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August 17, 2006

12 Min Read
E-Weekly News Briefs,  August 14 - 18

High growth reported in chemically-modified filler use

The use of chemically-modified fillers and reinforcements in plastics by North American processors has grown dramatically over the last decade, reaching almost 3 billion lb in 2005, according to a recent research report from market analysts at Principia Partners (Exton, PA).

As more performance fillers and reinforcements found their way into thermoplastics, the demand for products treated with coupling agents and dispersion aids grew by more than 9%/yr during the last decade. Reinforcements, specifically fiberglass, have long been used in plastics but in recent years the use of natural fibers such as wood flour and agricultural fibers have grown by 20%/yr in composite building products and automotive components.

In 2005, Principia Partners estimates that 1.5 billion lb of surface-modified minerals and another 1.4 billion lb of treated reinforcements were consumed in plastics applications in North America. Leading treated fillers were alumina hydrate, calcium carbonate, kaolin, mica, talc, and wollastonite. Fiberglass continues to dominate reinforcements but there is a growing use of wood flour, flax, and kenaf. Overall demand for chemically treatments of minerals and reinforcement agents is expected to increase by almost 50% by 2010.

Kraton expands European SBC production

Kraton Polymers LLC (Houston, TX) will expand production of unhydrogenated styrenic block copolymers (USBC) at its European plants by 20 kilotons/yr. The capacity is scheduled to come online by April 2007, with the capacity gains coming from low-investment debottlenecking of existing production operations. Kraton has production facilities in the U.S. Netherlands, Germany, France, Brazil, and Japan.

In its Q2 2006 earnings statement, Kraton announced a program to increase efficiencies and productivity around the globe, with forecast annual benefits of $8-$10 million. For the quarter revenue was up 6% to $285.3 million; gross profits, however, fell 21% to $52.5 million compared to Q2 2005. "Kraton is responding to the increased cost of monomers by raising prices, driving increases in productivity, and improving service to our customers," CEO George Gregory said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Kraton released USBCs for coextruded pressure-sensitive films; grades that could replace polyvinyl chloride in medical packaging; and a new grade with enhanced flow, transparency, and surface appearance. According to a report from Frost & Sullivan, there are more than 40 suppliers of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) in Europe, with Kraton as the market leader in styrenics-based TPEs.

Biodegradable plastic-coated cup created

Cereplast Inc. (Hawthorne, CA), a producer of proprietary biobased resins, in cooperation with MeadWestvaco Corp. (Richmond, VA) and Solo Cup Co. (Highland Park, IL), announced that it successfully developed a fully renewable and biodegradable (or compostable) extrusion-coated paperboard product made with Cereplast resins that Solo uses to coat cups.

The application will address customer interest in compostable foodservice products that are made from renewable resources. Typically, the plastic coating for laminated paper and foodservice packaging is based on petroleum-based resins. The Cereplast coating, with a heat resistance of 220°F, will be used to replace petroleum-based coatings in MeadWestvaco''s laminated paper products manufactured for Solo. Now, Solo will be able to produce cups and other paper goods made from renewable resources that are suitable for composting in an industrial facility. Initial targets include the growing number of cafeterias and foodservice operations that divert their organic wastes to composting facilities.

Cereplast resins are formulated from a patented and proprietary manufacturing process that incorporates starch and other degradable components, including polylactic acid (PLA) from supplier NatureWorks LLC. Cereplast resins can be substituted for petroleum-based resins in a wide variety of processes, including injection molding, extrusion, and thermoforming.

Frederic Scheer, president and CEO of Cereplast, said, "MeadWestvaco and Solo''s perseverance in working with us to achieve this milestone clearly demonstrates their commitment to extending the renewability of their paper products to coatings, creating a fully degradable option for paper foodservice and packaging solutions."

Demag adds East Coast sales reps

Injection molding machinery manufacturer Demag Plastics Group (Strongsville, OH) has named Mainland Machinery Group and D&A Associates as two new sales representatives for the manufacturer in North America, covering the U.S. mid-Atlantic and New England regions.

Mainland Machinery Group (Harleysville, PA) covers all of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia, as well as eastern Pennsylvania and southeast New York. The firm is run by Don Ivey, president of MMG, who has 14 years experience in the plastics industry, including the past 10 in sales and four years with his family''s injection molding business. Account Manager Tom Boyer is the main salesperson for MMG. MMG is considering soon also adding service support. In addition to machines from Demag Plastics Group, MMG sells auxiliaries and automation equipment. To contact Mainland Machinery Group, call +215-855-9569.

D&A Associates (Blackstone, MA) covers all of New England along with eastern New York.

