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It all starts with the pellet

Well, maybe it starts with the idea, but without perfect pellets a processor has little to no chance of success. Fortunately, there have been a number of significant developments recently in the pelletizing machinery field, including some highlighted at June’s NPE trade show in Chicago.

There, for the first time, Crown Machine uwp Inc. (Addison, IL) revealed its newest development, a system that is truly a one-button operation and requires no centrifugal dryer but offers twice the efficiency, according to George Holmes, founder and owner of the company. Speaking with MPW at NPE, Holmes called his development “the only true auto-start pelletizer available.” Magnets release to allow access to the die, with the rear part of the unit returning to the rear as per the bolt on a rifle, so that die changeover is swift and even a change from black to white pellets is possible in just a few minutes. The magnetic clamp is patented and was shown for the first time at NPE.

Crown’s George Holmes (left) and Amy Nepywoda, design engineer, provide the backdrop at the company’s NPE stand for its newest pelletizing unit.

Automatik recently installed four new strand pelletizing lines at a European polyamide supplier.

More holes per die plate, and strengthened plates, lead to more throughput and longer service life from Davis-Standard’s Black Clawson business unit.

Also at NPE, Automatik Plastics Machinery GmbH (formerly Rieter Automatik; Grossostheim, Germany) introduced its Baoli strand pelletizer, designed specifically for the U.S. compounding market. The manufacturer says the system is cost-effective in terms of purchase price and running costs, and available in three basic machine sizes with operating widths of 100, 200, and 300 mm.

In early July, Automatik announced the sale and installation of four new strand pelletizing systems for use in a new polyamide supply facility in Europe. The four horizontal lines are based on the M-USG 600 H underwater strand pelletizer, each with a throughput capacity of 3200 kg/hr. Each of the systems includes a fluid-headed die head to melt the feed and extrude the strands, a horizontal strand guide section, the pelletizer, and a Centro 300 centrifugal dryer to remove process water from the cylindrical pellets.    

The Converting Systems Group of Davis-Standard (Fulton, NY) recently added new pelletizing technology to its Black Clawson Converting Machinery range. Charles Crumb, business group manager at the company, told MPW redesigned dies with more holes per die were developed, increasing throughput, and the die plates have been strengthened to increase service life by 25-30%. These dies are retrofittable on installed systems, he said.

The company also added a new air ring pelletizer to its mix of underwater and water ring equipment, with the new system to help users process materials with low internal energy or hydroscopic materials. Black Clawson’s pelletizers may be unique in that the die is fitted parallel to the ground. 

Gala Industries Inc. (Eagle Rock, VA) has introduced The Edge, an underwater pelletizing unit it says is able to compete on cost with strand pelletizers, while offering the benefits of an underwater system, such as no strand breakage on highly-filled concentrates. The Edge is compact and suitable for throughput to 1000 kg/hr. Low maintenance requirements and minimum operator attendance are two of the key advantages, claims Gala, along with low noise levels and swift start-up times. 

Gala also introduced its Electronically Adjusted Pelletizer (Model EAC), with electronic motion control used to control blade adjustment down to 0.0001 inch (patent pending), according to Steven King, process equipment sales at the 100% employee-owned company.
In related news, Scheer Bay early this summer ended its joint venture with CF Scheer after more than 10 years. Insolvency proceedings for CF Scheer were opened in Germany on Oct. 1, 2008 and its operating assets were sold. “Scheer Bay Co. has always been independent of CF Scheer and was not part of the sale,” said Tom Kernstock, executive VP, who added that the company will continue to operate under its original name, Bay Plastics Machinery Co., from its facility in Bay City, MI, and will continue to support its existing customers with parts and service for their equipment. [email protected]

SMA supplier Polyscope, others spar over Dylark business

Chemicals and plastics supplier Nova’s decision to cease production of its Dylark-brand styrene maleic anhydride (SMA) has created a minor stir among other plastics suppliers who naturally see a void in the market they would like to fill. Nova announced as early as 1998 that it wanted to divest its Dylark business but never did so and in fact kept developing the business until recently. The company did not openly announce it intended to stop supplying Dylark but Greg Wilkinson, VP public and government affairs at Nova, confirmed to MPW that it is taking its last orders for the material now.

Automotive applications such as these represent most current SMA applications, but Polyscope officials say new markets are set to open for the material.

