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E-Weekly News Briefs, February 6 - 10

Get ready for more name changes

What used to be known as the polyolefin business of petrochemical producer BP (London), later spun off as Innovene, is now being renamed INEOS Polyolefins following the Dec. 16 acquisition of Innovene by INEOS (Runcorn, England), a producer of specialty materials, polymers, and intermediates. All of former Innovene''s European polyethylene and polypropylene businesses will be known as INEOS Polyolefins, while the North American polyolefin divisions are being renamed INEOS Olefins and Polymers USA. The change is in line with the renaming of the company''s other plastics-related sectors, which include phenols, styrenics, vinyl, as well as films and compounds.

Also changing its name is Bio-Gate Bioinnovative Materials GmbH (Bremen and Nuremberg, Germany), producer of microsized silver-based antimicrobial additives. It is simplifying its name to Bio-Gate AG.

Geon name back in business

PolyOne Corp. (Avon Lake, OH), a global plastics compounder and distributor in North America, has broken out its specialty PVC business as a separate group, Geon Specialty Resins, led by François Côté, vice president and general manager. PolyOne put the business on the sell block last year but decided to keep it after suitable offers were lacking.

Geon Specialty Resins includes manufacturing facilities in Henry, IL and Pedricktown, NJ. The Geon product line includes dispersion, blending, powder-coating, and specialized suspension PVC. PolyOne was formed in 2000 after the merger of compounder M.A. Hanna with PVC supplier and compounder Geon.

In related news, in its first-quarter 2006 business outlook, PolyOne stated it projects shipment volume for the Performance Plastics business should improve 6-8% compared with fiscal-year 2005 fourth quarter, to a level 1-2% higher than in Q1 2005. PolyOne projects product pricing on average should be up 5-6% compared to previous year first quarter.

Kneader development wins Swiss kudos

Compounding equipment maker Coperion Buss (Pratteln, Switzerland) has taken this year''s top Innovation Prize awarded by the Swiss cantons of Basel city and county for its Quantec kneader introduced during K 2001. The single-screw machine is said to offer a 2-3 times output improvement over similar-sized twin-screw compounders. The prize of 20,000 Swiss francs was unanimously given by a jury of seven who selected from 40 local applicants, says Erich Straumann, head of the selection committee.

Since K 2001, Buss has sold more than 40 Quantec machines, co-developed by the Technical Institute of Basel, which are intended for products needing low shear, high output, and good dispersion such as vinyl, masterbatches, powder coatings, and flame-retardant wire and cable compounds, says Beat Sturzenegger, president and CEO of Coperion Buss. Quantec now makes up 20-25% of the company''s annual business.

Manfred Eiden, CEO of the Coperion Holding, Buss'' owner, says he expects to see a 10% growth in business this year generated by Buss, as well as sister equipment makers Coperion Werner & Pfleiderer (Stuttgart, Germany) and Coperion Waeschle (Weingarten, Germany). In his speech during the presentation, Ralph Lewin, privy councilor and head of the economic and social departments of the canton Basel city said the Buss development was selected because it offered a creative development in the area of mixing and was a benefit to the environment and society.

At next year''s K exhibition in Düsseldorf, Buss expects to feature the Quantec kneader for particularly demanding wire and cable applications where dispersion and mixing are critical as well as an application with a German-based rigid-films and sheet producer to provide a continuous process for vinyl calendering, Sturzenegger says.

New plasma coating system available through Husky

A plasma coating system for improving plastics'' oxygen and carbon dioxide impermeability, developed by Nano Coating Systems of Fremont, CA, will be marketed by Husky Injection Molding Systems (Bolton, ON), the world''s leading manufacturer of PET preform molding systems and molds. Barrier performance of PET preforms is a key ingredient in their use in applications such as carbonated soft drinks, chemicals and beer packaging, among others.

