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May 15, 2016

3 Min Read
Advancing Asian processing sector calls for more local tech support

Once was the day where processors in Southeast Asia were happy to purchase resin from local family-owned traders but as the processing industry migrates up the value chain and more responsibilities are thrust on local converters by their customers, it is crying out for higher levels of tech support. Resin suppliers themselves, also eager to lighten their workloads, are turning to value-added global distributors to deliver higher levels of technical support in the region.

K.D.F. Distribution (Shanghai) Managing Director Wilfried Jobst and K.D. Feddersen Singapore Managing Director JC Ng proudly show off the clutch pedal molded from Akro Plastics’ ICF carbon fiber-reinforced polyamide compound.

In recent years, three of Europe’s largest resin distributors have established operations in Southeast. Asia. Dutch distributor IMCD acquired Singapore-based plastics distributor Paceco Industrial Supplies, whose footprint spanned Singapore, China and Malaysia, in 2012, using it as a springboard to expand throughout the region.

Further, Ravago SA acquired Singapore-based distributor Acumen Engineering in 2012 and more recently, in 2015, acquired Singaporean compounder and recycling concern Eveready Manufacturing. This followed on from an acquisition of compounding capacity in 2014 through the purchase of China’s Lomold, located in Huzhou, Zhejiang province.

The latest distributor to join the fray in Southeast Asia is Germany’s K.D. Feddersen, which set up its own office in Singapore in mid-March this year headed by industry veteran JC Ng. K.D. Feddersen already has a presence in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam through its chemicals distribution business and these will now be leveraged to establish a local sales and technical support presence. Next on the cards is establishing an operation in Thailand this year or next.

“Our principals are asking us to come to ASEAN because there is a perceived lack of technical support from local family-owned traders,” says Wilfried Jobst, Managing Director of K.D.F. Distribution (Shanghai). “This is becoming increasingly important for the auto and electrical/electronics sector.”

K.D. Feddersen is perhaps unique among resin distributors in that it operates its own compounding plants (through subsidiary Akro Plastics) equipped with extrusion lines that are also manufactured in-house by group company FEDDEM GmbH. “This means once a decision has been made to expand, we start up a plant within six months,’ says Jobst.

Akro China currently operates two lines with room for three more. “Line number three will be installed in the near future,” says Jobst.

In Brazil, where the company’s first line only started operations in September last year, capacity is already sold out. “Despite the state of the economy, we are seeing strong demand from the auto sector, and are already contemplating a second 5000-tonnes/year line.”

FEDDEM extruders are said to be capable of compounding fiber-reinforced thermoplastics with less shear, meaning mechanical properties are typically 10% superior. “Our extruders can blend polyamide 6 with polypropylene, for example, under low shear to make a lighter alloy compound but still retain the same mechanical properties,” says Jobst.

The modular design twin-screw extruders can also compound in up to a 60 percent glass fiber content. Further, one was also used to produce the carbon fiber-reinforced PA 6 compound used to mold a BMW clutch pedal using scrap from prepregs as the reinforcing fiber. A special side feeder was used to gently introduce up to 50% carbon fiber content to the polymer melt.

The “carbon fiber remnants” employed are preconditioned using a proprietary process prior to compounding. And as they are recycled in nature, the ICF (for Intelligent Caron Fiber) compound is less expensive than it would cost if molded from a virgin carbon fiber-reinforced compound. The clutch pedal was molded using water injection molding on an Engel machine.

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