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Articles from 2009 In September

Penske terminates deal to acquire Saturn from GM

(Bloomfield Hills, MI) to terminate its discussions with General Motors Co. (GM) to acquire the Saturn brand. Penske, which is an international automotive retailer, initiated talks with GM on June 5 and since that time has been determining the feasibility of a supply, service, and distribution scheme, including a definitive agreement with GM to source vehicles on a contract-manufactured basis for a period of time. After that time had elapsed, Penske required GM to source vehicles from a third party under a similar contract-manufacturing agreement.

Penske Automotive Group negotiated the terms and conditions of such an agreement with another manufacturer, but said in a release that the agreement was rejected by that manufacturer’s board of directors. “Without that agreement, the company has determined that the risks and uncertainties related to the availability of future products prohibit the company from moving forward with this transaction.”

On June 6, GM and Penske announced a proposed transaction under which Penske would acquire Saturn, saying at the time the deal would save 350 dealerships and 13,000 jobs at Saturn and its retailers. According to the company, Saturn began selling cars in 1990 and has sold more than 4 million vehicles since it began operations. The company applied polymers in a number of exterior components, replacing sheet metal and molding the applications in house. See Injection Molding Magazine’s plant tour here. [email protected]

Updated: BASF pairs with CSM for biobased succinic-acid route to polymers

(Diemen, Netherlands) announced a joint-production project for biobased succinic acid. The companies’ BASF Future Business and PURAC units have been developing industrial fermentation and downstream processing systems for biobased succinic acid, with plans to start commercial production in the second quarter of 2010. The partners say the venture represents a melding of their respective capabilities, given BASF’s stature as a global leader in intermediates, chemical building blocks, and polymers, and PURAC’s position as a leading producer of lactic acid and lactides from renewable feedstocks. Among other developments, it recently developed an additive to better control the polymerization of polylactic acid (PLA), with the end effect being that processors are said to see smoother processing of the material on their equipment. Juliana Ernst, senior manager corporate media relations BASF, told PlasticsToday that production will be done in an existing fully-equipped PURAC plant in Spain. The technology can use different sources, such as starch, glucose, and glycerine, but BASF declined to name the source for its first production run.

BASF and CSM say their technology will allow the economical production of succinic acid on industrial scale while applying a renewable substrate, with carbon dioxide used as a raw material during fermentation. BASF markets its Ecoflex biodegradable polyester for applications such as mulch or trash bags.

In January 2008, DSM announced that it would work with France’s Roquette on the commercialization of a process to ferment biobased chemical precursors like succinic acid, with plans for a “demonstration plant” to open in Lestrem, France in 2009. That facility was expected to have annual capacity for several hundred tonnes. Roquette is a producer of sugar-alcohol polyols, creating more than 650 products from 6 million tonnes of corn, wheat, peas, and potatoes.
DSM Venturing, the capital arm of Royal DSM N.V., also invested in renewable-based plastic manufacturer, Novomer, which uses carbon dioxide and other renewable materials to create polymers, plastics, and chemicals. [email protected]

D-S partners with Scantech for inline PET sheet measurement

Extrusion technology supplier Davis-Standard (D-S; Pawcatuck, CT) has paired with Scantech Americas to integrate an X-ray transmission scanner for measuring sheet thickness on a proprietary polyethylene terephthalate (PET) system installed this past year. The PET line scanner is used in conjunction with D-S’s EPIC control system, enabling the operator to make adjustments as needed, reportedly reducing start-up time, waste, and material costs.

In addition to D-S sheet applications, Scantech has been working with the company’s Converting Systems Group on cast-, laminated-, and stretch-film applications, as well as non-wovens. Scantech utilizes X-ray transmission to measure sheet or film thickness instead of gamma backscatter or beta ray technology. The online X-ray transmission is non-nuclear and is said to provide accurate measurement for flat-material production processes. Scantech’s measurement systems provide gauging for thickness, weight, material composition, edge reading, web width, surface roughness, defect detection, and moisture, among other properties.