D&A Associates President Tom Tomaszek, who bought the company about 18 months ago, has 33 years experience in the industry. In addition to sales, he has prior work in engineering, operating an injection molding facility, and in plastics recycling. D&A''s Ed Hrubiec maintains the company''s regional office in Berlin, CT. Hrubiec has more than 40 years experience in the injection molding and plastics industry. In addition to Demag''s machines, the company sells conveyors, auxiliary and automation equipment, and mold analysis tools. To contact D&A Associates, call +508-883-3331.


Spanish plastics pipe extruder and injection molded fittings processor Uralita Group (Madrid) says that sales last year from its six plants totaled €1.1 billion and helped the company achieve its second highest profit within the last 10 years. The company earns some 81% of sales domestically. Next largest markets are France, which imports 13.9% of Uralita-processed pipes and fittings, and Portugal with 3.1%.

Injection molder Wilden AG Switzerland (Schoenau), part of the Wilden Group (Regensburg, Germany) has garnered the Supplier of the Year 2005 award from medical and pharmaceutical products manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline in the U.K. This is the third time in a row that Wilden''s Swiss operation has received the service performance award from its largest customer. In addition, the company was recently appointed as a preferred supplier by cosmetics and personal care producer Alberto-Culver (UK) Ltd.

Russian petrochemical producer CSJC Nizhnekamsk Refinery is to build a 200,000 tonnes/yr polypropylene (PP) plant at Nizhnekamsk, Russia using Basell''s Spherizone multizone reactor technology. The facility should be completed by 2011. When this technology was introduced in 2001 [August `01 MP pg. 30; MPI pg. 32] it was said to improve throughput of PP grades and reduce energy needs by 60%.

Worldwide demand for machine tools to make molds is continuing to develop positively this year, and the German market is now showing growth tendencies, reports machine tool maker Gildemeister (Bielefeld, Germany). The company saw second quarter order intake increase by 23% while sales were up 14%.

Vertellus Specialties (Indianapolis, IN), a newly formed specialty chemicals company for polymer systems, coatings, lubricants, adhesives and sealants, says it is going to expand its existing Greensboro, NC facility. Vertellus was formed through the combination of Reilly Industries Morflex, Inc. and Rutherford Chemicals LLC CasChem. The plant expansion encompasses new production equipment and a technology center.

Clariant Pigments & Additives Division (Muttenz, Switzerland) has decided to rebrand a number of products that it acquired 11 years from Sandoz when Clariant was spun-off. The company will drop the prefix "Sand" (such as Sanduvor light stabilizers, Sandostab antioxidants, and Sandoplast for polymer soluble dyes) and call these Hostavin, Hostanox, and Solvaperm.

Processing equipment producer Starlinger (Vienna, Austria) will hold a conference and open house under the banner `The comPETitive Edge'', on new technology to recycle polyester, from Sept. 18-20 in Weissenbach, Austria. Presenters include Edward Kosior, technical director of Closed Loop in England; Dietmar Loidl, technical director of the Austrian Research Institute for Chemistry and Technology; Erich Happenhofer, managing director of PRT PET Recycling Team GmbH in Austria, as well as various speakers from host company Starlinger. More information is available at e-mail: [email protected] or www.starlinger.com.

Also planning an open house is downstream profile extrusion equipment and profile die manufacturer Technoplast Kunststofftechnik (Micheldorf, Austria). Slated for Sept. 28-29, highlights of the two-day event will include two different tools running, via a Y-distributor, on a newly developed dual line. Also presented will be a new production model of a special calibration system. More information is available at e-mail: [email protected] or www.technoplast.at.

BASF has signed a one-year research and development agreement with Singapore''s NanoMaterials Technology Pte. Ltd. to collaborate on nanoparticle synthesis and application development. NanoMaterials has developed and commercialized nanomaterial production technologies, including agglomerate-free zinc oxide nanosuspensions with particles sizes below 20 nanometers, which can bring added functions to polymers and other materials.

The German plastics processors'' association (GKV; Frankfurt) is encouraged to find high interest among youth in the recent government-approved career path of plastics window profile extruder, reports Ralf Olsen, GKV managing director. Starting in the school year 2006/2007, the GKV expects its members to provide up to 100 new apprentice positions in this sector.

At this year''s Fakuma plastics trade show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the Masterbatch Assn. (Frankfurt) will again host a panel of experts in a session on the effects of the EU''s REACH initiative on additive and colorants masterbatchers in the coming years. The session, open to all show visitors, takes place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 18.

Plant builder Uhde, part of the ThyssenKrupp group (Düsseldorf, Germany), has been selected to build a new 250,000 tonnes/yr capacity high density polyethylene plant for Sabic Europe at its site in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The facility, an investment of more than €200 million, is scheduled for completion by late 2008.

