E-Update Industry News

Plastics in the Magic Kingdom

Given that previous generations of inquisitive kids might have been turned on to plastics by Epcot displays like the "House of the Future," which highlighted their benefits in a tangential manner, the current generation of youth can enjoy a focused plastic exhibit that its sponsors, like GE Advanced Materials (GEAM; Pittsfield, MA), hope has a similar effect.

"GE has a desire to encourage young people to be fascinated and intellectually curious about how things work in the world around them," Terry Dunn, marketing communications leader GEAM, explained. "Specifically material science, because we have some of the world''s most innovative material scientists working for GE, and they all started as youngsters being curious about how the world around them worked."

Officially opened on October 1 as part of the Innoventions attraction at Disney World''s (Orlando, FL) Epcot Center, the Fantastic Plastic Works exhibit is slated for a three-year run, with anchor sponsors GEAM, DuPont (Wilmington, DE), the Society of the Plastics Industry, and various other plastics contributors.

The exhibit is divided into three major portions, including an educational segment where a professor appears on touch-screen monitors, encourages visitors to create materials on the basis of desired properties, and then shows them real-world materials that fit the description.

Next, visitors can create virtual robots out of various materials, and then use interactive rubber floor mats to run the robots through a race. Depending on the materials selected, the robots will have different capabilities.

Finally, injection molding machines running family molds create robot subassemblies that kids can put together and take away from the exhibit. Each robot is imprinted with a URL, where further plastics design information is located.

"GE has a long history with Disney and the Imagineers," Dunn said, "So we know what the experience is like. We believed this would be a tremendous opportunity for us to show support for our industry."

Big move in IBC market

German industrial packaging processor Mauser-Werke, in Brühl, is merging with Italian competitor Mamor, based in Milan. Mamor is No. 2 in the intermediate bulk container (IBC) field, according to Mauser, which makes it attractive given that Mauser-long a leader in industrial metal and plastics packaging-got off to a relatively late start in the fast-growing plastics IBC market.

Mauser also makes its own extrusion blowmolding machinery. Mamor has processing facilities in Italy, Germany, France, and the U.S., and annual sales of about €100 million last year.

A May 2004 report by AMI (Bristol, England) identified Schütz Werke, Mauser, and Mamor as the leading European processor of industrial plastics packaging. Schütz has a dominant position in the IBC sector accounting for more than 20% of production, while Mauser and Mamor are the leading drum manufacturers, both with a market share of around 18%, according to the report. AMI predicted then that overcapacity at processors would lead to consolidation or restructuring.

Processor hot on new pallet

Novo Foam Products LLC (Findlay, OH) displayed its new Air Ride Pallet at the SPE Thermoforming Conference (Sept. 18-21), and is using the Air Ride Pallet as a conduit to launch its innovative new composite materials manufacturing process. The company spent almost two years developing the technology used in the manufacture of the pallet.

Novo Foam recognized the global need for a durable, multi-use, lightweight plastic pallet and developed a patent pending process to deliver the right product to market. The manufacturing technology employs existing twin-sheet thermoforming equipment but uses a unique process to create a strong, lightweight composite structure.

"When we completed our first prototype pallets, we realized that we had created more than a great pallet," said Tom Bohan, managing partner of Novo Foam. "We had created a composite I-beam structural panel (The I Panel) in a single process without using adhesives."

Novo Foam has identified products in the appliance, automotive, construction, defense, healthcare, marine, and packaging industries that will benefit from the properties of The I Panel. The company is actively pursuing licensing and joint development opportunities with manufacturers specializing in each targeted industry.

Nova to open Asian Operating Center in Shanghai

NOVA Chemicals Corp. (Pittsburgh, PA) will establish an Asian Operating Center in Shanghai, China by early next year. The supplier of styrenics, PE, and other materials already has a sales office in Tokyo, plus some personnel in Singapore and Beijing.

The new office is Nova''s fourth operating center and includes sales, marketing, and business development personnel. It will be headed by Chris Hogan, director of NOVA Chemicals Asia. Other operating centers are in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

SymaLITE takes home composites award

The SymaLITE composites processing technology developed by Quadrant Plastic Composites (QPC; Lenzburg, Switzerland) was awarded the ''Best Application of the Year'' award by the AVK-TV: Reinforced Plastics Assn.-Technical Federation, at its recent international conference in Baden-Baden, Germany.

German automotive parts processor Seeber, in Mannheim, uses the technology to make underbody shields for the BMW 1 and 3-Series vehicles. The technology is a very low-pressure compression molding variation that allows for use of sensitive decorative materials with no adhesive, and forming of parts with multiple thicknesses (December 2003 MP/MPI).

Ahhhh, the sweet smell of closures

NutriSystem, a supplier of weight-management and dietary products based in Hosham, PA, is the first commercial user of ScentSational Technologies'' encapsulated-aroma release technology, which gives packaging a specified odor. NutriSystem is adding the aromas to caps for its Aquaescents water bottles; the natural fruit flavor in a cap migrates into the water.

