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January 10, 2008

13 Min Read
e-Weekly News Briefs, January 7-11

Plastics futures activity plummets at LME in ‘07

Although the exchange overall saw a third-straight year of record activity, the volume of plastic futures at the London Metal Exchange (LME) traded in 2007 dropped precipitously. Overall across all futures and options, LME reports that nearly 93 million lots were traded in 2007, an increase of 7% over 2006, with the vast majority of the activity in the LME’s primary market, nonferrous metals like aluminum.

By contrast in plastics, activity in the LME’s global polypropylene (PP) contract fell from 13,303 contracts in 2006 to 7977 in 2007, with linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) dropping from 16,727 in 2006 to 5498 last year. In 2007, the LME did launch regional PP and LLDPE contracts, with North American PP (401), drawing the most activity, followed by North American LLDPE (282), Asian PP (102), European PP (29), and European LLDPE (16). In total, there were 14,305 plastics futures contracts in 2007, out of 85,736,480 total contracts. In 2006, 30,030 plastics futures contracts were traded.

PolyOne reorganizes coatings business

Additives supplier and compounder PolyOne (Cleveland, OH) will reorganize its Polymer Coating Systems business, with Wilflex inks and specialty colorants combined into a new operating unit called Specialty Inks and Polymer Systems. That business will be managed by Scott Craig, who recently joined PolyOne from Cookson Electronics'' Semiconductor Packaging Materials. Plastisols and coated fabrics, which represent the remaining Polymer Coatings businesses, will be combined with PolyOne’s Specialty Resins business into one operation called Specialty Resins and Coatings, which will be managed by Dan Kickel. Kickel, who was VP and general manager of the former Polymer Coatings unit, will assume those same roles with this new business. PolyOne says with these moves, the number of reportable segments remains at four: Vinyl Business, International Color and Engineered Materials, PolyOne Distribution, and Resin and Intermediates.

MFG.com secures financing: Acquisitions in the pipeline?

Fidelity Ventures, Fidelity Asia Ventures, and the European Founders Fund have pumped $26 million in financing into online parts-procurement platform MFG.com Inc. (Atlanta, GA). MFG.com will use the monies for its “continued global expansion, technology development, creation of innovative new online services, and potential acquisitions”, according to a press release announcing the financing. In addition, the company announced that Fidelity Ventures partner, Larry Cheng, has joined its board of directors.

The company, which was founded in 2000, says its website facilitates billions of dollars in manufacturing transactions annually by linking buyers and suppliers of fabricated goods. With its 2006 acquisition of SourcingParts.com (Geneva, Switzerland), MFG.com says its has more than 100,000 registered buyers and suppliers.

PUR news: Cannon, Esco form PUR alliance...

Polyurethane processing machinery manufacturers Cannon USA Inc. (Cranberry Twp., PA), the U.S. subsidiary of Italy’s Cannon Group, and Esco (Edge-Sweets Co.; Grand Rapids, MI) signed an agreement for reciprocal products distribution within the U.S. and Canada. Cannon USA will promote and sell Esco''s line of low-pressure dosing machines for special applications as well as dedicated storage plants for PUR precursors. Esco will sell Cannon''s line of high-pressure metering and mixing equipment and promote Cannon equipment for the automotive, appliance, and insulation markets. Esco has specialized in low-pressure solutions for elastomeric and filled formulations, as well as cutting equipment. Esco is the largest manufacturer of urethane processing equipment in North America.

...and PPI expands its HQ

Pennsylvania firm Polyurethane Process Industries LLC, which markets new and rebuilt polyurethane processing equipment, parts, repair services, and engineering assistance to the North American reaction injection molding (RIM) industry, has moved to larger quarters in Latrobe from its origins in nearby Greensburg. The company''s customers include manufacturers of polyurethane foam products for the automotive, refrigeration, transportation, construction, recreation, furniture and healthcare industries.

Demand for PPI''s products and services has increased steadily since it began operations in Greensburg, PA in 2004, said Mark Clark, company founder and general manager, in a release. “To ease the transition for our customers, we will continue accepting shipments and telephone calls at the old Greensburg office for a few months,” Clark said.

EDI buys building for customer lab

Extrusion Dies Industries LLC (EDI; Chippewa Falls, WI) has secured a building close to its existing headquarter to serve as its new EDI Technology Center. EDI expects the center to be fully operational within three months, offering customers labs for developing die systems with equipment available for product development and process testing. EDI bought the 19,600-sq-ft building, which is less than a mile from its existing Chippewa Falls site, from Quality Machine. EDI says the new facility will include R&D labs; engineering labs for characterizing flow and other properties of resins to be run in dies ordered by customers; and trial labs available for rent. The trial labs will offer cast-film extrusion; extrusion coating and laminating; and slot die coating.