Based in France, Scantech has been manufacturing X-ray systems for 18 years and only recently began selling systems into North and South America. The company claims to be the first to introduce low-energy X-ray sensors for film applications, specifically bi-oriented films. Its U.S. office was established in Lansdowne, VA, and is managed by Rick Roth. [email protected]

Twin-screw extrusion workshop announced

The event is slated for Dec. 2-3, 2009, with classroom sessions to be held at the Holiday Inn Select in Clinton, NJ, and equipment demonstrations at the Leistritz Process Laboratory in nearby Somerville. Transportation is provided to/from the machine demonstrations.
 The workshop costs $780, which includes handout materials, lunches, and dinner on the first day.

The seminar combines the classroom training with hands-on work on the company’s extrusion lines. Outside speakers will include Keith Larson from ACS Group; Chris Case, Reduction Engineering; Pete Palmer, Wolock & Lott, and Tom Cunningham, Extrusion Technical Services. Topics covered will include the processing of bioplastics, and new opportunities by combining recycling and compounding. Nano-compounding of pharmaceuticals and nano-composites also is on the agenda.

Many more topics will be presented. To register for this program, contact Sarah Scovens at T: +1 908-685-2333, X614 
or e-mail [email protected]. [email protected]

Polymerudpate Asian resin pricing, Sept. 21-25: Ethylene, propylene, PP, PE, PS, and ABS down

Ethylene prices ended last week down in Asia, according to Polymerupdate, with the fall precipitated by regional oversupply, falling polyethylene (PE) prices downstream, sluggish demand, and weak upstream naphtha. CFR Northeast Asia ethylene prices were at $855/tonne, while CFR Southeast Asia prices were assessed at $1005/tonne. Near term, the outlook remained depressed ahead of the start of the National Day holidays in China, as ethylene sellers attempting to defend their offers but failed in the face of mounting competition from ample regional availability. Downstream, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) film fell to $1155/tonne CFR Far East Asia, with low-density polyethylene (LDPE) dropping to $1190/tonne CFR Far East Asia, and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) at $1155/tonne CFR Far East Asia.

Propylene prices also declined in Asia last week, with almost no buyer interest for spot cargoes due to sluggish downstream demand for polypropylene (PP). Purchasing is only expected to slow more ahead of the National Day holidays in China. FOB Korea propylene prices were assessed at $935/tonne, with CFR Taiwan propylene at $965/tonne and FOB Japan at $925/tonne. Polypropylene (PP) prices were also down in Asia, with raffia and injection $1055/tonne CFR Far East Asia. In plant news, Nippon Oil reportedly shut down two Japanese propylene plants. Elsewhere, Mitsubishi Chemical plans to start up an olefin conversion unit at Kashima next month, bringing online propylene capacity of 150,000 tonnes/yr.

Polypropylene (PP)
prices nosedived in Asia last week, with injection and raffia falling to $1060/tonne. By Monday Sept. 21, they fell further to $1050 to $1055/tonne CFR Far East Asia. The Approaching National Day holidays, which start Oct. 1, continue to loom over the market, particularly in China where local producer PetroChina slashed its ex-factory price by RMB 300/tonne. Most PP buyers polled said they’re unlikely to commit to purchases at this time, since they anticipate further drops going forward.

Polystyrene (PS) prices, amidst waning demand, slipped in conjunction with upstream styrene monomer (SM). Last Friday, general-purpose PS prices dropped to $1180 to $1185/tonne CFR China and CFR Southeast Asia, with high-impact PS (HIPS) at $1280 to $1285/tonne CFR China and CFR Southeast Asia. Buyer bids were much lower with notional buyer price targets for HIPS heard below $1220/tonne CFR China.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
weakened in Asia last week, as sellers were left no choice but to drop offer rates. Supporting the price reduction were softer feedstock prices, including those of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and SM. Last Friday, CFR China and CFR Southeast Asia ABS prices were down to $1450/tonne. Even though prices dropped $50/tonne week over week, sellers were not successful in finding buyers. In Taiwan, Chi Mei announced ABS offers at $1480/tonne CFR, prompting other producers to follow suite and slash their offer rates to $1450 to $1460/tonne CFR. To show where the market is, a few actual users in need of cargo put forward bids between $1400 and $1420/tonne CFR. In China, local ABS prices were down to RMB 12,200 to RMB 12,300/tonne. [email protected]

SimuTech chosen as MoldFlow reseller

Moldflow can be used to simulate and optimize injection molding and to optimize plastic part and mold design.

