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October 14, 2005

12 Min Read
E-Weekly News Briefs, October 10  - 14

Celanese sells its COC Business

Celanese Corp. announced that it has signed a letter of intent with Daicel Chemical Industries Ltd. and Polyplastics Co. Ltd. to sell its cycloolefin copolymer (COC) business. Daicel and Polyplastics intend to form a joint venture in Germany to which all employees and production and research facilities will be transferred. The COC business has approximately 100 employees at production and research facilities primarily in Oberhausen and Frankfurt, Germany, as well as in the U.S. Daicel and Polyplastics intend to hold interests in the joint venture of 55% and 45%, respectively. Celanese subsidiary Ticona markets COC under the brand name Topas. The deal is expected to close at the end of 2005.

Demag''s Indian JV doubles production

In a bid to double annual production to 600 machines and exploit export opportunities to South East Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and South America, L&T-Demag has opened a new assembly facility in Chennai, India.

Founded in 2001 by Demag Plastics Group and Larsen & Toubro, L&T-Demag says it''s been the market leader in India since 2003, and this year built its one-thousandth machine. The company''s Santosh line now extends from 400 to 10,000 kN in clamping force.

Norwesco bolsters rotomolded tank presence

Further strengthening its position in plastic septic tanks, especially in the Midwest and Florida, Norwesco (St. Bonifacius, MN) has purchased the septic tank operations of Rochester Rotational Molding. As part of the agreement, Norwesco receives Rochester''s Lakeland, FL plant, warehouse, and all other assets related to the septic business. Rochester''s Indiana operation will be folded into Norwesco''s Washington Court House, OH plant.

In business since 1939 and publicly traded until 1988, Norwesco operates 15 plants in the U.S. and Canada and claims to be the fourth largest rotomolder in North America. In addition to plastic septic tanks, Norwesco has a strong presence in agriculture tanks.

Delphi enters bankruptcy

Automotive parts behemoth, Delphi, and 38 of its U.S. subsidiaries, have joined the stream of U.S. automotive parts suppliers entering chapter 11 bankruptcy. Delphi filed its bankruptcy declaration on Saturday, Oct. 8, after not receiving the concessions from United Auto Workers union that Delphi management said were necessary to prevent insolvency. The declaration came ahead of an Oct. 17 change to U.S. bankruptcy laws that would have made it more difficult for Delphi to file.

In a statement released regarding its bankruptcy declaration, Delphi says the insolvency does not extend to its non-U.S. operations and that it does not anticipate any break in operations or its ability to supply parts. Delphi''s CEO Robert Miller said the filing was necessary to deal with the high costs of manufacturing in the U.S. The statement adds that "a substantial segment of our U.S. manufacturing operations" will be "divested, consolidated or wound-down through the chapter 11 process."

Spun off in 1999, Delphi was formerly GM''s in-house parts operation. The company has struggled of late, with its officials anticipating finishing 2005 with a loss of $200 million. Although the company has worked aggressively to move away from GM, founding a medical device division last year, Delphi still generates nearly half of its revenue from GM, which has struggled as well of late. In the first quarter of 2005, 51% of the company''s revenue, or $3.5 billion, came from outside of GM.

Packing them in

The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI; Arlington, VA) wrapped up a record-breaking Pack Expo event on Sept. 28 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, as attendance, exhibitors, and floor space all had double-digit increases over the 2003 show. Total attendance of 33,154 (up 17% over 2003), 1149 exhibitors (23% higher than 2003), and 483,608 sq ft of show space (a 14% increase) were all highs for the event, which alternates between Chicago and Las Vegas. In addition, PMMI has created an Expo Pack Mexico event (June 27-30, 2006, Mexico City) to serve Latin America.

Matt Croson, PMMI''s director of member services, says the Pack Expo event, which began in 1995, has more than doubled since that time, with no signs of slowing. That first event, called Pack Expo West, which covered 200,845 net sq ft, was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center and attracted 532 exhibitors and 9000 attendees.

Those numbers seem quaint given the relative enormity of the current event, and among the reasons for the explosive growth, exponential increases in the variety of products marketed under a single brand (Croson points out how many different flavors of Coca-Cola are available now) as well as pressure from retailers like Wal-Mart to deliver a unique package for the same product for its own shelves are offered. Plastics have played an increasing role in the event, according to Croson, which in addition to packaging machinery manufacturers, draws plastics companies, packaging processors, and brand owners.