Like most material substitution discussions, this one is not as simple as simply replacing one grade of SMA with another grade, notes Uwe Wascher, chairman of the board at Polyscope (Geleen, The Netherlands), which, with Nova’s departure, remains one of the few SMA suppliers able to supply globally. “Our direct competitor was never really Dylark,” he says, “but rather long glass fiber-reinforced polypropylene (GFR-PP).”

Polyscope’s Xiran-brand SMA also competes with materials including GFR-polycarbonate or PC blends, as noted by Bayer MaterialScience (Pittsburgh, PA), Nova’s cross-town rival which supplies these. Once word of the Dylark market retreat was known in mid-July, Bayer pushed out its own press release announcing it was ready to step in and fill the hole left at any Dylark users. The press release indicated that SMA no longer was commercially available: “Now that the SMA material will no longer be available, we can offer a seamless transition for decision makers in need of a replacement material which is available globally for current production of model year interior parts” was a quote attributed to Dave Siler, interiors key account manager at Bayer MaterialScience LLC.

Polyscope’s Wascher naturally disputes the assertion that SMA no longer will be available and says in fact his company is speeding plans for additional capacity, with its most immediate step being to de-bottleneck its sole plant in the Netherlands. “We’d been discussing this (capacity expansion) already. Now, yes, (with Dylark out of the picture) we’re moving a bit faster,” he says.  SMA and competing materials see use primarily in automotive applications such as instrument panel retainers, center consoles, and other interior structural parts, with SMA typically used in blends with other plastics to bring these improved properties such as higher heat deflection temperature, but Polyscope’s Wascher anticipates significant SMA demand growth in another end-use market, though he did not want to identify which one as yet. 

Wascher said his company also intended to expand its product portfolio. For more information on the technical aspects of SMA, read our article here[email protected]

Appleton considers selling C&H printing and converting unit

Flexible packaging and carbonless, thermal, and security paper supplier Appleton (Appleton, WI) is weighing the sale of its printing and converting C&H Packaging Co. (Merrill, WI) business. Bill Van Den Brandt, Appleton’s manager corporate communications, told MPW that C&H Packaging is the only film printing and converting facility Appleton owns, with the sale intended to focus the company’s remaining packaging division entirely on film production. C&H, which Appleton acquired in April 2003, operates a 127,0000 ft2 plant, with 20,000ft2 of office space, and employs roughly 100 people. The business prints and converts flexible plastic packaging for the food processing, household, and industrial products industries. If the unit was sold, Appleton’s film business would consist of film-producing businesses American Plastics (Rhinelander, WI) and New England Extrusion (Turners Falls, MA; Milton, WI).

The C&H Packaging business that Appleton is considering selling includes a two laminators.

Van Den Brandt was reluctant to comment on the current mergers & acquisition market, but did say Appleton is hopeful about a potential sale. “It’s difficult for [Appleton] to offer an opinion about the M&A market for packaging companies,” Van Den Brandt said. “C&H has many strengths and we are optimistic that we will sell [the business].” In a release, Appleton said it will provide no additional public comment about the progress or developments of the sale process unless its board of directors enters into a definitive agreement with a buyer.

In November 2004, Appleton added a flexographic six-color separation process that allowed it to produce more than 40,000 special colors for print graphics. At present, Van Den Brandt says Appleton’s capabilities include eight-color flexographic printing, adhesive lamination, slitting, and pouching. The company uses water-based inks and adhesives, and, along with plate-making and mounting operations, it has three presses, two laminators, four slitters, and two pouch machines. Appleton formed its performance packaging group through the April 2003 acquisitions of American Plastics and C&H.

Plastics industry mergers and acquisitions (M&A) worldwide were only off 2% on a year-over-year basis for the first six months of 2009, with 244 deals consummated. Financial advisory firm Blaige & Co. (Chicago, IL) believes that 2009 activity could surpass 2008’s 447 deals. [email protected]

Polymerupdate European resin pricing, July 20-24: PP, PS, ABS, PVC up; PE, PET flat or down

