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October 20, 2006

9 Min Read
E-weekly News briefs Oct. 16-20

Iberian molders set pace on continent

The injection molding industry in Spain and Portugal has been one of the better performing markets in Western Europe in recent years, with demand growth of 3% per annum since 2000, compared to about 1%/yr for the rest of the continent. Those figures come from Bristol, England-based industry consultants Applied Market Information Ltd. (AMI), which recently released a new report on injection molding in the two countries.

According to AMI’s estimates, injection molders in Spain and Portugal processed more than 900,000 tonnes of resin in 2005, with polypropylene accounting for about 45% of that total. Packaging is the largest end-use market and accounted for 25% of volume in 2005, says AMI, with automotive the next most significant market served at 19% of total plastics processed.

According to AMI, Spain’s largest molding group is Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa, which has subsidiaries involved in automotive molding (Maier, Incoplast, and Tajo) and components for domestic appliances and electrical goods (Matz Erreka, Manchalan, and Tajo). In Portugal the leading group is Simoldes, a well-known injection moldmaker that also operates three processing facilities, mainly serving automotive customers.

The Plastics Exchange week in review

The Plastics Exchange real-time over-the-counter spot marketplace for commodity-grade resins, including, HDPE, LDPE, LLDPE, GPPS, HIPS, HoPP, CoPP, offers the following review of plastics-trading activity and prices for the week of Oct. 8, 2006.

Polyethylene prices stabilized after dropping six straight weeks, driven by falling ethylene prices. In polypropylene, falling resin prices have outpaced those of feedstocks, much to manufacturers chagrin, with processors expending their own inventories and pushing the price down further. Polystyrene spot prices are back to recent highs, as producers struggle with volatile benzene feedstocks. For more information and detailed charts, go to http://www.theplasticsexchange.com/Research/WeeklyReview.aspx.

RTP launches elastomers division

Globally operating specialty compounder RTP Co. (Winona, MN) has split off its thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) compounding business into its own division. Leading the new TPE division is 20-yr RTP veteran Scott Mumm. “RTP Company is already well-known as the problem solver for challenging thermoplastic applications. With our new TPE division, our focus is to establish RTP Company as the one-stop supplier of both rigid and TPE solutions,” said Mumm. He added the firm is working on development of TPEs with conductive and wear-resistant properties; the firm already offers other thermoplastics with these properties. Additional key personnel appointed to the TPE division include Paul Killian, elastomer technical marketing manager, and Richard Rabe, elastomer technical manager.

Chemtura names Amdursky marketing director

The world’s largest supplier of plastic additives, Chemtura Corp. (Middlebury, CT), has named Jon Amdursky to director of marketing communications for the company’s $3 billion global specialty chemicals businesses. He handles Chemtura’s participation in more than 40 trade shows worldwide, trade advertising, trade press relations, the creation of brochures and selling tools, and the development of the corporate advertising campaign.

Amdursky joined Crompton in 2001 as manager, marketing communications, for the plastics additives and EPDM/rubber chemicals businesses. Crompton and Great Lakes Chemical merged in 2005 to form Chemtura.

Novamont plans bioplastics plant

Italy’s Novamont (Novara) is investing about €100 million in a 60,000 tonnes/yr biorefinery to derive plastics from sweet corn and vegetable oil. Novamont’s Mater-Bi thermoplastics, based on renewable resource materials, have been commercial for many years (see February 1992 MPW, pg.62) and demand has made a stark climb recently. The supplier’s new plant will be built in Terni, Italy and is scheduled for start-up in 2008. Novamont currently has about 120 employees and generated 2005 sales of €35 million.

PMC Group acquires FR-PS compounds’ range

PMC Group Polymer Products (Stockertown, PA) acquired the flame-resistant range of polystyrene (PS) compounds from supplier Nova Chemicals (Pittsburgh, PA) for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition includes Nova’s Zyntar FR-PS compounds range plus certain other unidentified compounded PS product lines

In a statement, Don Barber, GM of PMC Group Polymer Products, said, “The acquisition complements our existing line of ignition-resistant grades and makes PMC Group Polymer Products the largest producer of PS compounds in North America.”

Plastic Omnium parts with North American 3P business

French plastics processing group Compagnie Plastic Omnium (Paris) has sold the North American assets of its Performance Plastics Products (3P) division to Britain’s Fenner for $15 million. Fenner is a prominent supplier of thermoset composite plastics. The 3P business, based in Houston, TX, had revenue of $34 million in 2005, primarily through processing of seals and other technical parts. Future operations in the U.S. will continue with distribution through its Epsco subsidiary. Plastic Omnium says it is continuing to rationalize and modernize its 3P operations in France and Spain. Plastics Omnium is a world leader in automotive fuel tanks’ processing, through its Inergy joint venture with plastics supplier Solvay, and in molding of other automotive systems and body modules. It also is prominent in molding of trash containers.

