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Move is in response to ballooning demand from European automotive sector

Stephen Moore

January 26, 2018

2 Min Read
Kaneka expands polyolefin foam beads capacity in Belgium

Japan’s Kaneka Corp. has expanded production capacity for its Eperan-PP (polypropylene) and Eperan (polyethylene) foam beads at its European affiliate Kaneka Belgium N.V. in the city of Westerlo. Capacity will be raised by around 50%, while the company will also implement a process automation program in order to reduce production costs and enable the commercial scale production of high performance beads. The company is investing $18 million in the project, with start-up scheduled for the spring of 2019.

The long-term shift to electric vehicles in Europe will open up more opportunities for foam components in the auto sector according to Kaneka.

With this new investment in Europe, aligned with an investment in Thailand and the existing plant sites in Japan, China, and Malaysia, Kaneka Corporation will further strengthen its global supply structure. Previously, the company announced plans for a new plant of expanded polyolefin foam in the Hemaraj Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate, Rayong, Thailand. A similar, $18 million investment is being made in a 3000-tonnes/yr plant that will add to the company’s existing capacity of 3000 tonnes/yr at affiliate Kaneka Eperan in Malaysia when it starts up in September 2018.

The UK and France are planning to ban the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles from 2040 onwards and actively promote the adoption of electric vehicles. This has made vehicle lightweighting more critical than ever in order to extend vehicle range. Kaneka thus sees significant market potential for further adoption of polyolefin foams in the auto sector given they also offer impact resistance.

“Over the next few years, we expect that Eperan particle foams will continue to penetrate new markets and as such its demand will accelerate, both in Europe and in other parts of the world. By expanding the production capacities we respond to this increase in demand and strengthen our global supply position as a major manufacturer,” explains Pierre Van Ravestyn, Executive Officer EMEA & Manager Global Business Development of Foam & Residential Techs Solutions.

With its latest investment, Kaneka plans to introduce more performance grades to the market including flame-retardant grades of foam beads and diversify its offerings of lightweighting and safety solutions to the automotive industry. Besides being used in bumper cores and sheet cores, Eperan-PP and Eperan also find use in packaging for precision equipment.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and is a proud dachshund owner.

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