European legislation could affect processors "for decades to come"

New European legislation on provision of safety information for chemicals could have important implications for plastics processors. The draft legislation may not be fully implemented before 2012, but it already has many in the plastics and polyurethane industries worried about the costs, which in total will run to between ?1.4 billion and ?7 billion, according to the European Commission, which is proposing the legislation.

If implemented in its current state, the legislation would call for application risk assesments on a wide range of new and existing chemicals produced in or imported into the European Union before a chemical could be used or, if already existing, before its use could continue. An expression already made famous by Margo Wallström, the European commissioner responsible for the legislation is, "no data, no market." There would be reduced requirements for polymers and chemical intermediates, however.

The European Commission says most chemicals used in the EU have never been properly registered because they arrived on the market before current regulations came into force in 1981.

Some suppliers may decide that the levels of sales of some of their products do not justify the costs of the tests. Processors using materials for which their suppliers have not produced the data would have to test them themselves, or switch to alternatives.

The issue was the subject of a debate between industrialists and politicians, organized by the European Plastics Converters trade association and chaired by Modern Plastics senior editor Peter Mapleston, at the European Parliament in Brussels in June. Speakers demonstrated that differences in opinion between industry and politicians are still massive.

Speaking during the recent Utech 2003 show in The Hague, Reinhard Leppkes, managing director of PUR supplier Elastogran and president of the European Isocyanate Producers Association (ISOPA), predicted that "the regulations will affect the prosperity of our industry for decades to come."

K2004 to have more space, new chair

Managing director of extrusion equipment maker Reifenhäuser GmbH & Co. Maschinenfabrik (Troisdorf, Germany), Ulrich Reifenhäuser, has been named chairman of the exhibition council for next year's K 2004 show (Düsseldorf, Germany) from Oct. 20 to 27.

Reifenhäuser will reign over 10,000 sq m more exhibition area than in the 2001 show as fair organizer Messe Düsseldorf has started construction of an additional hall north of the Trade Fair Center, as well as expansion of hall 13.

Total floor space at the fair will be 160,000 sq m. Organizers say K 2004, including the new space, already is fully booked. For more information on the K 2004 show, please visit www.k-online.de.

Husky, Mold-Masters confirm China Plans

Husky Injection Molding Systems (Bolton, ON) has confirmed it will produce and assemble hot runner systems at its Shanghai Technical Center, due to open in December. At NPE 2003 in June, Jeff MacDonald, marketing VP, said the company had begun some assembly work at a leased facility close to the center. The center will have machining capability for manifolds and plates. "It will be very small, capable of finishing to order," he said. The facility of around 10,000 sq m will also provide product demonstrations, mold tests, systems integration expertise, PET mold refurbishing, and spare parts distribution. It will also act as a bottle development center.

Rival hot runner supplier Mold-Masters (Georgetown, ON), also will finish construction of production facilities in Shanghai before the end of the year, with start-up in early 2004. The facility will comprise nearly 7000 sq m.

Company president Jonathon Fischer says production will be highly automated, and will produce Optima Series systems and components specifically developed for the local market "to protect our intellectual property." There will also be capacity for hot-half plate manufacturing, assembly of temperature control systems, repairs, and a complete spare parts inventory.

Several years ago, the company was close to establishing manufacturing in China through a joint venture with a Chinese company, but cancelled the project when it was unable to obtain confidentiality agreements protecting its technology and expertise. Fischer says that it could take time to build up business in China because "the knowledge base there is low."

EXTRUSION

PTi, Brückner join forces to sell extrusion equipment

Brückner Formtech, a division of tenter frame manufacturer Brückner Maschinenbau (Siegsdorf, Germany) announced during NPE that it has agreed to globally market sheet extrusion equipment for thermoforming applications produced by PTi (Aurora, IL). The deal allows PTi, which has traditionally confined its presence to North America, to expand while Brückner adds a non-competitive equipment segment to its roster. PTi will not be selling Brückner film orientation equipment in the U.S.

PVC film processors merge

Rigid PVC film extruder Gallazi SpA (Gallarete, Italy) has acquired Lucchesi SpA (Bologna), one of the largest PVC calendering processors, with a global customer base in plastic cards and the printing and packaging industries. Gallazi now has four manufacturing sites: three in Italy and one in St. Maur des Fosses, France, which it acquired in 1999.

