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November 1, 2004

17 Min Read
E-Update News Briefs

Compounders form venture, make purchase

Color and additive masterbatch supplier Techmer PM (Rancho Dominguez, CA) has formed a joint venture with engineering thermoplastics compounder Lehvoss (Lehmann & Voss & Co. KG; Hamburg, Germany), so that the two could acquire the range of Electrafil conductive and Plaslube lubricating compounds from supplier DSM Engineering Plastics, Americas (Evansville, IN). Lehvoss acquired these lines from DSM in Europe in 2000.

The new joint venture is called Techmer Lehvoss Compounds (TLC) and will be housed on Techmer''s site in Clinton, TN. Last December TPM Holdings acquired full control of Techmer from its then-partner, PolyOne Corp.

Report: Manufacturing gathering strength

Exhibitors at the K show said it, and now the U.S. Commerce Dept. is adding its affirmation that the U.S. manufacturing industry is slowly on the mend. A report released Oct. 29 by the Commerce Dept. showed the economy grew by 3.7% in the third quarter, up from 3.3% in the second quarter, reflecting a continuing strength in manufacturing. John Engler, President of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM; Washington, D.C.), commenting on the Commerce Dept.''s report, said, "This report is very good news for manufacturers. The 4.6% increase in consumer spending was the fastest in a year and shows conclusively that the second quarter slowdown was just a pause."

The Commerce Dept.''s report shows pickups in consumer spending, business equipment investment, and growth, which led to a 4.2% increase in final sales of domestic products, excluding changes in inventories. The export of goods, mainly manufactured products, already at a 7.8% pace in the third quarter, actually outpaced the gain in imports for the first time this year.

Chinaplas gears up for growth

Stanley Chu, chairman of Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd. (Hong Kong), the firm that organizes the Chinaplas exhibition, said during a presentation at the October K show that Chinaplas 2005 will rotate back to Guangzhou, one of the most important manufacturing and export bases in China. Chinaplas 2005 will be held from June 21-24 at the largest exhibition center in Asia, Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center (GICEC), which is located at Pazhou, Guangzhou, with an exhibition area of 70,000 sq m. Adsale anticipates that the show will be at least 17% larger than this year''s, which was huge, with 937 exhibitors and more than 50,000 attendees. He said about 80% of the 2005 event''s space has already been sold.

Earlier this year Messe Düsseldorf, which organizes the triennial K show in Düsseldorf, Germany, signed a memorandum of understanding with Adsale to work closely on organizing and supporting Chinaplas.

For more details on the exhibition, contact Ms. Ada Leung/Ms. Emmi Wong of Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd. at Tel: (852) 2811 8897, fax: (852) 2516 5540, e-mail: [email protected], or visit www.2456.com/chinaplas. Visitor pre-registration is available at www.2456.com/chinaplas.

Conductive polymer deal short circuits

Almost seven months after announcing a letter of intent with DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers (Wilmington, DE) to commercialize its conductive polymer, Electriplast, for use in antennas, Integral Technologies Inc. (Bellingham, WA) and the resin manufacturer dissolved the agreement without comment. In news related to Integral''s "Plastenna," the company was just awarded the General Innovation award from Popular Science magazine''s annual "Best of What''s New" December issue for the conductive plastic antenna, targeted for use in cell phones, PDAs, and RFID tags. Beyond antennas, Integral is developing applications for the conductive polymer in circuit boards, wiring, and heat radiating applications. It has applied for more than 80 patents (November 2004, MP/MPI).

Stabilizer system vies for market dominance

Calcium-zinc stabilizer systems for PVC applications should be more in demand and more cost competitive as global lead prices increase, says Felix K. Meyer, CEO of additives maker Baerlocher (Munich-Unterschleissheim, Germany). Meyer admits the stabilizer is not a simple drop-in but that processability has improved substantially in recent years. He says calcium-zinc is experiencing up to 30%/yr growth in Asia where it has become the stabilizer of choice. He foresees it taking more worldwide market share than other competitive, nonlead systems such as organic stabilizers.

New auto interiors power announced

The merger of Polytec Group (Horsching, Austria) and the European operations of U.S. auto parts supplier Findlay Group, acquired earlier this year by Polytec majority owner Swiss Private Equity House, is complete. The newly merged firm, called the Polytec Interior division of the Polytec Group, has pro forma annual sales of about 500 million euros, with its focus being the processing of passenger car interior systems, such as door trims, roof lining, or luggage compartment trim. The acquisition added seven European manufacturing sites to Polytec.

