At the Elix stand at K 2016, Carlos Müller, business director at Tarragona, Spain-based Elix Polymers told PlasticsToday that his company’s focus on North America and Mexico was easy to explain: “It’s where we see developments happening,” he said. “In fact, Mexico is developing faster than the US. That’s the reason that one of the four people hired in North America is stationed in Mexico. We wanted someone there right from the beginning.”
He also noted that for the time being, resins will be supplied from Spain and distributed by a partner. “However, the next step will be compounding in the US,” he emphasized.
Elix Polymers, said Müller, focuses on specialty areas and does little in commodities. “We deliver tailor-made formulations in areas such as healthcare, toys and food contact applications. Segments in a legal environment that is constantly changing – legislation on migration limits and the like; we are not necessarily concerned with large volume applications. But we are also active in the automotive industry and to some extent consumer products, for example small housings.”
A big difference between Elix grades of ABS and ABS/PC and competitor suppliers is the proprietary technology, which, says the company, makes the materials more sustainable in addition to enhancing processability and improving molder productivity. The lower density of these materials yields lighter parts with the same geometry, and higher upper temperature limits, thus extending the range of possible applications.
The company has also developed an innovative ABS composite material, reinforced with natural fiber. This development was undertaken under the auspices of the EEA and Norway Grants. This was the first time that a European ABS producer was given a European Grant for a project to investigate new sustainable ABS materials and composites. Market applications include automotive and furniture markets.
ELIX ECO ABS-NF can be processed without having to modify machines and offers a number of key benefits. These include high stiffness, heat resistance, low moulding shrinkage ratios, low emissions and weight reduction when compared to glass fibre reinforced ABS. For example, ELIX ECO ABS-NF has a density of 1.12 compared to 1.15 for ABS-GF. As can be seen in the photo, the material has been also tested for 3D printing technology with impressive results, both in terms of processability and aesthetics.
Innovation and expansion abroad notwithstanding, Elix, which in 2012 was acquired by private equity firm Sun European Partners of Boca Raton, Florida, US from German materials company Styrolution Group, has also taken steps to secure the reliability of its supply. The company has upgraded its compounding facilities at its production site at Tarragona, Spain, investing € 3 million in a new extruder with five lines for ABS and ABS blends. Mueller: “This has allowed us to get down to one week lead time for certain grades, instead of three weeks. It’s a breakthrough in our industry and convenient for our customers, who need to keep less inventory in stock.”
The new line is part of the company’s strategic objective to become a leading manufacturer of high-quality pre-colored ABS resins and derivatives and will substantially improve efficiency in operations and energy resources, he said.