s best, water-clear epoxy that’s used around optical sensors and LED lights.

This is another interesting bit of Hysol history: These labs on Franklin Street first invented water-clear epoxy in the early 1970’s. Even today, when you visit your Doctor and they clip a blood pulse oximeter to your finger, you’re probably touching MG18 epoxy made right here! That little laser and it’s sensor are encapsulated in plastic from Olean.

Joe Kubic shoulders the Hysol Tradition of formulating best-in-class powder coatings. If you like the sound of your Fender amp you’ll be pleased to learn that Joe just made it safer. He developed the world’s only coating powder for film-wrapped capacitors that has a halogen-free flame retardant. So now that you know; rock on! (Joe missed the picture. He was in Hawaii.)

Phil Hatfield is a Chemical Engineer from SUNY Buffalo who came to SolEpoxy as an intern and then got hooked on Olean. He’s a Process Engineer and his projects make our factory more efficient. He just doubled the throughput of one our bottleneck operations! With successes like this, we can match China costs and beat China quality.

Kaitlyn Penston is a Chemist who joined SolEpoxy from PPG in Pittsburgh after following the Allegany north. She manages our Quality Control Department and our team of technicians who do it all. Her team certifies every batch of product Sol sells and they support every R&D project too. They also support customers with trouble-shooting and technical service tips. Her department is also our lead team for ISO 9000 quality control certification plant-wide.

Olean is making progress and SolEpoxy couldn’t be more pleased to be part of the story.