Meet Fluoron: The Team Advancing Fluoropolymer Material Applications To New Heights

Back To Blog

Fluoron’s history is a classic American tale of industry. A son bouncing on a tractor before he could read, a father dedicated to the pursuit of materials science, and a legacy of success in plastics that touches the lives of people across the globe. Fluoron’s beginning in 1988 follows from the long history of founder Frank Chapman pushing the bounds of fluoropolymer applications, and the partnerships he made along the way.

Frank Chapman Puts In The Time.

Frank is known for developing original fluoropolymer technologies on a team at Dupont long before many of us could even say `ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene.` He is recognized as a pioneer in the applications of fluoropolymers for the aerospace, pulp/paper, and chemical industries, and Fluoron is the natural consequence of such a storied career. We could leave you with Frank Chapman’s wall in the plastics hall of fame, but that would only be part of the story. Fluoron is a family business, in an industry that helped modernize manufacturing in ways that reach us all. Let us share a quick story of a successful mission for fluoropolymers in the aerospace industry. 

The year was 1960. Many of us know (and some remember) that aerospace engineering was a bit of a big deal back then. The U.S. and The Soviet Union wrestled for territory in the upper atmosphere and the pace of technology was a deciding factor for the fate of the world. At this time, Frank Chapman and his colleague Ed Lippmann (grandfather to Fluoron’s current president, Matt Lippmann)  were developing coatings for rocket nose cones. They were experimenting with ways to sustain enough pressure to actually weld Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). In Franks own words:

“For that project that wanted to build [a cover] for a thirty foot nose cone, which had never been built. The process was a hydrostatic process (isostatic molding). The order that we got from Ford Aeronutronic was for anti-missile nose cones. If there was a missile coming in, they would send out these anti-missiles, with this Teflon nose cone that was seeking the missile, and shoot her down. {chucking} We did it with a balloon the other day! (referring to the downing of an alleged espionage balloon over North America on February 4th, 2023). 

Haha, but this [project] was nineteen sixty. At that time I was working with Parco making Teflon seals and we were the Teflon processor in that area near Ford Aeronutronic and they asked us to do the clearance thing and then they told us what they wanted us to make. It was kinda obvious what it was when you knew what business they were in. So we got the clearance and within thirty days, we hydrostatic molded the first conical shape – proving to them that we could do it.“ – Frank Chapman

Young Randall Chapman Solves The Puzzle.

The other lead character in this story is the younger Chapman. Randall lived and loved in Nashville Tennessee. He was playing music and chasing his dreams when Frank brought the opportunity of a lifetime – a plan to fuse ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) resins (known as Tefzel™ at the time) to fiberglass cloth. Truth be told, many of us would have stayed in Nashville. But not Randall. His motivation to make his father proud and to carry the family industry forward led him to hang up his guitar and spend the next half a year buried in a single question. What possible set of conditions would allow him to create undetectable welds from fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP)? The simple answer to this question is not what’s important, the answer is 282º Celsius.

What is important, is that seaming fluoropolymers in this way was an absolute game changer for the manufacturing of heat shrink tubing. Heat shrink tubing touches everything; paper, metals, ships, cars, planes, trains, rockets, UFOs, you get the idea. Look around you. Do you see any paper? What about metal parts? We can say with certainty that something near you was made on rollers that were wrapped in FEP by Frank and Randall Chapman. 

Fluoron Is Born

In 1988, with Frank Chapman and Ed Lippmann’s decades of lessons in plastics, and Randall’s enthusiasm for experimentation, Fluoron Non-stick Solutions was born. At the time Frank was the chairman of the Fluoropolymer Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry (now PLASTICS) and he, Randall, and Ed Lippmann were ready to build more fluoropolymer products to wrap the wide wide world of non-stick engineering. 

Problem solving is our foundation. Both my father and I love to solve problems. Any problem you have, it keeps us awake at night trying to fix something that has never been fixed, or somebody has an idea but they don’t know how to make it happen.” -Randall Chapman

We are really excited about the aerospace future, because it’s really expanding and we truly are the experts in the business”. -Randall Chapman

The Future Of Fluoropolymers In Aerospace

I had the opportunity to ask both founders how they see the future of the aerospace industry and fluoropolymers. You can really feel their enthusiasm for engineering challenges in their response. 

In Randall Chapman’s words:

“First of all, being a problem solver – you like to recognize that the problem you’ve solved has helped so many people. In the paper industry for example; anything you see in the way of paper in front of you, whether it’s just paper for your printer, or a cardboard box, or packaging, or a magazine, or newsprint -– to think that our product has touched that material, that we solved problems making that paper that you hold in your hands or that box that you open from Amazon. It’s the same with aerospace, to see a rocket or a satellite and know that if it wasn’t for the products and the development that you came up with maybe these satellites, maybe these rockets wouldn’t be up there.” 

{Frank cuts in}

There aren’t many plastics that you can use as seals, that will withstand the heat, and the cold that’s involved in outer space and getting there. There aren’t many materials available so fluoropolymers are always going to be in these projects, and when you need something that’s never been made before, we can do it.” – Frank Chapman

{Randall returns}

“Yeah you know, the excitement is just to know that you are another spoke in the wheel of the future of technology. That because of the things we have been able to accomplish, we’ve advanced the technology to a whole new level and that we’ve earned the respect of so many advanced companies that are bringing the world’s future to that level. Knowing that we’ve had a hand in making that possible, is very exciting. So yeah, we continue to come up with new ideas, and it’s a very exciting time in this new digital world.” – Randall Chapman

Wrapping up

Fluoron is a dedicated team of engineers and scientists. The depth of institutional knowledge in the fluoropolymer domain doesn’t get any deeper. Wraps, sleeves, jackets, coatings, unique parts, liners, if you need your systems to withstand extreme conditions or push the boundaries of scale then you have found your partners here at Fluoron. We look forward to hearing from you.

Free Booklet

Fluoropolymers in Aerospace

Learn about the benefits, applications and properties of fluoropolymers for aerospace