Aristech Surfaces LLC has been manufacturing plastics and materials used in the creation of hot tubs for decades, since its initial launch of its AVONITE acrylic, 25 years ago. Today, the company is touting its latest innovation in surface material, the AVONITE Flex.
The material, which is still patent pending, was announced in March on the heels of Trinseo’s acquisition of Aristech. Trinseo is a global materials company based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and its purchase of Aristech may signify an exciting new direction for the more than 50-year-old manufacturer.
AVONITE Flex is unique when compared to other surface materials, in that it is designed to be repairable and easily formed into both simple and complex shapes — hence the name Flex.
The company believes the material can also give a refined and luxurious look to sinks, baths, formed wet walls and several other sanitaryware and bath applications, in addition to hot tubs.
Another notable quality of the material is its matte surface ﬁnish and stonelike feel that is resistant to staining and chemical cleaners. “The idea was to create a product that responds to the major demand for cocooning and high-end finishes; customers want their home décor to be inspiring and relaxing,” says Jana Bartlett, group marketing director for Aristech. “With AVONITE Flex, we’ve successfully combined the comfort and sophisticated look of [the original] AVONITE for a range of applications that were not accessible before.”
Hot tubs have been traditionally manufactured using high-density polyethylene, stainless steel, wood, concrete and inflatable materials. AVONITE Flex is a solid surface material manufactured using a continuous cast process implemented by Aristech. The product is designed to be easily formed into hot tubs and swim spas, using equipment commonly used for continuous cast acrylic sheet. However, unlike continuous cast acrylic sheets, which have a glossy surface appearance, AVONITE Flex appears more stonelike, which gives it a more natural aesthetic.
AVONITE Flex can be produced using conventional molds and vacuum-forming systems with no additional required investment. The product has been sampled not only in North America, but also in Europe and China. Some of the testing involved has included processing trials, performance testing and customer perception of appearance and function. Sebastian Joseph, director of research and development at Aristech, says the company has received “very significant positive feedback from our customers regarding processibility and conversion to spas, as well as the matte finish.”
Additionally, Joseph says manufacturers and end customers have both been impressed with the stonelike appearance and feel of the material, which he says is lightweight, thus making it “easy to handle in the workshop, in transport and during installation.”
With the product being so malleable, some consumers might expect it would be difficult to maintain — however, according to Jennifer Foust, Aristech marketing manager, it is that very quality that makes the AVONITE Flex so easy to repair.
“Customers have been amazed by the ease with which minor scratches and mars are removed,” Foust explains, “as well as the ease with which more demanding repairs are made.”
The material is non-porous, which limits the growth of micro-organisms, making it a more hygienic material.
The hot tub industry has been through a lot of changes in the past few years, both due to economics and personal tastes, which has meant manufacturers like Aristech have had to change with it. Fortunately for the company and its employees, Aristech appears to be more flexible than ever.