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November 17, 2005

8 Min Read
E-Weekly News Briefs,  November 14 - 18

Ticona touts near clean-room acetal supply

Engineering thermoplastics supplier Ticona (Kelsterbach, Germany) officially inaugurated its new Hostaform POM (acetal) compounding line on Nov. 8 with invited customers and journalists. The line, claimed to be a first, will supply Ticona''s medical technology (MT) POM grades, making them in near cleanroom conditions.

Ticona''s Kelsterbach facility began acetal production in 1964 with 5000 tonnes/yr capacity; production now stands at 90,000 tonnes/yr. The site also produces some 19,800 tonnes/yr of Celstran long-fiber reinforced compounds, according to Joachim Gersdorf, site manager.

Stefan Disch, product manager Hostaform at Ticona, said the new line has about 10,000 tonnes/yr capacity, enough for projected demand for at least the next three years. "Long term we reckon with a growth rate of 7-8%/yr (for medical grade POM)," he said. Lyndon Cole, Ticona president, added he would like nothing more than to have demand grow so rapidly as to force an earlier expansion.

POM is used in a variety of molded medical parts including for needle-less injectors for diabetics and powder inhalers to deliver drugs to sufferers of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Nypro expands southern exposure

In an effort to exploit proximity to growing automotive and consumer goods manufacturers in the locales, global contract manufacturer Nypro (Clinton, MA) has taken full ownership of its DJ/Nypro joint operations in Louisville and Hazard, KY and El Paso, TX.

In August 1997, Nypro acquired a 50% interest in DJ Plastics, operating its facilities in conjunction with their original family ownership. Moving forward, Nypro President and CEO Brian Jones said the plants will become Focus Factories, targeting the growing automotive industry in the American south, while still offering proximity to traditional automotive manufacturing bases in Ohio and Illinois. In addition, the Kentucky plants are near a UPS worldwide hub and several larger consumer product customers of Nypro.

The TS16946-certified El Paso operation has injection molding machines ranging from 45 to 500 tons and a Class 100,000 cleanroom. The Hazard and Louisville facilities are ISO/TS certified.

Nypro, which by its estimates had $957 million in annual revenue in 2004 and 15,000 employees at 66 sites in 18 countries, gains approximately 400 more employees in this move. The company has existing plants in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Balda adds surface-finish capacity

Injection molder Balda (Bad Oeynhausen, Germany), one of the leading molders in the cell phone industry and an important player in medical and automotive parts processing, has improved its capacity for surface finishing with its €2 million acquisition of plasma vapor deposition (PVD) specialist Techno-Coat Oberflächentechnik GmbH (Oberseifersdorf, Germany).

To house the new assets Balda formed a new subsidiary, Balda Surface GmbH. Balda predicts the new PVD capability will strengthen its competitive position in the automotive and telecom markets.

Greiner acquires Irish thermoformer Wilsanco

One of Europe''s leading rigid plastics packaging specialists, Greiner Packaging (Kremsmünster, Austria), has acquired Wilsanco Plastics Ltd., a thermoformer of food packaging based in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. The acquisition is official from Jan. 9, 2006.

Wilsanco employs 200 making printed, labeled, and sleeved cups for the food industry. It processes PS and PP tubs and cups as well as PS lids with 2004 sales of €17million. Greiner has been active in the last years in acquisitions and expansion in Central and Eastern Europe but says it also is pleased to add to its market share in Ireland and Great Britain.

Jeremy Wilson, current owner and manager of Wilsanco, stays with the firm as CEO and retains his management team. Greiner Packaging recorded 2004 sales of €202.8million, from 17 processing sites in Europe.

Say "No" to long-term fixed-price contracts

That is the advice the AVK, Germany''s reinforced-plastics trade group, is offering its members in light of predicted "massive price increases" for glass-fiber reinforced plastics and glass mat thermoplastics.

The group''s members report that the pace and percentage of price increases has shot higher since October, with some jumping 10-20% in a single month. This is partially seen in glycol, maleic anhydride, and styrene prices, says the AVK, but polypropylene pricing sees a similar increase.