, climbing on the back of tight regional availability coupled with gains in upstream crude, naphtha, and propylene feedstock. PP homopolymer spot prices rose to €860/tonne FD Northwest Europe, with PP copolymer prices rising to €910/tonne FD Northwest Europe, both up €5/tonne from the week before. In the contract markets, PP injection grades rose to €940/tonne FD Northwest Europe, while PP copolymer prices were assessed at €990/tonne FD Northwest Europe. In plant news, Russian producer Sibur reportedly shutdown its PP plant at Tomsk for a turnaround, with the outage planned to last until mid August.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) general-purpose contracts were flat at €1020/tonne FD Northwest Europe, but European LDPE producers are targeting price hikes for August given the tightness in regional product availability and expectations of a higher settlement in August ethylene contracts. LDPE prices were also flat at €940/tonne FD Northwest Europe. Polymerupdate noted that sellers who were not pressured by building inventories were more ambitious with their offers and priced them at €960/tonne FD Northwest Europe mark and higher. Dow Europe announced a €60/tonne hike for its August PE prices in an effort to improve margins.

Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) prices ended flat in Europe last week, with contract prices unchanged from the week before at €1010/tonne FD mark, with spot prices flat at €930/tonne FD. Dow has announced an increase of €60/tonne for its August prices.

Polystyrene (PS) contract prices edged higher in Europe, with general-purpose PS at €1155/tonne FD Northwest Europe and FD Italy and high-impact PS reaching €1205/tonne FD Northwest Europe and FD Italy. The increase was supported by run cuts at PS facilities across the region, with Ineos Nova further slashing output at its 80,000 tonnes/year plant in Trelleborg, Sweden.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) contract prices firmed last week, with general-purpose and natural-grade contracts reaching €1340/tonne FD Northwest Europe and €1340/tonne FD Italy. European ABS producers say they successfully implemented July hikes of €100/tonne, as buyers accepted the increase given strength in upstream prices. In the spot market, general-purpose and natural-grade ABS prices were flat at €1100/tonne FD Northwest Europe.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) suspension-grade spot prices climbed once again in Europe last week, rising on reports of the force majeure declaration by Ineos ChlorVinyls and a shutdown at Solvin’s PVC plant. Spot PVC prices rose to €770-€790/tonne FD Northwest Europe, while in the contract market, PVC suspension-grade prices were unchanged at €790/tonne FD Northwest Europe.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle-grade prices softened in Eastern Europe, with contracts at €1170/tonne FD Northwest Europe. In the spot market, prices were assessed at €900-€940/tonne FD Northwest Europe. Some PET sellers reported having a hard time finding buyers as they competed against cheaper PET from Asia, particularly South Korea. In the spot market, offers were mostly heard at $960/tonne FD and higher in Northern Europe, while in Spain, prices were above $1000/tonne FD. PET was cheapest in Eastern Europe with rates heard at €900/tonne FD and lower. Outages have played a part, with local PET maker Novapet shutting down its 130,000 tonnes/year plant in Barbastro for a few days due to an electrical problem. Elsewhere, Artenius’s 100,000 tonnes/year PET facility has restarted but not at full output. [email protected]

Polymerupdate Asian resin pricing, July 20-24: PE, PVC, ethylene drop; PS up

. Ethylene fell by roughly $40/tonne week on week, pushing CFR Far East Asia LDPE prices to $1265/tonne, with CFR Southeast Asia prices at $1275/tonne. An LDPE seller told Polymerupdate that Chinese demand remains dull, with local LDPE priced at $1200/tonne and below and contact’s offers to China starting the week at $1290/tonne CFR mark with offers from other producers at $1300/tonne and higher. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) film prices were assessed at $1270/tonne CFR Far East Asia, with linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) at $1265/tonne CFR Far East Asia.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) prices declined in some parts of Asia last week, with sluggish buying interest in China seen as a prime reason behind the drop. PVC fell by about $10/tonne following three months of gains, with CFR China and CFR Southeast Asia PVC at $910/tonne. PVC producers kept their offer prices for August at $950/tonne CFR and higher.

Polystyrene (PS) prices firmed in Asia, with rates gaining as regional buying interest improved. General-purpose PS hit $1175/tonne CFR China, with CFR Southeast Asia prices at $1195/tonne. High-impact PS rose to $1240/tonne CFR China, with CFR southeast Asia prices at $1275/tonne.