Additives output expands, forms JV

Great Lakes Chemical (Indianapolis, IN) has started production at its Pyongtaek, Korea plant of its phenolic antioxidant additive used for polyurethane (PUR) and polyolefin (PO) applications. The company says growing demand in the Far East made the addition necessary. This latest investment makes Great Lakes the leading producer of this additive type. It continues to produce it in Germany for distribution in Europe and the Americas. The Pyongtaek plant is part of Asia Stabilizers, a joint venture with Miwon Commercial.

In other news, Great Lakes Chemical and Teijin Chemicals (Matsuyama, Japan), a supplier of polycarbonate (PC) and ABS compounds, have signed a letter of intent to form a 50:50 joint venture producing brominated carbonate oligomer flame retardants for engineering resins. The joint venture, which starts operations by mid-2005, will produce the additive in both the U.S. and Japan.

Get used to these prices

One thing packaging processors can likely count out for the coming year is a drop in materials pricing. Packaging is by far the largest market for polystyrene, accounting for about 40% of all use, and GP-PS prices soared this year by about 75%, driven by the cost of benzene. In Europe, the cost increase for general-purpose polystyrene (GP-PS) has been about 600 euros/tonne, to about 1400 euros/tonne, says Robin Huetter, sales manager at supplier Nova Chemicals in its Fribourg, Switzerland offices. ’I think this level is more or less set, but it depends largely on feedstock costs,’ he adds.

All PS feedstocks now trade on a monthly basis with quarterly contracts a thing of the past; which means price fluctuation is likely to stay. Huetter predicts PS feedstock pricing will change very little in the next three years, as there has been little recent investment in new plants, and suppliers need four to five years between the time they identify the need for a new plant and the date it actually comes onstream.

Huetter notes that one peril for PS suppliers is that the price difference between PS and polypropylene (PP) has increased, from a historical average of about 100 euros/tonne to about 400 euros now. Plastics processing machinery makers have worked hard to ensure that machines processing PS are also suitable for PP, so it would seem the obvious solution for processors would be to switch materials. Unfortunately for processors, notes Huetter, what is likely to occur is that PP suppliers will hike prices, recognizing they have maneuvering room to do so. Indeed, the last month has already seen some PP price hikes announced.

Dyneon venture for PTFE in China

Dyneon LLC (Oakdale, MN), a leading supplier of fluoropolymers, has formed a cooperative agreement with Chinese chemicals supplier Meilan Group (Taizhou), allowing that firm to use Dyneon technology to establish a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) manufacturing base in China. The plant will supply material to both firms. Financial terms were not revealed.

According to Dyneon, this is the first of a series of cooperative projects planned between the two companies. Meilan Group already makes and markets fluoropolymers in China. PTFE''s high heat and chemical resistance help it see use in industries including automotive, chemical processing, wire and cable, aerospace, and semiconductors.

New supply for tight glass market

The reinforcements business of glass-fiber supplier Johns Manville has started its new greenfield plant in Trnava, Slovakia, at an opportune time, say firm officials. "We have been selling products into the market for the past week and are pleased to be able to deliver and support our customers with high-quality products in this tight market situation," stated Michael Effing, VP and general manager, global reinforcements, in mid-November. A firm spokeswoman added that European inventory levels for glass fibers used in plastics compounds are at their lowest levels since early 2002. Johns Manville is the only supplier adding capacity in Europe this year.

NFR-PP ready for molding

A report on natural-fiber-reinforced polypropylene prepared by Germany''s nova Institute for the AVK-TV, the technical group representing that country''s reinforced plastics industry, states that NFR-P compounds now compare well on a price/performance basis with more established materials. The report compares costs, mechanical properties, potential applications, and suppliers of NFR-PP with those of talc- and glass-fiber-reinforced PP, as well as ABS and PC/ABS compounds.

The report costs 125 euros and is available through the AVK-TV (www.akv-tv.de). A second report, ready by year''s end, will detail a nova project using NFR-PP from three suppliers to mold automotive interior parts using current production tooling.

Processors lauded for PVC compounds work

PVC compounds supplier Solvin, a joint venture of Solvay and BASF, recognized the work of some of its top customers during the K show in October. The Golden Award of 50,000 euros went to Nicoll of France for its Manchette Souple, a technologically sophisticated innovation that satisfies a previously unmet market demand: corrugated fittings offering both rigidity and flexibility for easy connection of PVC pipes.

A Silver Award worth 25,000 euros went to Klöckner Pentaplast of Germany for Pentajet, a white matte rigid vinyl film specially developed for laser printing.

