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Lightweighting, high-performance underhood components, and structural and impact-resistance applications are among the trends in the automotive sector that have prompted a Japanese-invested compounder in Michigan to implement a multimillion dollar investment in new capacity.

PlasticsToday Staff

March 25, 2013

2 Min Read
Japanese investment boosts auto compound supply in North America

Asahi Kasei Plastics North America, Inc. (Fowlerville, MI) is proceeding with a $5 million investment in a new compounding line and plant improvements to accommodate this increased business. A $3 million investment in a large compounding extruder and peripheral equipment is in process and a $2 million investment in new projects including plant upgrades is planned for 2013. The new equipment is expected to be operational by the end of 2013 providing a 30% capacity increase for the company’s line of Thermylene specialty polypropylene (PP) compounds and a 10% capacity increase over all product lines. Asahi Kasei Plastics also compounds polyamide (PA) products.

“This $5 million investment is in addition to the $15 million invested in the last 5 years for new equipment and continuous improvement,” says Prasad Puttagunta, VP operations, Asahi Kasei Plastics. This included a substantial expansion in 2011.

“We are very excited about the growth our company is experiencing—we are ahead of the market recovery growth rate and many of the product development investments we have made over the years are now paying dividends with increased business in new areas,” says Puttagunta. “The additional capacity will ensure that we have a robust supply chain to support the growth of our customers.”

“In 2012 we added staff in our manufacturing facility to be able to run seven days a week, and the operations team worked on several projects to improve utilization of the plant,” says Puttagunta. “We also opened new sales offices in Mexico and China and established distributorships in Brazil and Germany in 2012,” says Ramesh Iyer, VP commercial operations, Asahi Kasei Plastics. In 2011, Asahi Kasei Plastics invested $5.5 million in a new compounding line to increase capacity for their Leona PA and Xyron modified polyphenylene ether (mPPE) engineering products and an additional line for expanded R & D services.

“Much of this growth is due to advancing our Thermylene PP line and Leona PA 66 and 66+6i line of products for cost-effective light weighting applications, for high performance in automotive under-the-hood and structural and impact resistance applications,” added Iyer. The 66+6i compounds are based on partially aromatic polyamide copolymers.

“Interest in our new Thermylene I long glass-fiber-reinforced PP for impact performance is driving growth and so is our new and advanced Leona resin (unique polyamide with 60% glass) to provide a Class “A” surface without paint,” says Iyer. Asahi Kasei Plastics won the SPE Innovation Award in 2012 for “Most Innovative Use of Plastics” in the materials category for their new and advanced Leona used in the Ford Escape, Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ air register vanes. In 2011, they were a winner with the Chrysler Group LLC, in the Body Exterior category, with their Thermylene products in the Dodge RamBox assembly.

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