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India’s UFLEX spending $180 million in new U.S. facility, adds capacity in Egypt

Flexible plastics packaging processor UFLEX Group offered more details into its new facility planned for the U.S. as well as news of its acquisition of an aluminum oxide coating machine. UFLEX is headquartered in Noida, India and ranks as one of the world's largest plastic films processors with annual revenue of about $910 million. The company has expanded rapidly since we first reported on it in 2007.

The processor signed a memorandum of understanding in April 2011 with the state of Kentucky to build a new facility there. This greenfield packaging films project involves an investment of about $180 million, half of which will be spent on the first phase with the setting up a biaxially oriented polyester (BOPET) film line and a plasma-enhanced high-barrier metallizer. The BOPET line is sized to process film 8.7 meters wide at rates of 500 meters/minute, which UFLEX claims will make it the largest BOPET line in operation in the U.S. Start-up is to be complete before the end of 2012. UFLEX claims world leadership in BOPET capacity.

The project is being set up under the aegis of Flex Films (USA) Inc., a new company set up by UFLEX. Heading the new business will be Ram Srivastav, who brings experience from stints at consulting companies Schlumberger, AT Kearney and Cognika. The ground breaking at the site is slated for October 2011.   

UFLEX has several manufacturing facilities in India as well as one each in Dubai, Mexico and Egypt, with the last of these opened only recently and the facility in Mexico recently expanded. It is now setting up the site in the U.S. as well as one in Poland.

In related news, UFLEX officials say the have joined the small group of plastic film processors running their own aluminum oxide coating unit. The coater is placed in the processor's new facility in Egypt, where it also recently started a 12,000 tonne/yr cast polypropylene (CPP) film line. The site also houses an 8.7-meter wide, 500-meter/minute BOPP film plant, and a high-barrier metallizer, both of which were commissioned in 2010.

Under installation at this location are a 500-meter/minute BOPET line and another plasma enhanced metallizer, both expected to be fully operational this year.

The ALOX coater is the UFLEX Group's first such installation. It applies a thin, highly transparent coating of aluminum oxide on packaging films, giving them moisture and gas barrier properties said to rival those of aluminum foils and metallized films, but with transparency. Transparency not only can be used to reveal an attractive product but also facilitates optical scanning/inspection and metal detection. Unlike aluminum foils and metallized films, ALOX-coated films are microwavable; they also are retortable, making an option for the packaging of processed foods that can be microwave heated.

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