Most of the group''s members are purchasing only enough material to get them through the next weeks, limiting the amount of capital tied up in inventory.

Mikron spins off gears business

Mikron Technology (Biel, Switzerland) is selling its plastics processing business to a group of Swiss investors, including some of the unit''s management. The segment includes 750 employees working at eight sites in five European countries, the U.S., and China. Sales last FY were CHF 122.5 million ($93.2 million). The processor is known for its work molding plastics gears, among other parts. Mikron will receive about CHF 28 million for the sale.

Buckeye''s betting on plastics

Targeted as a large and growing industry in the state, the plastics sector in Ohio will look to receive a boost from a $35 million advertising campaign organized by the Ohio Business Development Coalition (OBDC), which will target C-level executives in national publications like The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Forbes, promoting the state as a prime location for expansions or new business.

The campaign began in November with compounder and distributor PolyOne featured in a national advertisement in The Wall Street Journal, according to Ed Burghard, executive director of the OBDC and a marketing manager at the consumer goods giant, Procter & Gamble, which is based in Cincinnati.

Burghard says the OBDC is beginning work to convene "blue-ribbon" panels of plastics industry experts who will be tasked with assessing the industry in the state, discovering its drivers and strengths. Following the winter, the OBDC will use information for industry specific communications.

The OBDC was privatized one year ago by Ohio state government and since then has been working on creating a brand image for the state to promote it globally, including a website, www.ohiomeansbusiness.com. In addition to the marketing effort, the state government has taken steps to make Ohio business and investment friendly. Among the changes were tort and worker''s compensation reforms, and a retooled tax law, which went from essentially taxing manufacturing and storage to taxing consumption within the state. Under the new law, a multinational company could build, store, and ship products from Ohio without any tax penalty, with only intrastate commerce taxed, helping promote the state as an export center.

In addition, in the November elections, Ohio voters passed bond issues that will target transportation infrastructure and allot $500 million for the state''s multibillion dollar Third Frontier program, which provides R&D grants for high-technology industries.

"I''m so proud of the state for having that ready, aim, fire mentality," Burghard said. "It makes my job a lot easier."

Burghard cited the composites industry in Ohio, which directly and indirectly employs 24,000 people in the state and generates $4 billion in annual revenue, as being among the cutting edge, growing, plastics-related industries in Ohio, which the OBDC is looking to nurture. "The economy shifted," Burghard said, "and Ohio needed to shift with it."

Plastics of the corn in Britain

The British government has launched a grant/aid program backing research into nonfood uses for crops and other renewable materials, including starch-based plastics. The Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural affairs announced that as part of the LINK program, it will provide monies to deal with the three main challenges it perceives: raising awareness to develop markets; creating cost-effective and commercially viable innovations; and, most obviously, finding crops that farmers will want to grow for products consumers will want to buy.

Two months later, Huntsman emerges from Rita''s wake

Idled since Sept. 22 in advance of Hurricane Rita''s landfall, petrochemical supplier Huntsman''s Port Arthur, TX ethylene refinery resumed production again in early November. Repairs, power outages, and other utility issues delayed production resumption for the plant, which was the last primary Huntsman Gulf Coast plant to resume activities.

Chevron''s cumene coming to Ineos

Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. has sold its cumene production unit in Port Arthur, TX, to phenol and acetone producer, Ineos Americas, which will roll it into its phenol division. Chevron will continue to operate its olefins and cyclohexane units at Port Arthur.

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 Nov. 7-11 saw a low price for LLDPE of $1150/tonne set on Thursday, Nov. 10 and Friday, Nov. 11 for December buyers. LLDPE''s high of $1210/tonne was reached on Monday, Nov. 7 for February sellers.

For PP, a low price of $1100/tonne was reached on Friday, Nov. 11 for December buyers. The high of $1195/tonne came on Monday, Feb. 7 for February sellers.


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