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e-Weekly News Briefs July 16-20

July 20, 2006

16 Min Read
e-Weekly News Briefs July 16-20


Battenfeld draws 150 to Meinerzhagen event

Approximately 150 visitors turned out in Meinerzhagen, Germany for Battenfeld Injection Molding division’s Aquamould/Airmould symposium, which featured presentations and live demonstrations of Battenfeld’s gas- and water-assist molding technologies. In addition to a large German contingent, the symposium drew largely regional visitors from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Airmould refers to internal gas, where a gas channel hollows out part sections, improving surface appearance while reducing material usage. Airmould Contour is an external gas-assist technology, where gas is released on the cavity side of the part to reduce warpage in large, flat components, improve surface appearance, and lower the tonnage required to mold a part. Aquamould is similar to Airmould, except water replaces nitrogen gas, with the water serving to cool the part from the inside-out, further reducing cycle times.


Billion targets Germany for sales growth

Injection molding machine maker Billion (Lyon, France) has opened an office in Offenburg, Germany, with the intent of capturing greater market share there. The firm says its stand at last year’s Fakuma exhibition, during which it ran a press molding a three-component part, drew enough interest from German molders to justify the new office.

Olivier Crave, sales manager for Billion, will act as director of the new office, which also employs Alain Maurer for sales and Patrick Hirtzel for service. Billion’s goal is to realize about 10% of sales in Germany; 2006 sales were €32.8 million.

Earlier this year, Billion, which concluded a management buyout from former owner Mannesmann Plastics Machinery (MPM) three years ago, announced a renewed push into the North American market, making its show debut on the continent at the Plast-Ex event in early May. MPM had forbade Billion from pursuing North America, limiting its presence in the region to Mexico and a handful of imported presses into the states. At the start of 2007, it begin direct sales there, using Oaktree Consulting out of Detroit for representation and Service Tech and Matcom for installations and machinery service (see e-Weekly May 11 for initial report).


Lear, C&A deals in limbo

On July 16, shareholders of Tier One automotive supplier Lear (Southfield, MI) voted against an amended merger offer from Carl Icahn’s American Real Estate Partners LP (AREP) business, which had upped its bid to $37.25/share. The previous offer was $36/share. On Friday, July 13, Lear closed up four cents to $36.90/share. Market watchers feel the news may mark a turning point for automotive suppliers as they regain competitiveness. Many buyers had entered the market in the last year looking to pick off Tier Ones, or portions of them, at discount prices, but improved business performance is upping those bids.

In related news, on the same day that a U.S. Bankruptcy judge confirmed its Chapter 11 reorganization plan, allowing the company to exit bankruptcy after two years, Collins & Aikman (C&A; Troy, MI) continued to negotiate with Cadence Innovation (Troy, MI) on the sale of portions of its North American interior trim business. Cadence, which is run by former C&A head, Jerry Mosingo, had signed a letter of intent to acquire nine C&A plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, which employ 3500 (see March 26, 2007 e-Weekly for initial report). In a July 12 release, Cadence said it “continues its effort to acquire certain assets and operations” of C&A.


Degussa brings Taiwanese acrylic plant onstream

Chemicals and plastics supplier Degussa (Düsseldorf) has started a new facility for acrylic (polymethyl methacrylate; PMMA) molding compounds in Taichung, Taiwan, together with its joint-venture partner Forhouse Corp. Degussa holds a 51% share in the joint venture, called Degussa Forhouse Optical Polymers. The plant supplies PMMA for optical applications in flat-panel displays.

“Global demand for our high-quality PMMA molding compounds is set to rise significantly in the next few years,” says Gregor Hetzke, president of Degussa’s methacrylates business unit. “The market for liquid-crystal flat-panel displays is currently expanding at an annual rate of more than 10%.”

The plant will have an initial annual capacity of some 40,000 tonnes and is designed for “over the fence” production, in that processing of backlight units for flat-panel displays will also be located at the site, handled by Forhouse, one of the leaders manufacturing and developing lighting modules for flat-panel displays.


Dutch thermoformer adds capacity

Dutch processor VDL Wientjes Roden (Eindhoven) is investing about €900,000 in two new vacuum-forming machines to be delivered in October and November from Italy’s QS Group (Cerreto d’Asi). Each machine comes with fully automatic sheet supply, pre-heating station, automatic moving of the preheated sheet to the forming station, and fully automatic unloading and moving of the formed product. The processor serves a variety of industries with technical parts.