Davis-Standard enters into R&D deal with Canadians

An independent engineering institute affiliated with the University of Montreal, École Polytechnique, will offer Davis-Standard customers the ability to test new film, coating, lamination, and sheet developments using a Davis-Standard multi-purpose coextrusion cast line now being installed. Announced during NPE, the Center for Applied Research on Polymers (CRASP) will provide testing on the single line with two twin-screw and three single-screw extruders for embossed and cast film, extrusion coating, extrusion lamination, and sheet production. The 1219-mm wide line includes an MDO unit for machine direction stretching.

Rick Keller, Davis-Standard's director of film and coating systems, says the cooperation is targeting applications including micro-porous films, medical and technical clothing, in-line compounding, nano-composite films with very high barrier, porous membranes, synthetic paper, sheet up to 4 mm thick, and flexible packaging.

ENGINEERING THERMOPLASTICS

GE Plastics pursues PEI market, mulls capacity hike

New grades of Ultem polyetherimide, as well as new applications and processing routes, were highlighted by GE Plastics (Pittsfield, MA) at NPE 2003. The company is also considering new production capacity.

Tim Rash, GM for high-performance polymers, says new Ultem XH polyetherimide-sulfone copolymers, with deflection temperatures under load that are 30 deg C higher than standard grades, are "the most heat-resistant amorphous resins on the planet." The principle target is automotive fog-lamp reflectors, where other Ultem grades have been increasingly used in place of metal or thermoset polyester compounds. Rash says use of Ultem in headlamps has grown 19 percent annually for the last four years, and looks likely to grow at 30 percent this year. Total penetration of Ultem in the U.S. is now more than 10 percent, according to Rash.

Other Ultem grades can now be melt thermoformed into medical and food packaging, and used in glass mat reinforced thermoplastic (GMT) composites for aircraft and other applications where fire safety is an issue.

Rash says 26 new Ultem grades are in the pipeline. Investment in the business has doubled in the last two years and will continue to increase, he says. However, revenue suffered in 2001 and 2002 as a result of poor performance in the telecom and aircraft markets; current sales are still below 2000 levels.

The company has increased capacity by eliminating bottlenecks at its plant in Mt. Vernon, IN at a rate of 15 percent annually in recent years. Rash says capacity could be stretched further, but that a new plant would enable production of higher-heat homopolymers than is now possible.

SCREWS & BARRELS

Increasing demand prompts Reiloy site expansion

Barrel and screw producer Reiloy (Troisdorf, Germany) has just opened a E7.5 million expansion of its production facility and offices. The 6500-sq-m addition allows it to increase production, 75 percent of which supplies injection molding equipment makers, says Erich Deppe, R&D manager.

Although demand for screws and barrels decreased by 22 percent from 2001 to 2002, managing director Hans-Josef Manner says that so far this year, Reiloy has seen a 14 percent increase.

BEVERAGE PACKAGING

KHS acquires alfill’s line

One of the world’s largest manufacturers of beverage filling technology, KHS (Dortmund, Germany) has acquired the beverage-filling technology of alfill (Hamburg, Germany). alfill specializes in equipment for filling PET bottles and is a leader in aseptic filling equipment for PET. Terms of the acquisition were not revealed.

KHS remains the largest beverage-filling-line manufacturer with no direct link to stretch blowmolding (SBM) machinery. Competitors Krones and Sasib have developed their own SBM machines, and SIG acquired SBM machine maker Corpoplast in 2000 as part of the acquisition of then-Krupp Kunststofftechnik. SBM machine manufacturer Sidel acquired its own filling-line manufacturing capacity, and competitor Sipa works closely with filling machine maker Procomac.

In related news, Elopak Plastic Systems, one of Europe’s leading noncarbonated-beverage packaging processors, has formed Elofill GmbH (Hamburg) to market filling machinery for PET and PE bottles. The filling lines were codesigned by Elopak and alfill as part of a joint venture established in 2000 and since dissolved.

EXHIBIT NEWS

A new breed of exhibitor

Following leading U.S. plastics-processing machine manufacturer Milacron’s (Cincinnati, OH) claim of victory for its machine-free, solutions-based exhibit at NPE 2003, it may be only a matter of time before others follow suit.

"There are customers who think it’s the right thing to do," says Harold Faig, Milacron president and CEO. "This is not a healthy industry. You have to re-invest in processes and technologies that can make your customers competitive in the world market."