The 10,000 euros Bronze Award went home with Alkor and Deceuninck of Belgium for a joint achievement: Bee Bo-a fully finished profile product range that offers a quality look but makes extensive use of recycled material.

Clemson U. opens flexible packaging center

The Packaging Dept. at Clemson University (Clemson, SC) has opened the Flexible Packaging Center, believed to be the first of its kind in a U.S. university. The Center will combine teaching, research, and industry services in its on-campus location in Newman Hall. It was built with more than $900,000 in grants, contributions, and in-kind donations, about 95% of which came from the flexible packaging industry. New funding will come entirely from industry membership fees.

Areas of research for the new center will include preparation of films, laminates, and packages; filling and thermal processing; and flexible packaging evaluation. The center will have a state-of-the-art retort operation for help in developing shelf-stable packaging.

Fortron pushes forward with PPS

Fortron Industries, a joint venture of Ticona, the technical polymers business of Celanese AG, and Kureha Chemicals Industries Co., recently approved a further capacity increase for Fortron polyphenylene sulfide (PPS). This is part of a three-stage expansion previously announced in February. The first expansion of the Fortron Industries plant in Wilmington, NC, will increase Fortron PPS capacity 10% by the end of 2004. A second expansion, now approved, will add a further 20% increase during the second half of 2005.

Fred Daniell, the new president of Fortron Industries, says the 2004 and 2005 expansions will result from a multimillion-dollar program. Named president July 1, Daniell says, "We are using new technology in these expansions to improve utilization and speed throughput. Demand for Fortron PPS continues to grow in the automotive and other traditional PPS markets, and we are also seeing growth in new areas such as aerospace, filtration, and extrusion applications."

Paulson Training offers more to Europe''s processors

Paulson Training Programs Inc. has expanded its operations into Europe. The company has hired OBINION, a company based in the Netherlands and led by industry veteran Arnold Verjeijden, as its European representative. Initially, Vermeijden will focus on selling Paulson Training products in the Netherlands and Belgium. Prior to starting OBINION, Vermeijden was Senior Marketing Manager for Mold-Masters in Canada.

Kuraray picks up PVB film business as HT Troplast is piecemealed

Rütger, the Essen, Germany-based subsidiary of energy group RAG, which previously stated it wanted to exit the plastics processing sector, has sold the first part of its HT Troplast profiles and films business. Its polyvinyl butyral (PVB) film calendering sector, Trosifol, is going to Kuraray Specialities Europe (KSE), part of the Japanese Kurary group, for an undisclosed sum. KSE is a leading producer of both PVB and polyvinyl alcohols (PVOH). It is a resin supplier to HT Troplast (Troisdorf, Germany). PVB film is a specialty, often laminated between plates to provide security and safety glass. Kuraray also owns EVOH barrier resin manufacturer EVAL, Tokyo.

In connection with the purchase, KSE announced an increase in PVB capacity at its Frankfurt, Germany site by a further 20,000 tonnes/yr, bringing output up to 70,000 tonnes/yr at the end of 2005. Gerd Lepper, KSE president, says the company also plans expansions of PVB film production at the Troisdorf and Nizhny Novgorod, Russia plants.

University prescribes research for medical polymers

Queen''s University (Belfast, Ireland) officially opened its Medical Polymers Research Institute in late September, teaming researchers from its chemical and mechanical engineering schools with its pharmaceutical school to develop new resins for medical devices like catheters, implants, and prostheses. University officials are targeting the creation of materials that the body won''t reject, avoiding problems like blockage of drainage tubes or infections, which can now occur in some instances.

Zimmer to build PET bottle chips plant in Russia

Zimmer AG (Frankfurt, Germany) won a contract to build a polyester plant for the manufacture of chips for PET bottles in Russia. The order is worth approximately 40 million euros. The customer is Petrochemical Holding AG, an Austrian investment group based in Vienna. The plant will produce 154,000 tonnes of polyester chips per year and will be located in Dzerzhinsk, near Nizhny Novgorod. Zimmer is supplying the technology, engineering facilities, and equipment and is responsible for supervising the plant''s assembly and commissioning, currently scheduled for the second half of 2006.

In November 2003 and March 2004, Zimmer won contracts from Petrochemical Holding AG to build two PET plants in Lithuania, each with an annual capacity of 154,000 tonnes. These plants are due to come onstream in 2005. The first plant built by Zimmer in eastern Europe-with the capacity to produce 55,000 tonnes of chips for PET bottles per year-was recently brought onstream in Russia. Petrochemical Holding AG and Zimmer have already signed a letter of intent to construct a fifth plant in the region.