VDL Wientjes Roden says the machines will enable it to work with sheet to 2000 by 1200 by 800 mm (positive) 400 (negative) and 3200 by 2000 by 1000 mm (positive) and 600 (negative).

VDL Wientjes Roden is part of the VDL Group, with approximately 7300 employees at 75 subsidiaries spread over 14 countries, working on metalworking, plastics processing, mechatronic systems, and surface treatment.


Designers recognized by Bayer

Bayer MaterialScience recently recognized winners of its Design Innovation in Plastics 2007 competition. U.K. product and engineering design students were challenged to create an inspiring design for a safety or security product using Bayer MaterialScience’s portfolio as the predominant materials.

A record 102 entries were sent by 326 students from 14 universities, with submissions ranging from biometric entry systems, tagging devices, personal security, and communication systems to sports protection and smart mattresses.

Sara Bellini, a graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, won this year’s competition, with a security accessory for handbags. The design of the Keepsafe Personal Bag Security Accessory works through a suction cap that is activated by pulling down the tail of the device to secure bags to tables or chairs. The accessory is made of Bayer’s Makrolon polycarbonate and Desmopan thermoplastic polyurethane. She won £1000 and a placement with Bayer MaterialScience in Leverkusen, plus £500 for Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

Second place went to Daniel Biddle from the University of Huddersfield for his “Roof Angel”, a roof- or road-mounted flashing replacement for standard warning triangles. The frame is made from six polyurethane RIM (reaction injection molding) molded components, with the LED wiring and circuit board in a flexible conduit, plus magnets and reflective tape.

Third place went to University of Northumbria student Carl Needham’s Arm Cast, a waterproof, breathable system of polycarbonate and Bayflex PUR foam components intended to replace plaster casts.

The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining organizes the competition every two years with sponsorship from Bayer MaterialScience, the Worshipful Company of Horners, and others. The independent jury was composed of specialists in product design, crime prevention, security, and plastics.


Saint Gobain buys OC’s distribution business

French conglomerate Saint Gobain has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Owens Corning’s Norandex/Reynolds distribution business, which includes three facilities for extrusion of siding, for $371 million. Saint-Gobain says it will consolidate the three siding extrusion facilities within its own existing production facilities, operated by the exterior building division of Saint-Gobain’s Construction Products sector.

Norandex/Reynolds distribution business has 153 U.S. distribution centers in 38 states. Three vinyl-siding extrusion facilities in Claremont, NC; Joplin, MO; and London, ON are also part of the transaction. The sidings business employs about 2200. Norandex mainly distributes exterior building products and had 2006 sales of $866 million. It will be integrated into Saint-Gobain’s Building Distribution business unit.


Chemical process breaks down nylon 6

Two Japanese researchers have developed a process to break down nylon 6 to its chemical components, with a caprolactam yield of nearly 86%, compared to 7% in some alternative processes, at the relatively low temperature of 300°C. Mixing nylon 6 chips with catalysts in various ionic liquids, Akio Kamimura and Shigehiro Yamamoto of Yamaguchi University (Ube, Japan) hope the process can spare the material from landfills where it currently ends up, since if incinerated, it releases toxins, and recycling processes used to date have been inefficient.

In addition to a relatively high caprolactam yield at 300°C, the process didn’t taint the ionic liquids, which could be reused five times without affecting yield. This will be important going forward as the ionic liquids are more expensive than alternative solvents.


Names in the news

The American Mold Builders Assn. (AMBA; Roselle, IL) is formally announcing the retirement of its executive director, Jeanette Bradley, effective June 30. Bradley has been with the organization as executive director for 30 of its 34 years.

Founded in 1973 by 11 Chicago-area mold shop owners in an effort to establish policies and standards for mold manufacturing, the AMBA also worked to obtain down payments and progressive payments on mold programs. The group quickly grew and at its peak during the mid-1990s had approximately 450 member companies, representing about 10% of U.S. moldmakers.

