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e-Weekly News Briefs, September 10-14

Engel details moldmaking shift  


Engel details moldmaking shift

Injection molding machinery and automation supplier Engel’s (Schwertberg, Austria) announcement that it will partner with outside firms for moldmaking going forward, instead of handling the task internally, is part of a larger restructuring, which includes the creation of a new central technology center at its Austrian headquarters. In response to MPW questions, Engel reported that it had formerly employed 60 people solely for the creation of 40 to 70 molds per year. Those individuals will be retained and redirected towards machine construction and mold project planning at the new technology center, which broke ground in February of last year.
That 12,000-sq-m site is set to be completed in two stages&151;May 2008 and the summer of 2009—and will eventually house technical development, including a pilot plant station; small- and medium-sized machine design; quality assurance; an Engel training center; sales and marketing; and human resources. The €25 million site is billed as a future research and development hub, and it comes on the heels of recent manufacturing expansions in Asia (Korea for small machines and Shanghai for large presses), as well as a restructuring of North American assets in Guelph, ON and York, PA.


ExxonMobil commits to massive Singapore expansion

Long-term growth potential has convinced ExxonMobil Chemical to proceed with a second world-scale steam cracker at its Jurong, Singapore site that will feed a new petrochemical project which will include a 1 million tons/yr ethylene steam cracker; two 650,000 tons/yr polyethylene (PE) units; and a 450,000 tons/yr polypropylene (PP) unit. Promising liquid/gas feedstock flexibility and “value-added polymers” like metallocene-based Vistamaxx elastomers, Exceed PE, and Exact plastomers, the project, which will startup in early 2011, will also feature a 300,000 tons/yr specialty elastomers unit; an aromatics extraction unit for 340,000 tons/yr of benzene, and an oxo-alcohol expansion of 125,000 tons/yr. A 220-megawatt power cogeneration unit also will be built.
Sherman Glass, senior VP ExxonMobil Chemical, said the Singapore government’s incentives helped the company make its final decision. Asia remains an area of focus for the company with Glass telling attendees at Chemical Market Associates Inc.’s (CMAI; Houston) World Petrochemical Forum earlier this year that ExxonMobil Chemical anticipates 60% of growth in global demand for chemicals and half of total chemical demand to come from Asia. Glass said ExxonMobil had four “significant” projects in Asia, including this parallel train in Singapore. It previously announced a venture with Saudi Aramco and the Chinese government for a world-scale polyolefins and gas-refining plant in Fujian province, which will triple the existing refinery’s capacity from 80,000 barrels/day to 240,000. In addition, the project will feature an 800,000-tons/yr ethylene steam cracker, an 800,000 tons/yr PE unit, and 400,000 tons/yr of PP capability. Plans are in place for an aromatics complex, as well, with 700,000-tons/yr paraxylene capacity planned.


Atlas adds Indian test site

Atlas Weathering Services Group (Chicago) officially opened its new outdoor exposure site near Chennai, India on August 31, making it the first such independent, commercial exposure operation in India and providing a tropical testing environment characterized by high heat, humidity, and sunlight. The site will start with 25 southern-facing static racks with exposure angles from 5° to 90°. The site is working towards DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025 certification and currently complies with ISO, ASTM, and manufacturer-specific test requirements. The site will also record total solar irradiance, UV radiation, ambient temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and wind direction. Target industries, materials, and products include automotive, architectural, building products, and consumer goods using paints, plastics, textiles, and leather. Atlas has existing outdoor sites in Florida, Arizona, Sanary-sur-Mer, and Hoek van Holland.


Turkey suffers draught problems in hot summer

Four million residents of the Turkish capital of Ankara recently spent several days without water after reservoirs were all but drained and a major pipe burst led to a general turn off of taps. The situation has been escalated by unusually hot and dry weather, leading to massive forest fires in the Mediterranean region. Critics of the city’s mayor are calling for his resignation because they say the government’s lack of investment in the city’s water-management system created the problem.
Most of the country’s potable water and sewage systems are made from non-plastic pipes that are reported to have a very high leak rate. Turkey is earthquake prone yet it has shown, with its use of plastics pipes for gas distribution, that the problem can be solved and lessons learned, reports the International Society of Trenchless Technology which is holding its 25th international conference and exhibition, Mediterranean No Dig 2007 in Rome, Italy from September 10-12. More information is available at www.no-dig2007.com


