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Saudi compounder recovers, looks to grow

October 1, 2005

4 Min Read
Saudi compounder recovers, looks to grow

After a difficult start, TIB Plastic Industries is now growing, led by its specialization in high-purity PVC.

Muneebullah Husaini, technical manager at TIB Plastic Industries Co. (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), sees his company''s future tied to value-added products rather than commodities. The 30-man company, part of the Bajrai Group, specializes in compounding high-purity PVC for medical and food contact applications.

Today the compounder is prospering, but this wasn''t always the case. After starting production with a few hundred tonnes/yr in 2001, the company was confronted with a prevailing regional attitude that TIB''s product couldn''t match imported European quality because TIB was new and the only producer of such grades in Saudi Arabia.

"We''re unique in offering such a product without competition in the whole of the Middle East," Husaini says. "We had to overcome the prevailing quality bias [against our compounds], but have in the meantime been able to show we can compete with the best." The company now exports 80% of its output to markets such as Taiwan, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, and Italy.

Putting it all together

Husaini says that TIB is competitive not only on quality and price; the company''s big advantage is location, enabling fast delivery to customers. TIB also specializes in small-lot deliveries, which has helped it build business, he says. Output of high-purity PVC compounds is now 3000 tonnes/yr, and the company expects to expand.

Finding well-trained operators to run the equipment in Saudi Arabia has been a problem, he admits. The company employs a number of foreign workers (from the Indian subcontinent, surrounding Middle Eastern countries, and the Philippines) and does in-house training.

TIB relies heavily on European and U.S. suppliers (Coperion Werner & Pfliederer, Reimelt, K-Tron, MTI, Extrudex) and automation to reduce production errors and costs. An ICA robotic packaging system has been adapted for bag filling so as to avoid direct human handling at the packaging stage.

Workers at the facility also have to be good at climbing. The plant has been laid out vertically with polymer, additives, and plasticizers feeding from five-story-high silos and tanks into hoppers. Raw material silos are located in an adjacent, covered hangar to protect the contents from the Saudi heat, which can climb to more than 40°C during the day. From the fifth floor, the materials pass through the material handling system and land on the fourth floor where they are weighed and then mixed on the third floor. The dryblends are stored to be fed through feeders on the second floor, which also includes the operation''s control room, before moving one floor below to the extruder and granulator.

Granules are cooled in a fluidized bed, fines are removed by cyclone, and the material is classified through vibrating screens. An in-process quality check system from Extrudex Kunststoffmaschinen (Mühlacker, Germany) churns out reports on compound quality obtained from a Nikon optical camera system from Hama (Monheim, Germany), which is supported with software by RAM (Flörsheim, Germany). Husaini says such exactitude is necessary for the company to comply with existing U.S. and European pharmacopoeia, FDA, and Code for Federal Regulations standards that the ISO 9000:2000 company needs to meet. The compounds are subsequently delivered to storage silos for bagging and packaging.

Looking forward

Success so far has inspired TIB to start production of medical-grade tubing and semifinished layflat film for medical bags. "We''re moving ahead with plans to progress downstream to fill the obvious supply lack [sic] of semifinished and finished products in [the Middle East]," he says.

The company recently constructed a cleanroom and has installed two Brabor Extrusion Systems (Ubersetto di Fiorano MO, Italy) monolayer extruders. The medical tube unit, with an output of 250 tonnes/yr of 1 to 21-mm ID/2.5-24-mm OD tubing, has been in operation since summer and the film extruder (for 80- to 330-mm layflat widths in thicknesses of 250 to 400 µm) should start this month. Once up and running, TIB wants to supply empty, welded bags to Gulf-area IV-solution filling manufacturers. Next on the company''s radar is to begin compounding medical- and food-grade thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) and TPVs by mid-2006.

Robert Colvin [email protected]

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