According to Nano Coating Systems, its process for applying a silicon oxide plasma barrier coating to the inside of plastic containers or preforms is significantly less expensive than other coating systems because it uses radio frequency energy to generate the plasma instead of the conventional approach of using microwaves.

In a statement, Nano Coating''s President Bill Liggett says the process is expected to cost less than $6/1000 bottles, which is about half the cost of some other plasma coating systems supplied by stretch blowmolding machine manufacturers. Nano Coating says its system has proven effective at improving the barrier of PET bottles, polypropylene bottles, and injection molded items like medical disposables.

Husky will handle distribution, commercial matters, startup, service, and spare parts of Nano Coating''s plasma-coating units. Plasma coating is an increasingly popular means for beverage brand owners and bottle blowmolders to add gas barrier performance to blowmolded packaging (see upcoming article in the March 2006 issue of MPW).

U.S. moldmakers remain under siege from imports

Although the plastics industry as a whole had a $2.8-billion trade surplus in 2004, U.S. moldmaking experienced a $691-million trade deficit in 2004, with Canada, Japan, and Germany as the top three importers, and China quickly gaining market share.

Detailed in the Society of the Plastics Industry''s (SPI; Washington DC) just-released ''Size and Impact'' study done in cooperation with Probe Economics, the report found that the number of moldmaking firms, total toolmaking employees, and overall value of mold shipments all dropped from 2002-2004, .5%, 4%, and .4% respectively. In total in 2004, there were 1443 moldmaking establishments that employed roughly 25,000 workers, and accounted for $3.2 billion in shipments. SPI and Probe classified moldmakers using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 33351105, molds for plastics, which doesn''t account for captive moldmaking operations. Those businesses had an annual payroll of $1.2 billion, spent $1 billion on materials, and had $108 million in new capital expenditures for 2004. Moldmaking represents a relatively small slice of the overall U.S. plastics manufacturing industry, which in 2004 had 15,597 businesses, 874,000 employees, $8 billion in new capital expenditures, and shipments valued at $224 billion, according to the SPI report.

While mold exports for U.S. toolmakers grew 19%, imports increased by 8.4% and accounted for 41.9% of domestic shipments. Overall, mold imports gained 3.5 percentage points in U.S. market share, pushing them to a 34.2% share. The top five deficits were with Canada ($392 million), Japan ($244 million), Germany ($64 million), Taiwan ($41 million), and Portugal ($32 million). China continues to make inroads, jumping from $37 million in mold imports into the U.S. in 2003 to a record, $52 million, in 2004. Over that same time, U.S. exports of molds to China dropped from $15.8 million in 2003 to $14.7 million in 2004.

In terms of U.S. exports, the top five surplus countries for the U.S. in 2004 were Mexico ($195 million), Costa Rica ($6 million), Ireland ($5 million), Venezuela ($3 million), and Malaysia ($2 million).

Novatec adds IRD to portfolio

Baltimore, MD-based Novatec now markets an infrared rotary dryer (IRD)/crystallizer system that it says uses considerably less energy than a conventional desiccant PET dryer/crystallizer system.

IRD heaters heat solids (such as plastics) but not air, much as a microwave does, so that more energy is focused on drying (or heating) a product and energy is not wasted heating air.

In IRD the radiation travels to the centers of the plastics particles causing them to dry from the inside to the outside, driving moisture to the surface where it is evaporated.

In a telephone interview Urban Stricker, the patent holder for IRD technology, said Novatec licensed the IRD technology from another auxiliary machinery manufacturer, UPM (Berkshire, England), which itself has a license for IRD from Stricker.

The Novatec IRD is currently available in 5 standard sizes to process capacities from 400-8000 lb/hr. Larger sizes can be custom-engineered.

Company news briefs

Arkema has opened a carbon nanotube pilot plant at Pyrenees-Atlantique, France to produce 10 tonnes/yr of material for customer trials.