Macro installs monster sheet line in China

Macro Engineering (Mississauga, ON) says it has successfully installed a new highly specialized sheet-production plant in China, at an unidentified customer. The $35-million sheet line project began in 2005 with a significant amount of custom engineering and component integration, followed by an interim installation near Macro’s headquarters in Mississauga for testing and development purposes. Overseas installation began early this year. “This has been a very exciting project for Macro,” said Macro President Mirek Planeta. “We have plenty of experience with custom-built extrusion lines from previous projects, but none was at the scale of this line. The challenge of overseeing such a large installation was a major undertaking, and successfully executing it at the other side of the world has been very rewarding.” Macro Engineering manufactures extrusion systems for barrier and specialty films, including equipment for custom coating, winding, and web-handling applications.


MBO completed at M&H Plastics

Suffolk, England-based plastic packaging processor M&H Plastics was acquired from owner JP Morgan Partners by its management, with the support of the Bank of Scotland’s Integrated Finance division. The bank holds a minority share; price of the transaction was not disclosed. M&H Plastics employs and 500 and extrusion and injection blowmolds bottles, and molds caps and closures, primarily for the cosmetics and personal care markets. Its CEO is Mark Bryant.


Private equity still chasing packaging processors

A look at Europe’s top 50 plastics packaging processors reveals that one was owned by private equity in 2002; now, 14 of them are, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. In fact, the love affair between plastics packaging and private equity hit a new high in 2007, despite recent fluctuations on the money markets, according to a new report from plastics business consultants, Applied Market Information Ltd. (Bristol, England).
In AMI’s Top 50 plastics packaging producers survey, Amcor was shown as the largest plastics packaging company in Europe with estimated annual plastics packaging sales in Europe totaling €2.070 billion. Amcor comes in ahead of Austrian blowmolder Alpla-Werke.
Europe’s third largest plastics packaging company, Alcan Packaging, will be sold this year (Rio tinto is acquiring Alcan, and agreed to sell Alcan Packaging as part of the takeover).
Nearly all the major companies covered in AMI’s survey have seen some significant change in structure or ownership in recent years. Examples of some of the more significant private-equity investments covered in AMI’s report include:
• Autobar’s acquisition by Sun Capital Partners in 2006/7
• The 2007 sale of Klöckner Pentaplast from one private equity firm (Cinven & JP Morgan) to another (Blackstone Group)
• The sale of Mauser AG from one private equity group (OEP) to another (DIC) in 2007
• The 2005 sale of Pactiv Corp.’s protective packaging and European based flexible packaging business to the private equity firm AEA Investor and the formation of Pregis Group
• The acquisition of a majority share in Radici Film by a group of private equity investors in 2003
• Goldman Sachs’ emergence as the outright owner of Treofan in 2005
• The 2005/6 sale of Crown Cork and Seal’s closures business to PAI Partners and the formation of Global Closure Systems
• Equinox Investment’s shares in both Manuli Film and Manuli Stretch
• Industri Kapital’s ownership of 67% of Superfos Packaging
• Linpac’s acquisition in August 2003 by Montagu Private Equity
• Clondalkin investor, Candover’s, sale of its majority share in Clondalkin Group in 2004 to Warburg Pincus, having doubled the value of its investment over 4 years of ownership
• Candover’s investment in Innovia Films in 2004
AMI ranked processors based on their plastics packaging turnover in Europe only. AMI estimates the 50 accounted for sales of more than €21 billion in 2006 and consumed some 7.7 million tonnes of plastics, representing about 40% of the total plastics packaging business in Europe. More on the report at www.amiplastics.com.