Propylene prices finished up in Asia last week, gaining about $20/tonne from the week before with FOB Korea prices at $1020/tonne while FOB Japan prices were at $1010/tonne. CFR China propylene prices were assessed at $1055/tonne, with CFR southeast Asia at $1065/tonne. In plant news, Taekwang’s propylene plant in South Korea was down following a power outage last Tuesday.

Ethylene prices in Asia declined as demand continues to weaken. CFR northeast Asia prices were assessed at $1040/tonne, with CFR Southeast Asia prices at $1010/tonne. The drop in ethylene prices impacted downstream producer margins, including makers of styrene monomer (SM) and PE. In plant news, Shanghai’s Secco restarted its 1.09 million tonnes/year cracker while ethylene exports from Iran to southeast Asia also improved.

In the downstream markets CFR Far East Asia basis,, HDPE film prices were assessed at $1270/tonne, LDPE prices were assessed at $1265/tonne, and prices of LLDPE were assessed up at $1265/tonne.

Styrene monomer (SM) prices were under pressure as Asian avails rose.

The pricing undertone in Asian SM turned bearish on Tuesday, with local China prices dropping about RMB 150/tonne and FOB Korea SM prices at $1050 to $1055/tonne. In plant news, Jilin Petrochemical Co. broke ground on a refinery expansion for its SM and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) facilities. The expansion is expected to be completed by 2011, lifting SM output to 460,000 tonnes/year, with ABS capacity to be increased to 580,000 tonnes/year. Elsewhere, LG Chem announced it has set up a 50:50 JV with CNOOC to build a 300,000 tonnes/year ABS unit in Southern China, with startup expected by 2013. [email protected]

Are they laughing at us?

Recently, I was listening to a radio game show where listeners call in and attempt to answer questions based on what’s in the news that week. That would imply that the callers think they are up to date with what’s going on in the world. Similarly, one could think the live studio audience members also consider themselves abreast of the times.

One call-in went something like this:

HOST: Hello, who is this on the line and where are you calling from?
CALLER: Hi, I’m Joe Smith calling from Massachusetts.
HOST: And what do you do, Joe?
CALLER: I’m an engineer.
HOST: Oh, are you in software or do you actually make something?

CALLER: We actually make things.
HOST: Well that’s amazing. I thought all that was being done in China now?

CALLER: No, we really make things here.
HOST: Good to know we still can.

CALLER: Of course we still get a lot of components made in China...
HOST: Of course ...

The caller and host went on to play the game, while I sat there steaming up in anger. Isn’t this just great! A lot of seemingly intelligent, well-informed Americans think the ongoing disappearance of the American manufacturing sector is cause for laughter, some kind of joke, and certainly not worth worrying about.

A few months ago, while threading my way through the Web, I found the blog site of Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, now on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. Around the end of May of this year, Reich wrote a multipart blog item titled, “The Future of Manufacturing, GM, and American Workers,” in which he says in many different ways that the USA doesn’t need manufacturing. Our great need is for “symbolic analysts.”

From the radio waves to the ivory towers of academia, the word is going out: Manufacturing is all but dead in America ... and who cares? Who needs it anyway? It’s all a big joke, isn’t it? [email protected]

Sheet line aims for global appeal

Developed over the course of a year, with initial announcements made at a PTi open house last year and the 2008 Society of Plastic Engineers Thermoforming conference, the manufacturer says it removed some bells and whistles from the Globaline to reach a global cost position. Providing a pre-engineered product gives it further price and delivery advantages. It’s also targeting markets in Latin America and Eastern Europe where labor costs are lower, so that for processors some manual configuration isn’t cost prohibitive.

Tailored for polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate, the system also includes a package to run biopolymer polylactic acid (PLA). In particular, the system can run thin-gauge PP, which is currently a hot product due to price and density advantages. The system can be paired with a horizontal roll stand that precisely controls the die/nip gap—key for running PP. [email protected]

PET sheet line: small twin-screw unit can replace large single screw

introduced to North America its latest development for PET sheet extrusion. For this latest generation in the Reitruder series, the geometry of the screws has been adapted by increasing the channel depth and redesigning the feed zone. These measures can improve the intake of PET flakes and regrind and enlarge the dosing volume of fillers. A significantly more efficient degassing system enables raw materials to be used even with a humidity of up to 0.5 %, says the firm, so that predrying can be minimized or completely eliminated.