Most NutriSystems users are people trying to lose weight; adding a scent to water gives drinkers the feeling of being hydrated and helps suppress appetites, taking advantage of the link between taste and smell but without introducing sweeteners or other calorie-adding products to the water. Initial flavors are berry, peach, and lemon.

ScentSational says NutriSystems, other consumer products firms, and plastics packaging processors-including Crown Cork & Seal, Portola Packaging, and Charter Films-are about to commercialize other products using scented packaging.

Flavors are added as masterbatch to polypropylene compounds for the 53-mm caps. These are molded by an unidentified processor; keep your eyes peeled for the sweet-smelling molding site with the slim employees.

Sumitomo bumping acrylics capacity in Korea

By July, Sumitomo Chemical Co.''s South Korean affiliate, LG MMA Corp., expects commercial supply to begin at its new 40,000-tonne/yr acrylic resin plant. LG MMA already operates a 50,000-tonnes/yr acrylic resin plant producing commodity grades in South Korea; a surge in demand for optical grades in recent years, particularly for use in LCD light guide panels, prompted the move to establish a production presence for high-end grades.

Through de-bottlenecking, in 2003 Sumitomo Chemical increased its annual acrylic production capacity in Japan from 30,000 tonnes to 45,000 tonnes, and this year boosted its capacity in Singapore from 35,000 tonnes to 50,000 tonnes. With LG MMA''s new plant in South Korea, Sumitomo Chemical will have a combined annual optical-grade acrylic production capacity of 135,000 tonnes.

Also in acrylics, Mitsubishi Rayon Co. has started construction of its 70,000-tonnes/year MMA monomer plant in Huizhou, China. The plant is scheduled to be completed in April 2006.

Mitsubishi Rayon already produces acrylic resin molding compound in Nantong, China, at a 40,000-tonnes/year facility, and in the second quarter of 2005 plans to start 20,000-tonnes/yr acrylic sheet plant.

Remember this shape: CRG Industries introduces Veriflex

Cornerstone Research Group Inc. (CRG; Dayton, OH) has commercialized its patented Veriflex Shape Memory Polymer Resin. Veriflex is a two-part shape memory polymer resin system that retains the shape in which it was cured. Once heated above its activation temperature, Veriflex changes from a rigid polymer to a very elastic state.

In this elastic state, Veriflex can be twisted, pulled, bent, and stretched, reaching up to 200% elongation. When cooled, the polymer hardens and maintains its deformed configuration until heated above activation temperature again, at which point it returns to its memorized shape. This process can be repeated indefinitely without loss of the memory shape.

CRG plans to market the material to a number of markets and for plastics processes including thermoforming. Veriflex is available for purchase as a two-part uncured resin system from November 2004.

The FACTS of process control

Factory Automation Control Technical Services Inc. (FACTS; Cuyahoga Falls, OH) introduced its newest process control and information solutions for thermoformers and extruders, including FACTS Total Thermoformer Control (TTC), and FACTS Total Line Control 2001FS (TLC) for extrusion applications, at the SPE''s thermoforming conference in September.

FACTS TTC is designed specifically for integrated and centralized control of the entire thermoforming process. The system can be configured for new thermoforming machinery or to replace and upgrade existing thermoformer control systems. The system is suitable for roll-fed or cut-sheet thermoforming applications.

The TLC 2001FS for extrusion control is designed specifically for integrated and centralized control of the entire extrusion process, and incorporates a high-resolution color touchscreen for operator command input plus data and graphics display.

Both systems offer over 160 unique product codes, configurable system design (no programming required), real-time trend plots of all process variables, real time SQC charts, product and process analysis, and support for upper-level functions such as job scheduling, job tracking, production tracking reports, and networking to interface to customer MRP and MIS systems.

Largest coex blowmolder?

That''s the claim that machine maker and processor Rikutec (Altenkirchen, Germany) is making for a co-extrusion blowmolding unit it installed recently at the Syracuse, NY facility of Fralo-Plastech. Rikutec specializes in very large blowmolding machinery.

The new unit includes a coextrusion accumulator head with a volume of 400 liters, for processing of hollow bodies with a volumetric capacity of up to 10,000 liters, and up to four layers. The four extruders feeding the head plasticize up to 2000 kg/hr of material.

BASF''s adds staff at its TPU business

TPU supplier BASF has added three employees to key customer support roles in its Elastollan thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) business in North America. The business is headquartered in Wyandotte, MI.

New are Rabeh H. Elleithy, senior TPU technical service representative; Mahmoud Ghamen has been appointed senior TPU technical service representative; and Mitch A. Willis has been appointed market development specialist.

All have strong industry backgrounds. Prior to this position, Elleithy worked at PolyOne (Avon Lake, OH) in the Advanced R&D Engineering-Polymer Diagnostics business unit. Ghamen was previously employed by Solvay Engineered Polymers (Mansfield, TX). Willis worked for Performance Polymers Inc. (Leominster, MA) as a senior application engineer.