PUR plays lead role in photovoltaic module

BBG GmbH & Co. KG (Mindelheim, Germany), a manufacturer of molds, machinery, and systems for processing polyurethane, has developed a photovoltaic module with polyurethane frame and will market systems and machinery for large-scale production of these. The photovoltaic elements help increase the energy yield per module, and simplify installation for Systaic AG, the Düsseldorf, Germany-based solar system supplier. BBG will manufacture around 6500 of these modules starting this autumn, and early next year will deliver the production equipment required for large-scale production to Webasto Solar GmbH (Landsberg/Lech), which will continue mass production. Webasto is scheduled to manufacture up to 260,000 of these modules per year from 2008 onwards. Webasto Solar GmbH is a joint venture of Webasto AG, known in plastics circles as a molder of polycarbonate window glazing systems for the automotive industry, and Systaic AG.
The photovoltaic module is 1.05 sq m, and the PUR frame developed by BBG is an alternative to the more typical, aluminum, offering easier installation of other components while achieving a higher energy yield.
Hans Brandner, BBG''s managing partner, has 15 years of experience with solar-cell technology used for car sunroofs and applied that experience to help his current employer penetrate the new market. “From an engineering point of view, there are no major differences between the encapsulation of photovoltaic elements and the encapsulation of vehicle glazing,” says Brandner.


Owens Corning sells CFM site to AGY

Owens Corning (Toledo, OH) has sold its continuous filament mat (CFM) manufacturing site in Huntingdon, PA to AGY (Aiken, SC). AGY, a glass-fiber producer focused on glass chemistry, coating technology, and product form, serves markets in aerospace, defense, electronics, construction, and industrial, with manufacturing in Aiken, SC and Huntingdon, PA and a European office in Lyon, France.
The move reflects a continued shift in Owens Corning’s composites unit, which in February announced a merger of its Reinforcements Business and Saint-Gobain''s Reinforcements and Composites Business, known as Vetrotex, into a new company called OCV Reinforcements. Combining reinforcements and composite fabrics, that business has worldwide revenues of $1.8 billion and 10,000 employees.


Crosslinking kinetics in focus at Dow Corning

Processors of thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPV) and silane-crosslinked polyethylene (PEX-b) may want to contact Dow Corning to learn more about ways to physically monitor the crosslinking behavior of these materials. During the Polymer Blends 9th European Symposium in Palermo, Italy, held Sept. 9-12, Dow Corning’s Francois de Buyl presented a paper entitled “New Perspectives in Organosilanes Chemistry for Crosslinking Thermoplastics.” The paper discussed a study that utilized an advanced polymer analyzer for monitoring the rate of crosslinking in TPVs and PEX-b.
One conclusion is that elastic shear torque versus time was an efficient tool for determining kinetics of silane grafting and crosslinking of EPDM in comparison to other standard curing systems. On PEX-b, plots of elastic moduli versus percentage strain were used as a function of time. Specimens were cured underwater at 90°C. The paper also described the effect of increasing the rate of VTM grafting to high-density polyethylene on PEX-b properties.
The study showed that rheology measurements made on TPV or PEX-b melts are easy and reliable for characterizing these materials. In particular, as crosslinking after organosilane grafting occurs, elastic shear modulus (G’), or elastic shear torque (S’) was shown to be extremely sensitive to variation in crosslinking density. The program for the Symposium is available online at www.dicpm.unipa.it/polymerblends/program.asp, along with further information and abstracts for the papers presented.