Bradley was recruited by the membership in 1977 to take over all the administrative work. As membership grew, so did Bradley’s role, and she was soon named executive director. Under her direction, the AMBA became the largest industry trade association for moldmaking companies in the United States, as she developed many of the programs and benefits that members of the AMBA enjoy today, and helped to make the AMBA a national organization serving members in 37 states.

The quarterly newsletter (The American Mold Builder) has grown under her direction, to a 48-pg full-color magazine that provides members with valuable information on the industry. Annual conventions and the fall conferences were also developed under her guidance.

“The AMBA has been much more than a job,” Bradley said. “It’s been my passion and my life for 30 years. Both the industry and the people that I’ve met are so valuable to me. Everyone I’ve worked with over the years has been so wonderful and made my work at the ABMA a pleasure. I’ve got a heart-shaped sign on my desk that says ’I Love My Job’ and it’s still true, but after 30 years I’m going to retire. This industry has always been a challenge, but a wonderful challenge, and I’ll miss it.” Bradley will remain active with the AMBA in the role of senior advisor helping during the transition phase as the Board conducts the search for a new executive director.

Kiran M. Gandhi has been named senior VP of operations for non-slip and photoluminescent film producer Jessup Manufacturing Co. (McHenry, IL). In this newly created position, Gandhi will oversee all manufacturing, product engineering, quality control, and research and development. Immediately prior to joining Jessup on July 16, Gandhi managed his own consulting business.

Joining the company from Cincinnati Machine, where he led the development of the Viper 6000 fiber-placement system that was instrumental in the creation of the Boeing 787 composite fuselage, Don Evans has been hired by Fiberforge (Glenwood Springs, CO) as the development lead for that company’s high-speed automated tape-placement system. Designed for rapid production of thermoplastic composites, Fiberforge’s RELay System seeks to automate the production of advanced composites. Evans has 26 years of experience in the composites industry, including stints at Aerojet Strategic Propulsion Co. (Sacramento, CA) and Hercules Inc. (Clearfield, UT).

Michael Karr has joined thermoplastic sheet producer Kleerdex Co. LLC (Bloomsburg, PA) as its North American business manager, making him responsible for all Kleerdex field managers and the sales force. Karr comes to Kleerdex from polyurethane foam manufacturer Fomo Products Inc.

The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI; Washington, DC) has hired Kevin Ott as executive director of both the Film & Bag Federation (FBF) and the Bio-Process Systems Alliance (BPSA). He joins SPI from the Rubber Manufacturers Assn.’s Elastomer Products Group, where he spent 12 years as vice president. SPI also announced the promotion of Natha Freiburg to assistant director of FBF and BSPA. Freiburg served most recently as manager, government affairs, within SPI.


Briefs

Chemical Market Associates Inc. (CMAI; Houston) has launched a China Chlor-alkali Consulting Service that will use consultants from the firm’s Singapore and Shanghai branches to complement CMAI’s bi-weekly reports on the global chlorine, caustic soda, vinyl chloride monomer, soda ash, and sodium chlorate industries. The service will focus on historical and forecast prices; trade dynamics; supply/demand; chlor-alkali and vinyl chloride monomer economics; cash costs; and margins.

On July 10, Toshiba was granted U.S. patent number 7,241,132 for a backflow prevention device for injection molding machines. Fitted around the shaft below the screw tip, the check ring is separated the front end of the screw when its rotated forward, contacting the screw when it’s advanced and locking thanks to teeth on the ring and grooves on the tip. Toshiba says this design eliminates backflow by keeping the backflow prevention device’s resin path closed in suckback operation. This stops resin from leaking to the front of the screw tip between the charging and filling steps.

Canadian blown-film manufacturer Future Design Inc. (Mississauga, ON) has reached an agreement with Snycro srl (Milan) to manufacture Snycro’s next generation of Saturn cooling rings, which will feature balance thickness control via computerized automation of the rings.

The new Mercedes C-Class will use Soliant’s Fluorex Paintfilm for the roofing strips and greenbelt moldings (for more on Soliant see March 1, 2005 MPW). Scherer Trier (Michelau, Germany) will supply the greenbelt moldings, with the roofing strips produced by Silvatrim (Monaco). Soliant says its thermoplastic film offers high gloss as well as good scratch, chemical, and UV resistance. Soliant’s Paintfilm, which helps automotive OEMs reduce VOC emissions generated in conventional painting, has also been used in vehicles from General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Acura, Honda, and Volkswagen.