BASF increasing Hexamoll plasticizer capacity

Plastics and chemicals supplier BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) recently received European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approval for its Hexamoll DINCH plasticizers, and says it intends to increase capacity of these to 100,000 tonnes/yr from the current 25,000 tonnes/yr. The new capacity is to be online by mid-2007.

Plasticizers are added to PVC to make it flexible for use in applications such as flooring, cable insulation, blood bags, and cling film. BASF is one of the leading global plasticizer suppliers with a capacity of more than 500,000 tonnes/yr. The chemistry involved in making Hexamoll DINCH means the product avoids much of the criticism leveled at other plasticizers, such as DINP and DEHP, which have been in the spotlight for years since some studies showed these leach and could pose possible health risks in items like infant toys.

As many end-users dictated they would no longer allow the controversial plasticizers, DINCH filled the gap and has seen applications in toys and medical products, but now, says BASF, demand is coming from other processors involved in other components. The food-contact approval means PVC cling film containing the Hexamoll plasticizer likely also will gain importance.

Hexamoll DINCH also complies with the new EU-regulation on the restriction of phthalates in toys and children’s articles and is already widely used by the toy industry in Europe and Asia.

Nano treatment purifies silicone rubber

Danish company Nanon A/S, a specialist in nano-manipulation of polymers, has developed what it calls Cold Curing, a new tempering and cleaning method for silicone rubber. This process consists of a 45-minute wash in liquid carbon dioxide, which helps remove the volatile residues in silicone rubber and replaces the standard method—four-hours of post-curing in a 200C oven. Cost savings of 15-35% are also reaped, says Nanon.

According to Nanon, the Cold Curing process has a sterilizing effect on the treated parts. The liquid carbon dioxide penetrates and dissolves the volatile residues in the silicone rubber, and by normal diffusion, the contents of the substances—such as free silicone oils—are reduced to less than 0.3%. This is lower than the EN14350-2 requirement of 0.5% and helps avoid contamination during medical operations where the excess of silicone oils could harm the patient. According to Thomas Christensen, VP business development at Nanon, interest in the new curing process is already high among healthcare companies making nipples for baby bottles, silicone implants, catheters, drainage tubes, and other products.

Because cold curing is performed at low temperatures, repolymerization does not take place, so that processors no longer need to be concerned with slit healing occurring from traditional oven curing. As a practical result, the new technology allows keeping the holes made in silicone material open during and after the treatment. Nanon provides both in-house treatments of silicone products and markets Cold Curing machines for use at a processor’s premises.

Tech Group announces move, expansion

The Tech Group, a global custom injection molder and contract manufacturer headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ, announced a $12.4 million investment to relocate its Grand Rapids molding plant to a new facility in nearby Walker, MI.

The 40,000-sq-ft Grand Rapids site molds medical components and devices for the healthcare industry. The new 72,000-sq-ft facility will house approximately 60 injection molding machines. It will include a dedicated class 100,000 molding floor, class 100,000 assembly floor, and separate class 10,000 assembly floor for contract assembly operations. The facility is expected to be operational by the first quarter of 2007.

“The Tech Group’s objective is to continue to support the growing trend of outsourcing manufacturing and contract assembly operations in the healthcare sector,” said Robert Hargesheimer, president of The Tech Group, in a prepared statement. In 2005, The Tech Group opened a 100,000-sq-ft plant in Frankfort, IN, to serve the growing consumer products and packaging business.

K-Tron acquires Premier Pneumatics

K-Tron International Inc. (Pitman, NJ) announced its acquisition of privately-held Premier Pneumatics Inc. (Salinas, Kansas), a manufacturer of pneumatic conveying systems and bulk-handling equipment for the North American market. The purchase price was $27.565 million, paid in cash. That figure was based on Premier’s net working capital on the closing date. For the trailing 12-month period ended August 31, 2006, Premier’s unaudited revenues were approximately $25.8 million. Robert Korbelik, previous owner and president of Premier, is retiring.

Premier and its predecessors have been in the pneumatic-conveying business for more than 50 years, and the company’s products include Aerolock rotary valves, Series II 2400 vacuum receivers, blower packages, and diverter-valve product lines.

Commenting on the acquisition, K-Tron Chairman and CEO Edward Cloues II said, “The acquisition of Premier significantly expands the scope of K-Tron’s activities in the pneumatic-conveying business, which we entered in 1997, and in the solids-feeding business where K-Tron has been a global leader for many years with its volumetric and gravimetric screw and belt feeders.” K-Tron intends to expand Premier’s scope beyond the North American market.

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 Oct. 9-13 saw a low price for LLDPE of $1155/tonne set on Friday, Oct. 13, for November buyers. LLDPE’s high of $1215/tonne was reached on Monday, Oct. 9, for January sellers.

For PP, a low price of $1160/tonne was reached on Wednesday, Oct. 11, for November buyers; Thursday, Oct. 12, for January buyers; and Friday, Oct. 13 for November through January buyers. The high of $1200/tonne was reached on Monday, Oct. 9, for December and January sellers, and Tuesday, Oct. 10 for December and January sellers.

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