Equipment maker Davis-Standard (Pawcatuck, CT) says it is having a sale of feedscrews to reduce inventories. The units at sale prices, ranging from 19-90 mm (0.75 - 3.5 inches), include metering screws, barrier units, and spiral mixers. The deal is designed to reduce inventories at the company. Contact: [email protected]. In other news, the company is offering gear-case retrofits for non-Davis-Standard brand extruders that are no longer supported by original manufacturers.

Haldia Petrochemicals (Haldia, India) has signed agreements with polymer producer Basell to increase the capacity of its swing polyethylene (PE) plant for linear-low and high-density PE from 225,000 tonnes/yr to 368,000 tonnes/yr. It will also up its polypropylene output from 211,000 tonnes/yr to 320,000 tonnes/yr with Basell technology.

PolyOne (Cleveland, OH) now offers six color-matching labs for customers to test products since two new units at Vonore, TN and St. Peters, MO were commissioned.

Seeley International Europe (Blythe Park, England) says it is the only evaporative air-cooling manufacturer to pass the German VDI standard of compliance for hygienic standards of ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Its Breezair Evaporative Air Cooling system is used to cool shopfloor facilities. Tests found the system reduced fungal spores and endotoxins by up to 25%.

Names in the News

New business director-aftermarket for processing equipment maker Davis-Standard (Pawcatuck, CT) is Jerry Warren. He previously held posts at equipment maker John Brown/Cumberland and New Harbour.

Ralf Olsen has been named to head the plastics consumer goods division of Germany''s Plastics Processor Assn. (GKV, Frankfurt). He is replacing Rainer H. Jung, who after 27 years as head of the division, is retiring.

Durakon Industries (Lapeer, MI), a provider of thermoformed products and paint-film technology for the automotive industry has promoted Tim Feldbush to director of customer support and sales operations.

U.S. builds resin-export advantage in 2004

A closer look at 2004 resin-export numbers for the U.S., which helped the industry as a whole to a trade surplus, reveal global resin demand increases that stoked production and sales to all-time highs. According the American Plastics Council (APC; Arlington, VA), a division of the American Chemistry Council, 2004 production reached 115.2 billion lb, up 8% over 2003, and sales and captive use rose 7% to 113.9 billion lb.

For a resin like PE, which is largely derived from natural gas in the U.S. versus naphtha from oil in global production, cost advantages for U.S. producers emerged as crude oil prices soared and promoted exports. U.S. exports of plastics resins rose 18.9% in 2004 to $24.91 billion, while resin imports rose 17% to $14.22 billion, for a net surplus of $10.68 billion.

Sales and use of PE reached 38.9 billion lb in 2004, with exports up 11.7%. For PP, sales and use rose 5.9% in 2004 with a total volume of 18.6 billion lb, while exports were up 5.6%. HDPE saw the largest gains, with sales and use up 10.1% and exports showing a 20% improvement over 2003.

According to the new Global Trends report from the Society of Plastics Industry, the resin industry''s largest trade surplus in resin was $2.67 billion with Mexico followed by $1.7 billion with China and Hong Kong combined. The largest deficit was with Germany: $541 million.

Fly-in diplomacy

Over the next two weeks, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI; Washington DC) will participate in two separate ''fly-in'' events bringing member and nonmember industry professionals into Washington DC to lobby on behalf of issues important to plastics. The first, Feb. 7-8, is sponsored by the National Assn. of Manufacturing with a forum, Manufacturing: Making America''s Future, and a Manufacturing Alliance Dinner at the National Press Club. On the Feb. 8 fly-in day, SPI will be lobbying on behalf of trade, energy, and R&D tax credits with appointments being set up with congressional delegations from Michigan, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

The second fly-in, Feb. 15-16, is entitled Increase Domestic Supply of Natural Gas and is sponsored by the Industrial Energy Consumers of America. Those interested in attending either event should contact SPI''s Natha Freiburg; [email protected].