Teknor Apex gets the lead out of PVC

Proactively addressing environmental concerns regarding lead additive use in stabilizers for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) wire and cable jacketing, Teknor Apex Co. (Pawtucket, RI) announced that after July 31, it would only supply non-lead stabilized (NLS) PVC compounds. The company will also include pre-colored compounds, for which Teknor’s sister company, Teknor Color Co. has developed concentrates that meet the European Union’s RoHS (reduction of hazardous substances) regulations. The company says that new non-lead stabilizers and compounding technology allow it to provide NLS compounds that are comparable in cost in performance with their lead-derived predecessors. PVC has faced pressure from competitive materials and consumer electronics OEMs, with companies such as Apple Computer abandoning PVC in wiring and elsewhere for its products.

BASF prepares for growing plasticizer demand

To meet growing demand for solvents and plasticizers in Asia, BASF plans to expand the annual production capacity of its oxo-C4 plant in Nanjing, China, by 55,000 tonnes to 305,000 tonnes by the fourth quarter of 2008. This will ensure reliable supplies of the precursor alcohols n-butanol and 2-ethylhexanol. Plasticizer demand in Asia is growing at 4-5%/yr, according to BASF.

BASF also inaugurated the region’s first plasticizer applications laboratory in Shanghai; the lab’s R&D efforts will focus on flexible PVC applications. Plasticizers provide flexibility to normally rigid and brittle PVC. BASF is one of the world’s leading plasticizer suppliers with a production capacity of more than 500,000 tons/yr.

Vinyl industry looks to recycling roofs

The Vinyl Roofing Division of the Chemical Fabrics & Film Assn., an international trade association representing manufacturers of polymer-based fabric and film products, has initiated a feasibility study to evaluate strategies for making post-consumer recycling in North America viable on a broad scale. The goal is to limit the amount on PVC that is landfilled.

“Skyrocketing raw material costs, higher landfill tipping fees, legislation to restrict disposal of construction materials, and an architectural community that demands the lightest environmental footprint that can be achieved are all leading toward the mainstreaming of post-consumer recycling and a vision of the day when specifiers call for recycling of roofs at the end of their service life,” said Jay Thomas, marketing chair of the Vinyl Roofing Division.

Post-consumer recycling of vinyl roof membranes began in Europe in 1994 and five years later pilot projects began in the U.S. In its pilot projects, the Division found that the savings in disposal fees and the value of the salvaged materials generally exceeded the cost of the additional labor, shipping, and grinding outlays. Net costs are dependent on total roofing square footage, the distance that the old roof must be shipped to be processed, and avoided landfill tipping fees.

The European Single Ply Waterproofing Assn. (ESWA) coordinates the recovery and processing of post-consumer vinyl roofing membranes in Europe. In 2006, 4.4 million lb of roofing membrane were recycled, usually into new roofing membranes, through its efforts.

Spartech sings Odaniell; Abd joins Pretium

Extruded sheet supplier Spartech Corp. (St. Louis, MO) has appointed Myles Odaniell as president and CEO, as well as making him a member of the board of directors. Odaniell steps in for Randy Martin, who had filled the president and CEO positions on an interim basis and will return to being Spartech’s CFO. Odaniell comes to Spartech from additives and chemical supplier Chemtura, where he was executive VP of specialty chemicals. Prior to that, he spent 21 years with specialty chemicals company Cytec Industries.

Meanwhile, Pretium Packaging (St. Louis, MO), a blowmolder of PET and HDPE containers with 10 processing facilities across the U.S. and in Eastern Canada, has named George Abd its new president and CEO. Abd resigned in July 2007 from Spartech, where for two years he served as CEO. Keith Harbison, Pretium’s former CEO, will serve as chairman of firm’s board of directors. Dave Winslett, formerly president, is now vice chairman.

Drip could save a lot of drops

According to a research study, Life Hagar, sponsored by the EU, increased use of plastic drip pipes and tapes in agriculture could save substantial amounts of potable water needed for other purposes. Today agricultural use of fresh water in Europe represents 70% of the total, and in developing countries, the amount is up to 95%. It was shown in the study that the higher the price of water, the more readiness by farmers to use plastics drip micro-irrigation pipes and tapes. The study, which involved 12 pilot fields in Llanos del Caudillo and Villarta de San Juan, Spain, relied on specially developed software to reduce water demand and provide real-time calculation of water needs.

Global demand seen for pallet stretch film

According to a recently published report, “The global market for pallet stretch film”, from researchers at Applied Market Information (AMI, Bristol, England), the worldwide market for pallet stretch film is forecast to increase by 1 million tonnes during the next five years. Global markets currently use nearly 3 million tonnes of polyethylene (PE) film, and this is growing at more than 7%/yr. By 2011, worldwide pallet stretch film should be a business of about 4 million tonnes, representing 9% of total global PE demand.