Flexible packaging, especially resealable, standup, microwave pouches, as well as modified atmosphere packaging and barrier films for items like salad bags continue to draw interest from a plastics side. PMMI has also added several targeted pavilions for growth areas, including ones for RFID, Packaging Security, Containers and Materials, and Contract Packaging.

The show''s success feeds from industry success, with PMMI reporting that packaging machinery shipments in the U.S. hit $5.3 billion in 2004, up 9.3% from 2003. Going forward the group predicts 7% growth in 2005, with the total market hitting $5.91 billion, led by machinery like blister packaging (up 23.8% in 2004) and form/fill/seal equipment for bags and pouches (up 11.1% in 2004).

Electroform charges up tooling tech center

Anticipating a doubling of sales in the next three to four years, moldmaker Electroform Co. Inc. (Rockford, IL) is planning a new R&D center adjacent to its current plant to help customers with multimaterial tools, mold cooling, and insert molding technologies, among others. Eventually, the company will build a larger facility, with construction slated for late 2006, which will house moldmaking as well as the technical center.

The new plant will have six injection molding machines up to 300 tons, with vertical and two-shot units mixed in, for mold trials. Additionally, Electroform plans to add a high-speed 500-ton press for precision jobs.

The company is reinvesting monies gained from increased sales, with revenue up 60% in 2004, and 30%, year-to-date, in 2005. To continue such growth, Electroform has opened a sales office in Columbia, SC and a technical sales and engineering operation in Clearwater, FL.

Earliest birds get free NPE registration

As the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI, Washington DC) opens online preregistration to its triennial National Plastics Exhibition (NPE; Chicago, June 19-23, 2006), its rewarding early responders, waiving registration fees for the first 5000 to sign up online at www.npe.org/register. In addition, attendees from outside the U.S. can register in advance free of charge up to early June 2006.

After the first 5000 have signed up, there is still an "early-bird" rate of $30 until Jan. 1, 2006. Beyond then, visitors who register before June 5 will pay $60. Onsite registration, for U.S. and international attendees, will be $90. SPI anticipates 2000 exhibitors and 75,000 attendees to the 1 million sq ft show, which will be 25th edition since the inaugural event in 1946.

ACC promotes chemicals to American public

The American Chemistry Council (ACC; Arlington, VA) has launched a $35 million public relations campaign in the hopes of improving public opinion about the chemical industry in the same way its sister organization, The American Plastics Council (APC; Arlington, VA) polished plastics'' image with the multimillion dollar Plastics Make it Possible advertising effort.

The ACC has launched the essential2 campaign, which will include print and television advertising, public relations, a web site, and employee communications, hoping to drive home a theme of how essential to everyday life chemicals are. The APC has slowly pulled back from its Plastics Make it Possible campaign, begun in 1992 and widely credited with improving plastics perception in the U.S. The APC merged with the ACC in 2002. In 2000, it had split from The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI; Washington DC).

Tech Group gets new president

West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. (Lionville, PA) has named Robert S. Hargesheimer president of a newly formed business unit combining the existing West Device Group with the business of The Tech Group (Scottsdale, AZ), acquired by West in May 2005. The newly formed business unit will operate under The Tech Group name. Hargesheimer previously served as president of the Device Group at West.

With the acquisition of Tech, West has significantly expanded its presence in the medical device, health care, and consumer markets. The combined entity will continue to operate from existing engineering and manufacturing facilities in Arizona, Indiana, Ireland, Mexico, Michigan, Puerto Rico, and Pennsylvania.

"West''s objective is to build a leading device engineering and manufacturing capability to support the growing health care and consumer markets," said Steve Ellers, president and COO of West Pharmaceutical Services. "Bob''s experience with West and his knowledge of market applications for our engineering and manufacturing expertise are well known and respected by both our employees and our customers."