Briefs

Next year’s Wire 2008 and Tube 2008 trade shows for the pipe and wire & cable industries at Düsseldorf, Germany from March 31-April 4 will for the first time also host METAV, the international fair for metal working, as well as mold and tooling applications. Show organizer Messe Düsseldorf says holding the three fairs together will benefit exhibitors and visitors of all three events. More than 100,000 are expected to attend.
Austrian-based Berndorf, which has acquired 74.9% of mold and tool standardized parts maker Hasco Hasenclever (Lüdenscheid, Germany), is taking over management of the company. Remaining shares remain with the families of Rolf and Thomas Hasenclever. Franz Viehböck, manager and partner at Berndorf for the last four years, becomes managing director of the Hasco group.
Rapra Technology (Shrewsburg, England) has just published a new review report entitled “Epoxy Composites: Impact Resistance and Flame Retardancy”. Rapra says the urge to improve properties of composites materials prompted scientists to investigate composites with lower reinforcement size, leading to the development of micro-composites. More information is available from: Claire Griffiths, [email protected]
Since its commercial launch [May 2003 MPW pg. 49], QuickSwitch inline pipe-dimension-change technology from KraussMaffei Berstorff (Munich, Germany) has sold 25 systems for both the production of polyolefin and vinyl pipes. It permits changing pipe sizes on the fly.
The German Assn. for Electrical, Electronic, and Information Technologies (VDE; Frankfurt) has certified six halogen-free, flame-retardant nylons 6 and 6.6 materials from polymer maker BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) for use in compliance with recently introduced, stricter household appliance standards.
Polyolefins producer Basell (Hoofddorp, Netherlands) is a sponsor of Nobel Web’s new educational ‘Heating Plastics’ game, that is being launched on www.nobelprize.org, the official website of the Nobel Foundation. The Internet game is designed to educate youth 14 years and older about plastics&151;how they are made, what they are used to produce, and the Nobel Prize-awarded chemistry behind their creation. Scientists Giulio Natta and Karl Ziegler, both employed at predecessor companies of Basell, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 for their work in developing polyolefin polymerization.
Family-owned on-line measuring and controls company, Zumbach Electronics (Orpund, Switzerland), celebrates its 50-year anniversary this year. The group consists of 13 subsidiaries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia as well as more than 40 agents around the world.
Processor Heritage Bag (Carrollton, TX) is extruding compostable bags for food waste from biodegradable copolyester, which is being diverted from landfills and incinerators to composting facilities. The company’s BioTuf bags replace traditional petrochemical-based trash bags. The processor is combining its own Minapol Calcium carbonate technology with Ecoflex copolyester from BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) for the BioTuf liners.
Graphite manufacturer SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) has acquired a leading manufacturer of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) plastics apparatus for corrosion protection, Dr. Schnabel GmbH (Limburg/Lahn, Germany). Purchase price was not revealed.
Tech Molded Plastics LP (Meadville, PA) has added two new all-electric 120-ton Nissei injection molding machines to support its emphasis on small, precision parts. The machines join Tech’s existing stable of 120-ton presses, bringing the total number to five, with shot capacities ranging from 3 to 6.1 ounces. In total, Tech operates 22 injection molding machines, half of which are all-electric, with an average age of less than 5 years. The new Nissei machines feature TACT controls and accompanying automation.
Sheet and packaging supplier Spartech Corp. (St. Louis, MO) has paid approximately $61 million to purchase custom plastics packaging supplier Creative Forming Inc. (Ripon, WI). Out of its 160,000-sq-ft manufacturing site in Wisconsin, Creative supplies thermoformed packaging for the food, produce, consumer product, and medical/pharmaceutical markets. Spartech, which supplies custom sheet products for thermoforming, has also expanded into packaging, adding technologies like multilayer, shelf-stackable, and barrier.


Global Plastics Bulletin Board

An e-training course, “Introduction to Polymer Additives, Part 1” is being offered by chemical information provider SpecialChem (Paris, France) for €290 at 15:00 GMT on Tuesday, Sept. 25. This workshop looks at polymer additives’ role in plastics and both industry needs and trends. The event is conducted by SpecialSchem VP Raphael Mestanza. More information and registration is available at: www.specialchem4polymers.com.
Sustainable packaging-related topics, including biopolymer-based materials and lower-energy consumption, will be emphasized at the upcoming Pack Expo event (Las Vegas Convention Center, Oct. 15-17), with the keynote address, several conference sessions, and more than 250 exhibitors focused on packaging’s environmental impact. John Luke, chairman of packaging giant MeadWestvaco will deliver a keynote on his company’s green efforts, which have it rated “best in class” by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In addition, the theme for the Pack Expo conference session is “Sustainability: The New Manufacturing Imperative”, offering 70 sessions on how sustainability is impacting the development and manufacturing of consumer and industrial goods.
Six-axis robotics supplier Kuka (Clinton Township, MI) will provide a window into trends in articulating-arm robots for injection molders as part of the Assembly Technology Expo (ATE; Sept. 25-27; Donald E. Stephens Convention Center; Rosemont, IL). Occupying booth 335, Kuka plastics industry manager, John Nelson, will offer a presentation every hour on the hour from 10:00-14:00. For more information on ATE, which is presented by MPW parent Canon Communications LLC, go to www.atexpo.com.


