We hear a lot about hydraulic fracturing of shale rock to revive our energy industry by using pressurized liquid to aid in the extraction of natural gas and petroleum that is difficult to obtain by other means. You might be wondering what that has to do with the plastics industry. C. Andrew Rosenholm might be a familiar name to those who’ve been in the industry for many years. His family’s company, OAR Tool & Die, was a well-known mold manufacturer for 45 years, and as Rosenholm noted was a “toolmaker to the stars.”
OAR’s fortunes took a turn for the worst when the company began losing business to the lure of “inexpensive Chinese molds and cheap container shipping killed our customer base,” Rosenholm explained. In October 2009, OAR entered receivership. Luckily for Rosenholm, he had good connections in manufacturing, and he’d heard about something called “frac balls” through a vendor of a company he’d begun working for. “I was introduced to the oil and gas market in 2010 and the rest, as they say, is history,” he said.
Rosenholm went to OTC 2010, the premier trade show for the industry. While at the show he was struck by two thoughts—the first was oil and gas was a very vibrant industry, and second, there was a dearth of plastics engineers in oil and gas compared to other fields such as medical and automotive. “I enrolled in a plastics certificate program with UMass-Lowell to boost my understanding of plastics processing and my credibility in the industry,” Rosenholm said.
Today, Rosenholm has successfully combined his knowledge of plastics and moldmaking, and has developed a whole new business around making frac balls – balls that range in size from Ø 7/8″ to about Ø 5″. Frac balls are used to activate downhole tools and divert or stop the flow of fluid during the hydraulic fracturing process.