Medical tubing manufacturer acquired

Looking to tap into the transcatheter market where less invasive, traumatic devices are made possible by smaller diameter tubing extrusions, Memry Corp. (Bethel, CT) has acquired privately held medical extruder Putnam Plastics Corp. (Dayville, CT) for a combination of stock and cash valued at approximately $26 million. Putnam reported annual revenue in the $9- to $11-million range, selling multi-lumen, multilayer extrusions used in guide wires, catheters, delivery systems, and other medical devices. Memry manufactures nitinol stents for cardiovascular treatments, and it said it can now use Putnam''s expertise to create the delivery device for those products in-house.

New catalyst for PE100 production

Licensing and R&D venture Univation Technologies (Houston, TX) is developing, and expects to commercialize by 2006, its Prodigy bimodal catalyst, which is used in a single reactor to produce PE100 grade polyethylene for pressure pipe applications. The company already developed the process to produce HDPE film grades. John Verity, president, says the process requires a 40% lower capital investment for the same output as twin reactor plants.

Pipe processors Uponor (Vantaa, Finland) is discontinuing its RTI and Plasco pipe and fitting brands in North America to concentrate on its Wirsbo brand of plastics tapwater and radiant floor heating systems in that market.

Lühr Group (Hamburg, Germany) has delivered an ultrasonic welding line to Volkswagen to produce interior cladding for the VW Touran model being produced in China.

Ashland purchases Derakane business from Dow

Ashland Composite Polymers (Dublin, OH), a business group of Ashland Specialty Chemical, is acquiring the Derakane epoxy vinyl ester resin from The Dow Chemical Co. in a cash transaction valued at approximately $92 million. Annual sales of these resins total about $70 million.

The materials see use in composites processing, especially for parts requiring outstanding corrosion resistance and structural strength. Ashland already supplies a broad range of thermoset resins

The purchase includes all technology assets associated with the Derakane business, but no physical assets.

Huntsman renews call for gas price investigation

Peter Huntsman, president and CEO of the chemicals and plastics supplier Huntsman Companies, has renewed his call for an investigation of natural gas pricing on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). Citing a NYMEX price surge of 25% the third week of October, Huntsman said "the pricing system remains badly broken."

Huntsman said his company has been spending a great deal of time on Capitol Hill lobbying members of Congress to look into gas pricing. "The United States has more natural gas in storage for this time of year than at any time in history," he said. "Yet our gas prices are orders of magnitude higher and more volatile than any place in the world. American consumers and the manufacturing sector of our economy suffer while so-called `technical traders'' (hedge funds and others) prosper. It makes no sense, and someone in Washington or New York needs to investigate."

Mixed-materials recycling plants opening in Europe, U.S.

MBA Polymers (Richmond, CA) and Müller-Guttenbrunn (Amstetten, Austria) have formed a joint venture to build and operate a 40,000-tonnes/yr capacity mixed electrical and electronics equipment plastics waste recycling facility at Kematen, Austria. The plant should start up by the end of next year. MBA supplies its expertise in separation of the shredder residue, while MG provides its contacts, some raw material, and its metals recycling experience.

The new company, called MBA Polymers Austria-Kunststoffverarbeitung GmbH, will process highly mixed plastics resulting from the legislated take-back and recycling of durable goods such as appliances and electrical equipment. The plant is expected come on line shortly after the August 2005 mandated implementation of the EU-wide WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment) take-back and recycling legislation.

This plant will complement a similar plant that is being constructed in Guangzhou China in a JV MBA formed earlier this year with Guangzhou Iron and Steel Enterprises.

In related news, Butler-MacDonald (Indianapolis, IN), like MBA Polymers focused on industrial plastics recycling, says it is investing $1 million in 2005 to allow for expansion and to finance an aggressive marketing initiative.

The firm recently opened a new headquarters and recycling facility with double the capacity of its previous one. The firm also formed a strategic relationship with Synergy Marketing Group to help it increase its presence in markets where its recycling services can be further utilized. Target markets include post-consumer; manufacturing; transportation sectors such as bulk truck and rail; vinyl window and siding; automotive; computer; medical device; pharmaceutical; music and entertainment.

Sencorp promotes Conor Carlin

Thermoforming machine maker Sencorp (Hyannis, MA), acquired earlier this year in a management buyout, has promoted Conor Carlin, until now European sales manager, to a newly created position, international sales manager. Carlin says the firm has renewed its mandate to increase its overseas business, especially in developing markets.

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