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GE extends Extem to the market

Some 13 years after developing new polymerization catalysts and 11 years after creating new monomers from that technology, GE Plastics (Pittsfield, MA) will launch what its calling its first new resin since introducing Ultem polyetherimide (PEI) commercially in 1984, with the development of Extem thermoplastic polyimide (TPI). Brian Herington, general manager high-performance polymers, and Rob Costella, global product manager for high-performance polymers, offered some details on the product, as well as progress on Ultem production expansion in Cartagena, Spain, during a Nov. 14 web cast (see MPW November 2006 First Look for initial report).
Extem will launch in Q1 2007 with two general families—UH and XH—and GE is positioning the high-heat amorphous thermoplastic as an alternative to semicrystalline high-heat materials, which can exhibit post-mold shrinkage issues, and imidized thermosets, which can require postmold curing.
“Our customers are demanding more in higher performance,” Herington said. “They’re asking for materials that bring them extreme part performance with higher temperature resistance and severe chemical performance. They also want improved productivity to meet competitive marketplace challenges.”
The officials said GE has secured more than 30 patents for the material, with 33 still pending. Production is currently handled from a pilot plant in the U.S. that’s been operational for two years, with production capability by December in the hundreds of tons. The $250 million Cartagena production plant, which will also expand Ultem capacity, will be able to produce thousands of tons upon its opening in 2008. GE says that facility will have room to grow with the market, and the company anticipates a market potential for Extem of $100 million.
Also working with its compounding arm, LNP, to introduce glass fiber and other additives to improve properties, GE said it has identified 75 potential products, spanning aerospace, defense, medical, automotive underhood and lighting, among others. Extem UH will have a glass transition up to 311 deg C, and continuous temperature performance to 230°C. XH will have glass transition up to 267 deg C, and exhibits 50% more strength at 170 deg C than Ultem PEI.
Ultem, which had experienced some shortages in the field (see MPW October 2005 Market Update for initial report), should have supply issues addressed, according to company officials, with the $30 million June expansion of production in Mt. Vernon, IN, as well as future Spanish production, allowing lead times of one week plus transit for special-order materials. In addition, GE has shipped inventory worldwide to reduce global lead times.—[email protected]
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