The 2008 Ford Mustang will feature soy-based seat foam created by Lear Corp. (Southfield, MI), with production slated to start in August (see June 2006 MPW Market Update for initial report). The flexible foam will be used in seat backs and cushions, marking the culmination of a partnership formed between Lear and Ford to develop a soy-based polyol, which is a primary component in polyurethane manufacture. Initially work focused on head and arm rests. Ultimately the foam is made from 24% renewable content. Ford estimates that the average vehicle has 30 lb of petroleum-based foam in it, creating a global, annual market of 9 billion lb.

Plastics suppliers Lanxess and DuPont have invested about €10 million in their polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) production joint venture, DuBay Polymer GmbH (Hamm-Uentrop, Germany), most recently adding new PBT compounding capacity. The plant was first commissioned in 2004 and supplies both companies with PBT.

Lloyd Instruments (Fareham, Hants, England) announces that its entire range of ’Plus’ and EZ materials testing machines (1 to 150 kN), FTPlus friction tester, and TAPlus texture analyzer have been granted ’Pattern Approval’ by the government of China and are therefore approved for import into the country. Lloyd officials say it is one of the first manufacturers in its field to be granted this approval. Policies effective since August 2006 in China under the Law on Metrology specify that all working measuring instruments used in trade, medical treatment and health, safety protection, and environmental monitoring be subject to compulsory verification. Lloyd Instruments is represented in China by Ametek Inc. (Shanghai).

German mineral water bottler Altmühltaler Mineralbrunnen GmbH (Treuchtlingen) has tasked beverage filling line machinery manufacturer Krones (Neutraubling, also Germany) with building a new water bottling facility on a greenfield site in Breuna, near Kassel. The nearly €100 million order is Krones’ largest single order ever placed from Central Europe. The facility will be able fill four million containers a day on four bottling lines.

Krones is assuming responsibility for the still and carbonated water products as well as the soft drinks and beverage processing. Four PET bottling lines will be supplied via a Contiform S24 blowmolding machine rated at 44,000 bottles/hr. Most of the products will be bottled in 1.5 and 0.5-liter bottles.

Davis-Standard (D-S; Pawcatuck, CT) has rebuilt two of its extruders that were donated to the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) for the school’s educational and R&D work in plastics. Handed over by a medical-device manufacturer, the 1 _-inch (30-mm) 24:1 L/D extruders will be used for a statistical process control study involving tubing and theoretical and experimental output studies. They will also see use in instruction on controls, instrumentation, safety, and operation basics. D-S installed new discrete electronic controls and drives to improve functionality.

A Portland, OR art studio, called Ongoing Productions, is promoting the second round of its Leave No Plastic Behind challenge to local artists. Participants are asked to avoid any single-use plastic packaging, and overall live plastic-free for three months, collecting any plastic they do use and turning it into artwork. The artwork will then be put on display.

Polycarbonate (PC) baby bottles, which are facing a ban in San Francisco, remain under fire in the U.S. due to the presence of bisphenol A (BPA), which PC opponents say leaches into milk and formula over time with deleterious effects on child hormone development. The Chicago Tribune notes that the latest version of Baby 411, a popular parenting book, tells readers not to use PC baby bottles, reversing advice given by one of the authors in a previous book and stoking PC fears for consumers. In addition to banning children’s products containing BPA, San Francisco recently outlawed certain phthalates, plasticizers found in polyvinyl chloride (PVC).


Global Plastics Bulletin Board

Measurement and instrumentation technology supplier Dynisco (Franklin, MA) has launched redesigned web sites for itself and its Viatran Corp. subsidiary at www.dynisco.com and www.viatran.com. In addition to a redesigned look and easier navigation through tools like product searches and quick links, the new sites have updated product sections, new service sections, application sections, and foreign languages.


Weekly futures activity from the LME

LME Plastics Evaluated Prices (US$ per tonne) for July 9-13

LME_July0207.gif

Key:

PP Global (global polypropylene); PA Asia (Asia polypropylene); PE Europe (Europe polypropylene); PN NA (North America polypropylene); LL Global (global linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)); LA Asia (Asia LLDPE); LE Europe (Europe LLDPE); LN NA (North America LLDPE)

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