Names in the News

Thermoplastic sheet supplier Kleerdex Co. LLC (Bloomsburg, PA) has hired William Crane as a manufacturer’s representative for plastics distribution. Crane will report to Thom Price, eastern regional sales manager, and cover the southeastern U.S. Based from Charlotte, NC, Crane’s previous experience comes from Piedmont Plastics and Laird Plastics.
The men behind packaging icons such as the Clorox bleach bottle, Package Engineering Magazine, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food-contact notification program will be inducted into the Packaging Hall of Fame during next month’s Pack Expo (Las Vegas Convention Center; Oct. 15-17). Terry Bedell, a 28-year veteran of Clorox, oversaw the first major redesign of that company’s flagship bleach bottle, as well as introducing a trigger spray for Formula 409, among other accomplishments. William LeMaire’s industry influence goes back to 1972 as the editor of Package Engineering Magazine. He’d later oversee Food Engineering magazine and exited packaging publishing with the sale of Packaging Strategies in 1999. LeMaire also started the Packaging Strategies summit, bringing together packaging suppliers and end-user OEMs. As the founder and senior partner of law firm Keller and Heckman LLP, Jerome Heckman has worked on global regulation of packaging for more than 50 years, including a stint as counsel to the Society of the Plastics Industry’s (SPI; Washington, DC) Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee. In addition to work with the FDA, Heckman counseled regulatory agencies from Canada, Europe, and Japan regarding packaging. In 1957, he helped establish the aforementioned Food-Contact Notification program, which sped the acceptance process for food-contact materials from several years to 120 days from the filing date.
Barry Tyree has joined barrel manufacturer Wexco Corp. (Lynchburg, VA) as OEM Business Manager, responsibility for managing and facilitating Wexco’s original equipment manufacturer and twin bore product business segments. Tyree is a 40-year veteran of the plastics machinery industry, with 15 years in sales management with Wexco. He also has held management positions with Progressive Alloys and Bimetalix. In addition, Wexco has named Don Smith as distribution business manager, responsible for managing the company’s aftermarket distribution business segment. Smith has worked 28 years at Wexco in a number of positions.
Extrusion blowmolding machinery manufacturer Graham Engineering (the former Graham Machinery Group; York, PA) has named four new key officials for its corporate headquarters. Rolf Weingardt fills the new post of corporate development manager; Joe Guarriello has been promoted to R&D manager, the positioned vacated by Weingardt; Kelli Spackman joins as human resources manager, and Bill Keller was hired as materials manager. Weingardt was promoted from within to fill the newly created post to assist in identifying and pursuing technologies that are complementary to Graham’s present product portfolio. Guarriello too was promoted to his new position. Spackman replaces the previous HR manager, who joined another firm in the York area, and Keller fills the new position of materials manager.
Leading plastic additives supplier Chemtura Corp. announced two new appointments in its Adiprene/Vibrathane urethanes business, with Gerald King as new technical service manager for Europe, Africa, and Middle East (EAME); and Mark Moody as the new global marketing manager.
Plasticolors Inc. (Ashtabula, OH), a custom colorant supplier for thermoset plastics named Scott T. Becker as president of the company. Becker held the position of COO at Plasticolors prior to the new appointment.
Specialty chemicals manufacturer Sartomer Co. (Exton, PA) has hired Ken Sweeney as plant manager for the company’s West Chester, PA production site. Sweeney’s been with the company since 1989, most recently managing its Houston operations. Sartomer supplies 620 monomers, as well as polybutadiene and styrene maleic anhyride resins.
Cray Valley (Exton, PA) specialty chemicals manufacturer has named Mohammed Dekiouk plant manager of its Channelview, TX manufacturing facility. Dekiouk, who was technical director at sister firm Sartomer, will be responsible for Norsolene hydrocarbon resin production.
Injection molding machinery and automation supplier, Engel (Schwertberg, Austria) will expand its U.S. sales team, adding representatives to the Southeast and Midwest. Steve Craig, based from Houston, will support cover a territory including Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. He has 18 years of plastics industry experience. Mark Santovitch has been hired to cover Minnesota and Wisconsin directly for Engel, and will work with sales rep firm Fisher Sales in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and parts of Indiana. Santovitch has 19 years of plastics industry experience.


Weekly futures activity from the LME

LME Plastics Evaluated Prices (US$ per tonne) for Sept. 3-7

Key:
PP Global (global polypropylene); PA Asia (Asia polypropylene); PE Europe (Europe polypropylene); PN NA (North America polypropylene); LL Global (global linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)); LA Asia (Asia LLDPE); LE Europe (Europe LLDPE); LN NA (North America LLDPE)
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