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March 2, 2006

7 Min Read
E-Weekly News Briefs,  February 27 - March 3

U.S. resin production lags behind ''04 pace

Production of resin dropped nearly 10% in the fourth quarter of 2005 compared to year ago figures, according to a report from the American Chemistry Council (ACC; Arlington, VA). Total U.S. production totaled 19.4 billion lb, bringing full-year 2005 production to 81.4 billion lb-down 5.2% compared to 2004.

ACC reported that sales an captive use of major plastics reached 18.5 billion lb during Q4 2005, down 11.7% from 2004, and year-to-date sales and captive use was 81.4 billion lb, representing a 4% decrease from the year before.

SPI backs USTR China trade task force

The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI; Washington DC) has thrown itself behind the United States Trade Representative''s (USTR) call for a new China Enforcement Task Force. Outlined in a Feb. 14 report on trade relations with the country, the unit will work to open Chinese markets, enforce intellectual property rights, and hold China to World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations.

Bill Carteaux, SPI president, says U.S. plastics companies attempting to export to China have been especially susceptible to disparate custom procedures, a lack of transparent regulations, and discriminatory tax practices, among other obstacles.

"An uncompromising posture on enforcement of China''s WTO obligations is absolutely necessary," Carteaux said in a statement. "China''s full and strict compliance with its WTO obligations is the only way to dismantle these barriers."

As part of the effort to effectively implement such a USTR task force, Carteaux said SPI will continue to collect and disseminate specific examples from its members and U.S. plastics companies that have done business in China and experienced such hassles.

IML/IMD association formed

A new trade association, the In-Mold Decorating Assn., formed Jan. 1, 2006, for those affiliated with the inmold decorating/labeling value chain. IMDA was created by Ronald Schultz, president of RBS Technologies (Scottsdale, AZ), who also organizes annual seminars on inmold labeling/decorating.

The Executive Board of the IMDA consists of its president, Bob Travis of Express Label & Graphics; VP Joe Hirtzer of Global Packaging; and secretary/treasurer Michael Sansoucy of Netstal Machinery.

Charter members of the newly formed trade association are CBW Automation, Express Label & Graphics, Global Packaging, Netstal Machinery, and Transilwrap.

"We felt that there is no other trade organization that can satisfy all the needs of all the players in this industry," said Ron Schultz in an interview at the recent Molding 2006 conference in Las Vegas. "The IMDA offers membership in an organization of molders, printers, material suppliers, and equipment manufacturers, including moldmakers, that are committed to the development and growth of inmold decorating products, technologies, and markets."

The group is currently working on a web site but information about joining the IMDA can be obtained from Ron Schultz at +1 480-473-0301 or e-mail [email protected].

Selenis Hellas SA acquires Frigoglass S.A.I.C. division

On Feb. 23, Selenis Hellas SA completed its acquisition of Frigoglass S.A.I.C.''s V.P.I., SA. division. Selenis Hellas is a Greek subsidiary of the Portuguese company Selenis S.G.P.S. SA, which is one of the leading European producers of PET resin and part of the Imatosgil Group. This acquisition is part of Selenis'' strategy to consolidate its position in the European PET market.

Konarka raises $20 million in venture capital financing led by 3i

Konarka Technologies Inc., (Lowell, MA), developer of Power Plastic, which converts light to energy, announced it has received $20 million in venture capital financing, led by 3i, a leading venture capital and private equity firm. Existing investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, New Enterprise Associates, Good Energies, and Chevron Technology Ventures among others.

Marko Maschek, partner with 3i, said in a prepared release that energy is one of the greatest problems facing the world in this century. Yet, "less that 1% of the global energy produced comes from solar sources," he stated. "We are delighted to support the company to fulfill its vision of providing low-cost universally available sources of renewable power."

NAM 2006 policy agenda

At a glance, the U.S. manufacturing industry looks healthy with output and productivity at record levels, capital investment rising, and product quality at its highest level ever, but dig deeper and you find significant faults, according to a new report.

"U.S. manufacturers face historic challenges, especially rising costs and intense foreign competition," John Engler, National Assn. Manufacturing (NAM) president, said in a statement. "Without policies to help bring costs under control, manufacturers will be stuck in a cost-price squeeze that slows growth and job creation and impedes our ability to prevail against unprecedented global competition."

NAM''s policy agenda for 2006 includes an initiative to reduce production costs in the United States by attacking a variety of issues, including the shortage of domestic oil and natural gas supply. NAM feels this could be mollified by boosting the nation''s own energy supplies through opening the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for development of natural resources. In addition, NAM wants to reduce health care and regulatory costs. The organization also includes an initiative to develop the 21st century workforce by insisting on a national emphasis on math, science, and engineering in secondary and post-secondary education. NAM also wants to promote innovation, investment, and productivity through permanent tax relief, strengthened R&D tax credits, and repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax.

"We urge policymakers to join with the manufacturing community to advance this agenda in the coming months," Engler concluded.

U.S. machine tool consumption on the rise

U.S. consumption of machine tools rose by 8.4% in 2005, to $3.08 billion, according to information from the Assn. for Manufacturing Technology and the American Machine Tool Distributors'' Assn. The Central region led the pack in 2005, with strong agricultural and construction equipment industries demand pushing up orders for machine tools by 27.6% to $675 million. The struggling automotive industry in the Midwest on the other hand, created a demand slump, pushing business down 3.7% to $1.06 billion. While the news is relatively good, it was noted that U.S. consumption of machine tools still has not recovered to pre-2001 levels.

Trexel honored

Trexel Inc., (Woburn, MA), the global supplier of the MuCell Microcellular Process Technology, announced it received Frost & Sullivan''s 2005 Excellence in Technology Award in the field of polymer extrusion. The MuCell Extrusion Technology is a process for thermoplastic materials that produces microcellular foams by releasing gas into the melt stream, increasing part strength, lowering weight, and improving surface appearance.

Hari Ramamoorthy, research analyst for Frost & Sullivan,said, "Trexel''s extrusion process appears to be particularly well suited for the automotive industry, which is always on the lookout for low weight materials that do not compromise on material properties. Trexel has taken significant strides to improve product performance with respect to automotive weather sealing and has licensed its technology to a number of companies." Ramamoorthy cited Exxon Mobil Chemical division, Advanced Elastomer Systems'', licensing agreement to develop TPV automotive dynamic weather seal systems as evidence new automotive work.

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 Feb. 20-24 saw a low price for LLDPE of $1160/tonne set on Friday, Feb. 24 for March buyers. LLDPE''s high of $1255/tonne was reached on Tuesday, Feb. 21 for May sellers.

For PP, a low price of $1065/tonne was reached on Thursday, Feb. 23 and Friday, Feb. 24 for March buyers. The high of $1180/tonne came on Monday, Feb. 20 for May sellers.

In related LME news, the exchange''s efforts to extend early morning trading hours on its electronic LME Select platform beyond the current 7:00 AM- 7:00 PM, London time has been rejected by the U.K. Office of Fair Trading. The motion to block the LME was filed by Spectron Group plc, a provider of services to the over-the-counter energy trading industry, which said LME''s plans would irreparably harm its business.

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