HIGH-LEVEL SPECIALISATION AND TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION. THESE THE WATCHWORDS OF SIPOL SPA, INDUSTRIAL CHEMICAL COMPANY BASED IN MORTARA, A REFERENCE POINT FOR VARIOUS SECTORS, INCLUDING FOOTWEAR.
Founded in 1988 by Orfeo Giusto, a historical figure in the Vigevano business world, SIPOL® SpA is a completely private enterprise, specialising in the production of high-tech “tailor-made” polymers. SIPOL® currently has a turnover of over 20 million Euros and features 30 employees, 5 alone just for research and development. Among the shareholders of SIPOL® SpA is TECNOGI S.p.A., a reference name in the production of toe puffs and counters for footwear. Massimo Cattaneo, CEO of SIPOL® since 2012, explains the link between the company based in Mortara and the international market of footwear and accessories.
SIPOL® Società Italiana Polimeri: what is it and what does it do??SIPOL® is a chemical company that develops and manufactures speciality tailor-made polymers according to the technical requirements of the application. We range from technopolymers for the moulding of parts for the electrical, electronics and automotive industries to adhesives for the footwear sector. It is no coincidence that SIPOL® has its roots in the shoe district of Vigevano, a strategic location to create a close link, in terms of technology, with the world of the shoe and the leather industry in general. Part of our production is in fact constituted by hot-melt (commonly known as hot glue) adhesives on co-polyester and co-polyamide bases, for which specificity consists, in addition to the speed of setting, in the total absence of those solvents normally required to spread the adhesive in thin layers during the traditional process to bond two surfaces.
How important to SIPOL® are the research and development of new products?SIPOL® is by nature highly focused on research and development, the company operates only in niche areas, offering a range of customised solutions for the type of application. Our development organisation works closely with customers in search of the “ad hoc” polymer, i.e. one that meets the technical requirements of the customer.
Please explain to us what the modus operandi of Sipol isOn the basis of the technical requirements, our laboratory tests in reactors various combinations of co-monomers to synthesise the polymer that is most responsive to individual needs. Once the most promising combination has been identified, the same reaction is reproduced on a pilot plant with capacity between 10 and 50 kilograms of finished product, which allows us to perform a complete characterisation of the investigational product and the customer to test the same in their own machines. Following approval of the product by the end customer, the formulation of the investigational product is transferred to an industrial plant for mass production.
What are your main areas of reference?SIPOL® operates in the footwear sector – which accounts for about 40% of the company turnover – with hot-melt adhesives grouped under the brand TECHNIPOL®: our products are used in the form of hot-melt wire for assembly operations and in granule form for refolding and thermoforming of puffs and counters. Another business in constant development in terms of both volumes and technology is that of hot-melt adhesives for the bonding of tissues, where SIPOL® is present with the brand SIPOLTEX®, a range of applications in the textile, clothing, fashion (e.g. linings of handbags and footwear) and automotive sectors. Lastly, the company is active in the area of thermoplastic rubber for injection moulding with SIPOLPRENE® line, thermoplastic ether-ester elastomers.
And the end markets?Approximately 40% of our sales are made in Italy. The remaining 60% is divided equally between the rest of Europe and outside the EU, where the main markets include South America, India, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and South Africa. As “small” as it may be, the company operates globally through a network of agents and distributors in Europe and beyond, dealing directly with the bigger customers. SIPOL® does not have branches abroad and, in regard to the footwear industry, it uses the sales network of Tecnogi, a shareholder that in this industry alone has a turnover of 50 million Euros with 80% of sales abroad and two joint ventures in China and India.
The concept of sustainability is very much in vogue. How do you handle the issue?As a ISO 9001 company, SIPOL® was also one of the first in the province of Pavia to be certified in accordance with standard ISO 14000. Having said that, I want to emphasise that many of our products are synthesised using raw materials from renewable resources not intended for human consumption. Our entire range of co-polyamides TECHNIPOL® PA has a content of raw materials from renewable resources in excess of 70%, whilst currently only some TECHNIPOL® co-polyesters will employ a significant percentage of these. Sipol’s aim is to also ensure that all co-polyesters intended for use in the footwear industry have a renewable resource content exceeding 30%. Technologically we will be able to do this.
Can you give some examples of the use of your products in footwear?Co-polyester, more rigid but with a superior closing speed, is normally used in the assembly of toe puffs, whereas for the sidewalls co-polyamides are usually used due to their greater flexibility. Among the products in pellet form for the fashion industry stands out the co-polyamide granules for folding, perfect for sandals and leather.
How can you quantify your production?
The weight of SIPOL® products for each pair of shoes is around 3 to 10 grams, whilst our current production of hot-melt adhesives allows us to achieve on average 2.5 million pairs of shoes per day.