BASF''s Engelhard advances continue

Not willing to give up even though Engelhard Corp.''s (Iselin, NJ) board recommended rejection of its unsolicited offer to buy up stockholders shares at $37/share, German chemicals giant BASF (Ludwigshafen) has nominated two of its own candidates for election to the Engelhard board slated for May 4.

As previously reported in the e-weekly, BASF Chairman Jürgen Hambrecht says the all-cash tender offer to Engelhard stockholders is fair and would provide them with a timely return on their investment. BASF has nominated Julian A. Brodsky, founder of cable and entertainment provider Comcast, and John C. Linehan, a board member of Pacific Energy Partners, a company in the business of distribution, transport, and storage of oil, refinery products, and chemicals.

Engelhard, a producer of catalysts and other chemical products, in responding to the BASF nominations, repeated its rejection of the $37/share bid as too low and indicated again it was searching for alternatives such as a white knight buyout of the company or the sale of the operation.

Rothwell retiring from Eastman

One of the best known executives in the PET supplier ranks, Allan Rothwell, executive vice president of Eastman Chemical (Kingsport, TN) and president of the company''s Voridian PET supply division, is retiring April 1, 2006.

Rothwell joined Eastman in 1969 as a chemist and has served in a variety of leadership positions in the company. He was appointed president of Eastman''s chemicals business group in 1999. He assumed his current position in 2001.

The supplier said an announcement regarding the future management of responsibilities currently held by Rothwell would be made prior to his retirement.

Krauss-Maffei sets up a subsidiary in Thailand

Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH (Munich, Germany), which makes injection molding, reaction process, and extrusion processing machinery, has set up a subsidiary in Thailand. Krauss-Maffei Thailand Co. Ltd., located in Bangkok, currently has seven employees and its own spare parts store.

The company says its Thai customer base is mainly in the automotive and packaging industries (food and cosmetics packaging).

Demag announces appointment

Injection molding machine manufacturer Demag Plastics Group (Schwaig, Germany) has appointed Ansgar Jaeger as marketing director. The 44-yr-old Jaeger is already the firm''s manager for application engineering and process development. He''s been with DPG since 2000.

The company says making a single person responsible for its marketing efforts and its applications engineering responsibilities makes sense as it plans to pursue a more ''a more segmented product offering.''

Battenfeld Gloucester building a 17-layer cast film line

Sounds unbelievable but they say it''s true. Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co, Inc. (Gloucester, MA), part of the SMS group of plastics processing machinery manufacturers, says it is designing and building a 9-extruder, 17-layer cast barrier film line, eventually expandable to 34(!)-layers, for an as-yet unidentified customer.

The film from the line will range from deep-draw forming film to high-barrier film for pouch and retort applications. The line will include Battenfeld Gloucester''s Model 1011S winder, with the ability to wind film on either lift-out steel cores or cardboard cores on lift-out steel airshafts. Battenfeld says it will be in operation in the first half of 2006 with more details available soon.

Boy plans in-house insert molding expo

As many as five different insert molding machines and application processes will be shown at the in-house exhibition in machine manufacturer Boy''s showroom at Neustadt-Fernthal, Germany on April 4-5. Boy makes injection molding machines up to 1000 kN clamping force.

The program includes presentations from other firms as well, including ASS Maschinenbau GmbH, Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V., Stäubli Tec-Systems GmbH, and Ludwig Schleicher GmbH. For more information contact Thomas Breiden, head of marketing at Dr. Boy GmbH & Co. KG.

Former Crane exec climbs aboard Milacron

Plastics processing machinery manufacturer Milacron (Cincinnati, OH) has hired Herb Hutchison as director of international business development for Cincinnati Milacron extrusion technologies. He comes to Milacron after a 33-yr career with profile extrusion processor Crane Plastics in which he rose to president at that firm.

