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A tribute to Tom Johannsen, founder of ATC

Everyone at Scott Bader was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Tom Johannsen, founder of ATC, a pioneer in the development of light weight foam cored composite laminates, and a true gentleman in an often-competitive industry.

In the 80’s Tom and his wife Karin established ATC Chemicals. In 2013, after realising ATC and Scott Bader had mutual interests and their values were very much aligned, Scott Bader acquired ATC.

Working for or with Tom was always a pleasure because you knew you were part of a team, even a family. His philosophy was that people mattered, whether they were customers or employees which aligned with Ernest Bader’s philosophy and the philosophy Scott Bader continues to live by today. Tom earned the respect of all his colleagues, peers, employees, competitors, and established friendships with his customers that lasted decades.

Tom is survived by his wife Karin and his two children, Christopher and Tania. As a friend, a husband, a parent, a pioneer, a collaborator, and as a business man, Tom Johannsen will be sadly missed.

Tom’s career history

Tom started his career in composites with the promotion and sale of Airex linear PVC foam cores. Tom almost single handedly pioneered the use of foam cores in North America, competing against the dominance of balsa cores in the marine industry. Indeed, it was through his input and efforts that the Peter Hatfield designed Porpoise III, the first fully foam cored hull, was built in Vancouver in 1967. Further projects followed as diverse as fishing boats, mega yachts, racing sailboats, high speed powerboats, and impact resistant architectural applications.

In the 1970s Tom continued to promote and sell Airex cores through his own company Torin, a name derived from Tom and his wife Karin. In the 80s Tom and Karin returned to Canada, relocating to Oakville, Ontario, and established a new company ATC Chemicals. ATC manufacturing was based in Drummondville, Quebec, producing polyester bonding compounds that Tom and Raymond Conway had pioneered for the installation of Airex core and the bonding of the Laser dinghy. The Poly-Bond, Core-Bond and Poly-Fair formulations from that era are still used today.

After the relationship with Airex ceased, in the 90s, a new formulation for a SAN (styrene acrylonitrile) linear foam core was developed that Tom named Core-Cell. Demand for the core, as well as for the polyester bonding compounds, especially the pump applied Poly-Bond B39, increased exponentially. SP System (later Gurit) acquired ATC Chemicals after the shock of 9/11, the subsequent recession of 2001 and costs over run on a new plant. Tom lost his ownership in Core-Cell but retained the bonding compound business and the ATC name. By the 2010s, while looking at expanding the bonding paste portfolio, ATC was interested in Scott Bader’s urethane acrylate technology. Both Tom and Scott Bader realised that they had a common interest, both for growing ATC long term and for Scott Bader to have manufacturing and brand recognition in North America. In 2013 Scott Bader acquired ATC. Tom’s values were very much aligned with Scott Bader’s and the deal was completed in just under 12 months.

That is when Tom and Karin finally retired from a life in cored composites and the marine industry, with Tom returning to his other love, sailing, and racing Ideal 18s at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

Tom’s contribution to the development of lightweight cored composite laminate structures cannot be overstated. When Tom entered the industry in the 1960s, foam cored sandwich construction was in its infancy, and it was only through Tom’s dedication and technical expertise that light weight foam cored construction is now the norm for products as diverse as boats, trucks, aircraft, and wind turbine blades.