Milacron’s move was met with skepticism by some exhibitors. Others, such as OMV-USA (Genoa City, WI), took the same tack. "It cost $350,000 to install machines" at NPE 2000, says Kent Johansson, president.

Some leading materials suppliers, including Dow, Eastman Chemical, Equistar, Nova, AES, Rhodia, and Ticona also did not exhibit at NPE. Eastman said it will exhibit at next year’s K show but with a smaller stand than in past years. Styrenics supplier Nova did not exhibit at K 2001 or NPE 2003, but met with clients in nearby restaurants or hotels.

PACKAGING

Linpac sold

Linpac Group, the U.K.’s largest privately owned manufacturing company, and a major player in plastics and paper packaging and automotive components, was the subject of a friendly bid worth around $1.4 billion from Montagu Private Equity (London) in June. The offer is subject to shareholder and regulatory consent.

Birmingham-based Linpac manufactures on five continents, with 2002 sales of close to $2 billion. Chairman Michael Cornish, son of Linpac’s founder family, will be a non-executive director and David Williams, currently group managing director, will become chairman and CEO.

Williams says the deal “will enable us to build on the achievements of everyone so far, and ensures a continuing role for the founding families in the operation and ownership of Linpac.”

It is understood the family will retain a substantial minority stake. In return, sources say, they are expected to invest around $190 million in recapitalization.

COMPOSITE PLASTICS

SABIC ups Stamax P output

With work on a second compounding facility underway, SABIC Euro Petrochemicals (Geleen, The Netherlands), says that by early 2004 it will boost capacity for Stamax P LGFR polypropylene to 35,000 tons annually to meet demand. LGFR compounds are finding increasing use in semi-structural automotive parts; demand for these compounds was about 70,000 tonnes in 2002 and is expected to double every three years for the next decade.

Sabic Euro Petrochemicals is the former DSM Petrochemicals, acquired last year by Saudi supplier Sabic. In March, Sabic bought Owens-Corning's 50 percent share in Stamax BV—the joint venture formed by Owens- Corning and DSM in 1999 to pultrude Stamax P—acquiring exclusive marketing and sales rights for Stamax in Europe. Owens-Corning retains the rights to make and market the material elsewhere.

Owens-Corning bets on Woodshed

Glass fiber supplier Owens-Corning (Toledo, OH) will lend technical expertise and be exclusive glass fiber rovings supplier to Woodshed Technologies (Winona, MN), which has developed a direct compounding process for LGFR compounds so that molders do not need to purchase pre-compounded pellets separately.

According to Woodshed, the direct process improves parts performance as fibers stay longer and thus retain their mechanical properties. Woodshed’s system includes a patented process called Pushtrusion that feeds continuous fibers into the polymer melt under high pressure. The compound is the chopped inline and fed through a nozzle to an injection molding machine. In early June, Woodshed announced that PlastComp (Winona) holds exclusive global marketing rights for Woodshed’s process.

ADDITIVES

Ciba expands production

Ciba Specialty Chemicals (Basel, Switzerland) with its Middle Eastern partner and masterbatch supplier Astra Polymers, plans to build an extension to the Astra plant in Damman, Saudi Arabia to produce customer-specific additive blends. When opened in December, the facility will have an output of 5000 tonnes per year.

"Our collaboration with Astra Polymers in the Middle East will ensure regional manufacture of customer-specific blends, allowing us to better serve the resin producers," says Felix K. Meyer, executive VP for plastic additives at Ciba. He says the collaboration is another step to strenghten Ciba’s presence in the region following technical cooperation with King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia that started last year.

PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

New chairman named for VDMA

Helmar Franz, chairman at injection molding machine maker Demag Ergotech Group (Schwaig, Germany) has been named the new chairman of Germany’s plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers association (VDMA). Franz succeeds Helmut Eschwey, who has taken a position outside the plastics machinery industry.

MATERIALS

Vantico gone, now Huntsman

MatlinPatterson Global Opportunity Partners (New York) completed the restructuring of Vantico at the beginning of July, and transferred the business to HMP Equity Holdings, MatlinPatterson’s partnership with Huntsman LLC.

Now called Huntsman Advanced Materials, and managed as part of Huntsman's Polyurethanes and Specialties Div., the business supplies materials for coatings and structural composites, as well as adhesives, tooling, electrical and electronic insulation materials. Vantico was originally part of Ciba-Geigy.

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