Cincinnati Milacron extrusion technologies manufactures single-and twin-screw extrusion equipment, including its range of large, conical twin-screw extruders, which offer special advantages for wood/fiber composites and other difficult compounds.

Hutchison says Milacron is actively pursuing agent representation in worldwide markets. In late 1999 when SMS Plastics Technology acquired Cincinnati Extrusion, the Vienna, Austria-based extruder manufacturing business of competitor Milacron, a non-compete agreement between Cincinnati Extrusion and Milacron ensured neither firm would sell extruders in the other''s home markets for five years. The non-compete agreement ended Jan.1, 2005.

PW Eagle consolidates in Oklahoma

Processor PW Eagle, with headquarters in Eugene, OR, is combining its Oklahoma-based operations into existing space at USPoly''s Tulsa location. This will involve relocating all production equipment, warehousing, and other support services from their current Shawnee, OK location. USPoly Company LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the firm.

In a statement, Jerry Dukes, PW Eagle CEO, stated, ''Concurrent with the relocation, we will make some modernization investments to improve and increase our injection molding capacity. We expect to have a more efficient and effective operation by combining our molding and extrusion operations in one location.'' PW Eagle extrudes PVC pipe while subsidiary USPoly Company extrudes PE pipe and molds pipe fittings. Together they operate 14 U.S. manufacturing facilities.

Turkmen government builds large pipe-extrusion facility

Turkmenistan''s government, via the government-controlled oil and gas company Turkmenneftegazstroy, this week (Feb.13) officially opens its new, nearly 167,000 m² large pipe-processing facility in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.

According to reports the facility will have annual processing capacity of about 8.5 million m of various pipe and fitting systems. One plastics processing machinery supplier benefiting from the new site is Cincinnati Extrusion (Vienna, Austria), which says it has shipped five of the eight extrusion lines for the manufacture of pipes and hoses. The facility also has 12 injection molding machines with clamping forces ranging from 15 to 160 tons for molding a broad range of fittings.

Entek makes personnel moves

Twin-screw extruder manufacturer Entek Manufacturing Inc. (Lebanon, OR) has announced several personnel promotions. Kirk Hanawalt has been named VP/COO and will manage daily operations. He had been Entek''s VP-global sales.

John Burke has assumed the role of operations manager, responsible for the company''s assembly, purchasing, and shipping/receiving departments.

John Effmann, hired by Entek in 2005 as corporate marketing manager, has been promoted to director of sales & marketing. He will manage all sales and marketing functions at the company, including direction of the company''s internal domestic and international external sales offices. Effmann has more than 30 years of sales and marketing experience, including 27 years at Milacron Inc.

Graham Packaging cuts bottle weight yet again

Blowmolding giant Graham Packaging Company (York, PA) says it has developed a new, proprietary blowmolding technology that allows it to process lighter weight PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles without changing design or sacrificing any performance characteristics.

The first actual product to emerge from development will be a multiserve hot-fill bottle, blown in the same molds for the current, heavier version of the same size bottle. This technology will eventually be rolled out to the entire family of PET hot-fill bottles.

Ashok Sudan, executive vice president of Graham Packaging, said, ''Easy drop-in is a prime consideration. By that we mean that it''s very important to provide customers with a new generation bottle without disturbing their brand image or filling line set-up.''

Graham Packaging has 87 plants in North America, Europe, and South America and had net sales for the last 12 months of $2.4 billion.

Weekly futures activity from the LME

Futures trading of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) and polypropylene (PP) on the London Metal Exchange (LME) for the week of Jan. 30-Feb. 3 saw a low price for LLDPE of $1275/tonne set on Monday, Jan. 30 for February buyers. LLDPE''s high of $1380/tonne came on Friday, Feb. 2 for May sellers.

For PP, a low price of $1170/tonne was reached on Monday, Jan. 30 for February buyers. The high of $1305/tonne came on Friday, Feb. 2 for May sellers.

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