Due to their efficiency and increased speed, small twin-screw Reitruder extruders can now replace large single-screw extruders, claims Reifenhäuser. According to Dieter Thewes, head of the extrusion division, “A Reitruder with 70-mm screw diameter and a capacity of up to 1200 kg/h can be used as an alternative to a single-screw extruder with 150-mm screw diameter and identical capacity.”

One clear target market is extrusion of thermoformable PET sheet, particularly post-consumer recyclate PET (PCR-PET) which can be heavily contaminated (e.g. PET with PE labels) and cannot be processed on extruders using conventional driers. Reifenhäuser’s twin-screw systems are capable of processing up to 2300 kg/hr of PET flakes. The company says it has sold a number of these sheet lines to customers in Europe and is now promoting this technology in the U.S.A. Some customers have already obtained FDA approval to extrude sheet from 100% bottle regrind for use in direct contact with food, adds the company. [email protected]

Pipe giant JM Eagle expands PVC fittings east

JM Eagle, which according to the company is the world’s largest manufacturer of plastic pipe, announced that it has started East Coast injection molding and distribution of its entire line of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) electrical fittings. The fittings are used in conjunction with the company’s PVC electrical conduit and gas line products. JM Eagle’s complete assortment of PVC electrical fittings—including Schedule 40 fittings, Schedule 40 and Schedule 80 standard radius elbows, special radius sweeps, boxes and couplings—are now being manufactured in Adel, GA for distribution to customers throughout the eastern half of the United States.

JM Eagle's pipe fittings, popular in the West, will now be distributed along the East Coast.

“The fittings used with our electrical conduit PVC pipe products have been well received by customers in the West, and we’re pleased to now be able to offer them to the remainder of the country,” says Michael Lang, electrical fittings manager at JM Eagle.

JM Eagle produces a wide range of pipe products for above-ground and underground applications in the electrical conduit/solvent weld category, including PVC Schedule 40 and Schedule 80 conduit, encased and direct-burial power and communication duct, Type C telephone duct, Schedule 40 utility pipe, and PVC “gas sleeve” pipe.[email protected]

Methyl methacrylate antitrust litigation nears settlement

Any company who purchased MMA (PMMA) within the United States directly from any of the defendants between Jan. 1, 1995 and  Dec. 31, 2003 may be entitled to receive a settlement award in an antitrust suit that is now coming to the settlement phase.

The methyl methacrylate (MMA) lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and involves companies that produced acrylic products including acrylic resins, sheets, pellets, powders, and molding extrusion compounds containing MMA or polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) sold under trade names Plexiglas, Perspex, Acrylite, Acryplast, and Lucite.
Defendants are: Evonik Degussa GmbH (FKA Degussa AG), Evonik Degussa Corporation (FKA Degussa Corp.), Rohm GmbH & Co. KG, Rohm Americas LLC (NKA Cyro Industries), and Cytec Industries Inc. (collectively “The Degussa Defendants”); Lucite International Inc. (FKA Ineos Acrylics Inc.: “Lucite”); Arkema Inc. (FKA Atofina Chemicals Inc. and ELF Atochem North America Inc.), Arkema France (FKA Arkema S.A, Autofina S.A. and ELF Atochem S.A.), and Altuglas International (The “Arkema Defendants); and Imperial Chemical Industries PLC and ICI Acrylics Inc. (The “ICI Defendants”).

These four defendants have agreed to a settlement and have placed monies into a settlement fund, and a Fairness Hearing will take place on Sept. 23, 2009 in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA to determine whether the proposed settlements should be approved by the Court as fair and adequate.
Under the Degussa Settlement Agreement, the Degussa Defendants have paid $7,000,000 into an account; under the Lucite Settlement Agreement, Lucite has agreed to pay $7,050,000 into an account; under the Arkema Settlement Agreement, the Arkema Defendants have paid $550,000 into an account; under the ICI Settlement agreement, the ICI Defendants have paid $550,000 into an account. All accounts will be administered in accordance with the provisions of the Settlement Agreement.

Any processor or fabricator who purchased PMMA (MMA) within the time frame outlined in the class action can become a member of the “class” by calling 1-800-644-7835 or writing to: Methyl Methacrylate Antitrust Settlement Administrator, c/o Heffler, Daderich & Saitta LLP, P.O. Box 58455, Philadelphia, PA, 19102-8455. [email protected]