Demand is coming from pallet stabilization during transport and some end-user industries. Also stretch film is eating away at competitive packaging products such as metal bands and some tape solutions. Currently, Europe accounts for 47% of global production of pallet stretch web and NAFTA markets take 29%. The most dramatic increase, says AMI, is forecast in the Middle East during the next five years. A result of this combined with further Asian expansions will be to reduce Europe’s and North America’s combined global production share from 76% to 68%.


PetroChina has selected the Unipol PE process from Univation Technologies (Houston, TX) to manufacture linear low density polyethylene, high density polyethylene (HDPE), and bimodal HDPE at plants being constructed at Daqing, Fushun, and Pengzhou, China. The deal represents more than 1 million tonnes/yr PE capacity. Upon completion of these projects, PetroChina will operate nine Unipol PE process lines with a total capacity of 1.5 million tonnes/yr.

The Converting Systems Group of Davis-Standard (Pawcatuck, CT) says that parts support for Egan-brand CMR control systems for extruders will be limited after next year. Due to the evolution of technology during the last 20 years, it has become increasingly difficult to find sources for parts to support this system, says the firm’s Tom McDonough.

As part of the omnibus spending bill passed as the 2007 legislative came to a close, the U.S. Congress earmarked $1.1 million in funding to Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, KS) and the Kansas Polymer Research Center. The school said the monies would fund research into new biomaterials from renewable resources, such as vegetable oils and animal fats.

The year 2008 marks the 75th anniversary for the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI; Arlington, VA). To recognize the milestone, the PMMI has issued a commemorative logo and plans celebrations during its 2008 Executive Leadership Conference (April 6–10; Indian Wells, CA) and Annual Meeting (Sept. 22–24; Washington, DC).

Names in the news

Engineering thermoplastics supplier Solvay Advanced Polymers (SAP; Alpharetta, GA) promoted George Corbin, current VP of technology, to president and CEO, succeeding Roger Kearns, who will move on to a senior leadership position within the Solvay Group (HQ in Brussels, Belgium). SAP includes 1000+ employees

Auxiliary equipment manufacturer AEC (Schaumburg, IL) has named Lutek Plastic Equipment Inc. (Dorval, Quebec) as its new sales agent for Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Nova Scotia.

Janet Kevlin has rejoined size reduction machinery manufacturer Cumberland Engineering (South Attleboro, MA) as regional sales manager. Most recently she had been a national sales manager for a division of Plastec USA, a Cumberland competitor.

Robert Planchon has been promoted to project engineer of the Extrusion Systems Group for Davis-Standard LLC (D-S; Pawcatuck, CT). Planchon joined D-S in 1988, working in various positions, including feedscrew grinder, operator, and general assembly technician.

As part of the expansion of its machine-vision business, Applied Manufacturing Technologies Inc. (Orion, MI) has hired David Wyatt to act as staff engineer to provide technical guidance on vision activities. Wyatt, who has 25 years of industry experience, was the founder and former president of Midwest Integration.

Jacques Vincent, who is vice chairman of dairy, beverage, and nutrition product giant Groupe Danone, has been named to the board of directors for sustainable-resin supplier Cereplast (Hawthorne, CA). Vincent previously worked as the COO for Groupe Danone.

Global Plastics Bulletin Board

The NPE2009 Space Draw will take place Feb. 19-20, 2008 at McCormick Place West in Chicago. This event represents the initial selection of exhibit space for SPI''s NPE2009 (McCormick Place; June 22-26, 2009). To participate, you must register for the space drawing by Feb. 1 to be guaranteed a spot. SPI can be reached at +1 312 321 5171 or via e-mail at [email protected].

The Detroit Section and the Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE; Brookfield, CT) has announced plans for the third annual Automotive Engineering Plastics Conference (AutoEPCON). Featuring more than 25 technical papers, according to conference co-chairs, Tom Pickett of General Motors and Nippani Rao of Chrysler LLC, AutoEPCON will take place April 22, 2008 in Sterling Heights, MI.

Investment bank Houlihan Lokey has announced plans for its third annual Basic Industrial Conference, entitled Achieving Global Competitiveness, which will be held from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM on Tuesday, March 11 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. The event will feature more than 20 industrial companies, from sectors including chemicals, diversified manufacturing, environmental technologies, plastics/packaging, and automotive and transportation, speaking about their respective business models. To register online go to www.HL.com/conference/BIG2008.

The Detroit Society for Coatings Technology (DSCT) is sponsoring the 33rd Annual FOCUS Conference, themed Transformation in Transportation Coatings. The meeting will be held on Thursday, May 1, 2008, at the Michigan State University Management Center (Troy, MI). For more information, visit www.dsct.org.

Weekly futures activity from the LME

LME Plastics Evaluated Prices (US$ per tonne) for shortened Dec. 31-Jan. 4, 2008 trading week


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