Japan''s ZEON Corp. (Tokyo) has decided to build a new plant to produce stretched Zeonor films for LCD television screens for its wholly-owned subsidiary Optes (Himi City, Japan). The company says demand for large LCD TVs is expected to continue to expand at a brisk place due to television replacements associated with conversion to digital telecasting. This new plant, expected to be completed by September 2007, represents an investment of about ¥10 billion ($86 million) for the first phase which will produce about 15 million sq m/yr of film. In addition to this new construction, the company is undertaking an expansion of its existing Takaoka City plant that should be finished by October. This will bring production capacity of optical film up by 10 million sq m to a total of 40 million sq m/yr.

Electronics vendor Molex Elektronic (Ettlingen, Germany), a subsidiary of Molex Automotive, has switched its so-called Sicma-hybrid, thin-walled connectors, used for fuse and relay boxes in the interior of vehicles, from conventional polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) to a more viscous Ultradur High Speed B4300 from polymer maker BASF (Leverkusen, Germany).

Plextronics (Pittsburgh, PA) has signed an agreement to license hole injection layer technology from Northwestern University (Evansville, IL). The deal integrates the thin film and molecular innovations of the university with the company''s Plexore HIL polymer-based hole injection layer system that is intended to improve the service life of organic light emitting diodes (OLED) devices.

Demand for German plastics packaging continues to improve. According to the latest figures released by the IK plastics packaging association (Bad Homburg, Germany), plastics packaging saw a 5.8% improvement in 2005 over the same period a year earlier. In contrast, glass packaging saw a drop of 4.2% and paper, paperboard, and carton packaging registered a measly 0.9% improvement over 2004. Plastics now takes the largest chunk of German packaging with 42.3% compared to paper with 33.5%, metal (18.4%), and glass with 5.8%.

Following successful trials, Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize has decided to expand its offering of fresh salads and breads packed in thermoformed polylactic acid polymer (PLA) biodegradable plastics sheet. The chain is changing-over from PET packaging and using the environmental argument in its promotion. The PLA in this application comes from NatureWorks (Minnetonka, MN).

Names in the News

Nova Chemicals (Pittsburgh, PA) has appointed its senior VP and president of styrenics, Chris Pappas, as chief operating officer. Retiring from the company are Dale Spiess, senior VP and president of olefins and polyolefins as well as John Wheeler, senior VP and chief information officer.

Global Closures Systems (GCS; Paris, France) has named Thierry Tomasov as the president of European and North American Beverages, after most recently serving as CEO of Arjo Wiggins. Christian Voegeli was named president of European and North American Specialty Sector. GCS is made up former Crown businesses, including Massmould, Zeller, and Astra Plastique.

Michael Mikolajczak has been named product line manager for low-voltage drives at ABB Automation Products (New Berlin, WI). Prior to this he was a marketing consultant to global companies based in the U.S. and Asia.

Michael Dolan, president of ExxonMobil Chemical and VP of Exxon Mobil Corp., has been named to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute''s (WTI; Worcester, MA) board of trustees. A WTI alumnus, Dolan has served on WPI''s chemical engineering advisory board since 1999 and has also acted as director of the American Plastics Council and the Petrochemical Division of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Assn.

Jay Kouba, whose professional experience includes several senior positions at British Petroleum, has been named to biobased plastics technology firm Metabolix''s (Cambridge, MA) board of directors. Kouba was most recently the senior VP strategy, marketing, and technology at Innovene Inc.

Konarka Technologies Inc. (Lowell, MA), developer of Power Plastic, which converts light to energy, announced that Daniel Geffken has joined the company as executive VP and CFO. Geffken has more than 25 years of experience as a senior financial and general management executive for emerging growth companies.

Bayer MaterialScience (Leverkusen, Germany) has selected Patrick W. Thomas to succeed Hagen Noerenberg as the chairman of the board when Noerenberg retires at the end of the year. Thomas, from the U.K., previously worked for ICI Polyurethanes, Huntsman, and has been a private investment consultant.

Sascha Richter has been appointed a new member of the supervisory board of family-owned pipe equipment producer Krah AG (Schutzbach, Germany). He succeeds Jürgen Schneider. Richter was previously a management consultant for company pension schemes working at the Allianz Insurance group. Karl-Heinz Krah remains chairman of the supervisory board.

Weekly futures activity from the LME

Futures trading of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) and polypropylene (PP) on the London Metal Exchange (LME) for the week of August 7-11 saw a low price for LLDPE of $1315/tonne set on Monday, August 7, for September buyers. LLDPE''s high of $1360/tonne was reached on Thursday, August 10, for November sellers.

For PP, a low price of $1325/tonne was reached on Thursday, August 10, for September buyers. The high of $1355/tonne was reached on Friday, August 11 for November sellers.


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