Hargesheimer joined West in August 1992 as director of finance and planning in the Health Care Group and has held positions of increasing responsibility throughout the firm including operations, finance, and business development. He holds a BA degree in Economics from Lafayette College and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Merrill Roth, plastics pioneer and entrepreneur, dies at age 94

Merrill Roth, 94, a pioneer and entrepreneur in the plastics industry, died Oct. 2 of sudden circulatory collapse. Roth, born June 5, 1911, played a big role in the development of the plastics industry in the Pacific Northwest, starting in the 1940s and included co-founding Grant & Roth, a leading custom molder in Hillsboro, OR. The company was sold in 1989.

During his retirement years, Roth kept busy developing innovative equipment for the molding industry, turning his garage/airplane hangar into a workshop. Roth was an avid supporter of the plastics industry and worked to help develop plastics programs at various Pacific Northwest institutions of higher education.

His first wife, Ivy, preceded him in death in 1994. In 1996, he married Myrtle Van Dyke, owner of ABC Plastics, a custom injection molder in Portland. In addition to his wife, he leaves a son, Rod Roth, co-owner of R&D Plastics in Hillsboro. Memorial services for Roth were held Oct. 10.

Rollprint rolls out Singapore JV

Rollstock manufacturer Rollprint Packaging Products Inc. (Addison, IL) has joined with Singapore firm Acme Packaging Co. Pte. Ltd. to create Alliantz Flexible Packaging Pte. Ltd., a 50/50 joint venture located in Singapore and slated to serve Southeast Asia.

Approximately one year ago, Rollprint began a project with Acme, targeting it due to a shared focus in medical and pharmaceutical packaging. Acme, in business for 25 years, also attracted Rollprint''s attention with its class 100 cleanroom and ISO 9001, 9002 certification.

Rollprint is planning to roll the JV into Acme''s facility, increasing production 50% and adding a three-layer blown film line. The company''s product is used to seal a wide variety of disposable medical devices, and the joint venture will focus on formable bottom web, peelable top web, and peelable pouches.

In addition to announcing its new partner, Rollprint used the Pack Expo event (Sept. 26-28, 2005, Las Vegas) to introduce a low-cost high-performance web that can be thermoformed for medical or frozen food applications, among others. The polyethylene-based blend is said to offer a wide operating window, good clarity, and high puncture resistance.

Online hot runner trading

Buyers and sellers of used hot runner systems now have an online forum for business. Polymer Cleaning Technology has added a hot runner trading page to its web site www.polymercleaning.com. The service is free of charge and can also be accessed via www.hotrunnertrading.com.

North American PET producers unite

Six producers of PET have formed a trade association to promote the growth of PET and represent the interests of North American PET manufacturers. The PET Resin Assn. (PETRA) consists of DAK Americas (Charlotte, NC), Invista (Wichita, KS), M&G Polymers USA (Houston), Nan Ya Plastics Corp. (Livingston, NJ), Eastman Chemical''s Voridian Div. (Kingsport, TN), and Wellman Inc. (Fort Mill, SC).

Entek extruder of choice for bioresin manufacturer

Biodegradable resin manufacturer, Plantic Technologies Ltd. (Melbourne, Australia) has purchased a 103-mm twin-screw extruder from Entek Manufacturing (Lebanon, OR), joining two other Entek extrusion lines for mass-scale production of sheet derived from cornstarch for use in packaging. Plantic credits Entek and its in-house lab with helping ramp up production of the challenging material.

Albemarle open 24/7 on SpecialChem

Additives manufacturer Albemarle Corp. (Baton Rouge, LA) has entered into an agreement with SpecialChem SA to list its flame retardants on SpecialChem''s plastics additive web portal www.specialchem4polymers.com. The move will make Albemarle''s brominated, organophosphorous, and metal-hydroxide flame retardants available to compounders, molders, and PUR foam formulators 24/7.

And the awards go to.

Specialty compounder RTP Co. (Winona, MN) was recognized by industry analyst Frost & Sullivan with top honors for emerging technologies in specialty plastics compounds. The award cited RTP''s work in photoluminescent safety sheet, wet-grip elastomers, long-fiber compounds, and nanotube compounds.

Intier Automotive recognized hot runner manufacturer Synventive Molding Solutions (Peabody, MA) as its tooling supplier of the year after its hot runners molded 17 million parts over five years with zero downtime. Intier, a division of Tier One supplier Magna International, produces a variety of interior parts, including instrument and door panels, lift gates, and cockpit modules.

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