PET drinks-bottle processor in new markets

U.K.-based PET, PVC, and PP bottle blowmolder Audus Noble (Blyth, Northumberland, England) is using the Emballage packaging exhibition in Paris in November to publicize its entry into the toiletries and cosmetics markets with the launch of a brand-new range of products. However, the firm says it is already supplying some customers in Europe.

The company already supplies a range of packaging products to the personal care market. It is probably best known for its blowmoldings, though it also has an extensive injection molded packaging range. This new range of products is the company''s first entry into the toiletries and cosmetics industry.

The blowmolder says it has acquired considerable new kit, including new tooling, for thick-walled transparent jars specifically for the toiletries and cosmetic markets. The processor offers customers decorating such as silkscreen printing and hot-foil blocking.

First Licensee for oriented wood-plastic composite process

PSA Composites Inc. has entered a licensing agreement with Green Forest Engineered Products LLC of Montana to manufacture and sell specific products for the lumber market using PSAC''s wood-plastic composite technology. PSAC (Guelph, ON) and Green Forest will work together on other potential joint applications and contract manufacturing opportunities.

"This agreement is significant to PSAC as it is the first commercial-scale production of our oriented wood-plastic composite material," explains Frank Maine, PSAC founder, chairman and chief technology officer, in a statement.

PSAC''s technology produces a low-density, oriented extruded profile with superior strength and stiffness, plus lower weight than traditional wood-plastic composites.

Green Forest''s first products will be 1 x 4-inch boards used for door trim and sills.

Linpac in search of new boss

David Williams, chief executive of the Linpac Group (Birmingham, England), quit in late September. No replacement had been named by press time.

Williams is a long-time industry veteran and also has served as president of the European Plastics Converters processors association for three terms. He will remain EuPC president.

MP understands from a Linpac employee that the decision to leave was very unexpected. Williams was with the firm for about 30 years and saw its growth as a major power in the plastics packaging industry as a thermoformer and films extruder. The firm also molds parts for the automotive and other industries; it recently sold the last of its corrugated paper business to focus on plastics.

Williams'' departure followed extremely diverging views between him and Montagu Private Equity, the firm that acquired Linpac last year, according to the employee, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Akzo offloads specialty resins business to Atofina

Specialty resins producer Cray Valley (known as Cook Composites & Polymers in the U.S.), part of the Total Group (Paris), has bought the ultraviolet/electron-beam resins business of Akzo Nobel (Arnhem, Netherlands) for an undisclosed sum. Sales last year were €27 million. The purchase includes production facilities in Eccles, England and New Brunswick, NJ. UV/electron-beam resins are acrylated monomer and oligomers, and are used in plastics and wood coatings as well as the opto-electronics segments.

Carbon compounds new to Premix

Compounder Premix Thermoplastics Inc. (Milton, WI) has added a full line of carbon fiber-reinforced compounds to the company''s Pre-Elec product portfolio. These are available with fiber loadings up to 60% carbon fiber in nylon 6 and 66, and PPS, and up to 40% in other matrix materials including PP, ABS, PC, POM, and PSUL. Carbon fibers increase a compound''s flexural modulus (rigidity) and tensile strength, lower the shrinkage, and increase electrical conductivity.

Names in the News

Patrick Masterson has been appointed managing director of acrylic producer and sheet processor Barlo Plastics (Beel, Belgium). He replaces Andre de Smet who is leaving the company after six years.

New managing director of extrusion equipment producer SML Maschinengesellschaft (Lenzing, Austria) is Karl Stöger, formerly head of the company''s Asian marketing operations. He replaces Bruno Haider who is retiring.

Gregor Bommel has been tapped to head the cyclic olefin copolymer business of Ticona (Kelsterbach, Germany). He was previously sales director for the division.

In Brief...

Dow Corning Corp.''s Japanese joint venture with Toray Industries Inc., Dow Corning Toray Silicone Co. (DCTS), has acquired the silicone division of Nippon Unicar Co. DCTS will offer the same or equivalent silicone products now sold by NUC after the completion of the sale.

Bayer MaterialScience (Leverkusen, Germany) held an official ceremony in China to celebrate its already-announced plans to invest $200 million to construct two Chinese plants to produce methane diisocyanate (MDI) used to make polyurethane and a 30,000-tonnes/yr-capacity plant to make the precursor hexamethylene diisocyanate used for polyurethane-based coating materials. The MDI plant should have a capacity of 80,000 tonnes/yr. Both, located near Shanghai, are scheduled to come onstream in 2006.

Roof over many heads

More than €24 million is being invested in processing operations to manufacture polyester-based roofing membranes at JSC Mogilevhimvolokno in Belarus, the first such facility to serve White Russia, Russia, and other CIS countries. Planned capacity is 39 million sq m, or 7600 tonnes/yr.

Great Lakes with new capacity

Supplier Great Lakes Chemical (Indianapolis, IN) has started production in Asia of its phenolic antioxidant additive used for polyurethane (PUR) and polyolefin (PO) applications. The company says growing demand in the Far East made the addition necessary.

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