Ken Lally, SimuTech's CEO, said the development is an important one for his company as it sees an increasing number of its customers from a variety of industries making a metal-to-plastic transition for their products.

SimuTech claims to be the largest full-service provider of ANSYS engineering simulation software in North America, with 10 offices throughout the continent. It now is the sixth Moldflow reseller in North America; Moldflow also has a direct sales force.  [email protected]

Sterling loading performance

Sterling (New Berlin, WI) has introduced the SVL series of self-contained air loaders. These units provide efficient conveying of resins from drums, bins, material bags, and gaylords with the use of an efficient compressed-air venturi system. A standard flange with quick-release fasteners allows for fast and easy material changes and cleanout, while a simple control assembly ensures easy-to-use operation.

Available models include the single-inlet SVL-A used to convey clean, pelletized material into a process. Additional features include a control assembly with a low-power-consumption solenoid, air filter/regulator combination with pressure gauge, and a capacitive sensor for material demand. The single-inlet SVL-B can be used for both pellets and regrind and otherwise includes the same features as the SVL-A. Further, the SVL-C is a single-inlet venturi for both pellets and regrind with a special attachment that allows for conveying of two materials (usually a virgin and a regrind) into a process. The SVL-C has similar features to the SVL-B in addition to a second control assembly for the second venturi (including air regulator with pressure gauges). Finally, the SVL-D is a mobile stand with a single inlet that is used to unload bins or grinders and to load barrels. A premium energy-saving control with alarm features is available as an option for all models. [email protected]

Two HDPE rotomolding grades launched

utilize that company’s Lupotech G technology to produce HDPE grades suitable for industrial storage tanks, containers, intermediate bulk containers, furniture, and playground and sporting equipment. The company says the materials offer a good balance of impact resistance and stiffness, with low-temperature impact performance down to –30°C, allowing its use in applications that must withstand harsh transport conditions in cold weather. In terms of environmental stress cracking resistance, LyondellBasell reports that full notch creep test (FNCT) results showed that Lupolen GX 5002 resins outperformed competitive ones and maintained mechanical properties, with a relatively high melt flow rate (MFR) of 7.5 g/10 min. The MFR gives the materials design flexibility for more complex applications like containers, crates, marine equipment, outdoor furniture, and leisure and playground equipment.

In a release, Cees Besems, technical manager of industrial packaging for LyondellBasell, said it is important to balance the MFR against mechanical properties, pointing out that typically, high melt flow and cold temperature impact can be mutually exclusive. By optimizing each without detriment to the other, LyondellBasell says higher MFR and improved stiffness could enable converters to tackle thin-wall design and lightweight part requirements. In addition, the increased density combined with a high environmental stress cracking resistance can boost the creep resistance, which is important for large rotomolded containers and tank applications that are exposed to internal pressure during storage. The company also states that Lupolen grades have a wide processing window, with cooking time—one of the determining factors of cycle time in rotomolding technology—being shorter, and thereby reducing the overall cycle.

LyondellBasell’s existing rotomolding offerings include the range of Microthene HDPE, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) powders, as well as Petrothene HDPE and LLDPE resin pellets. The Microthene HDPE comes in three grades ranging in density from 0.942-0.945 with melt indexes from 1.7-5.0. [email protected]

Solvay exits pharma business to support plastics and chemicals

Solvay’s move comes after some years of shifting among major plastics suppliers and chemical companies towards greater footing in pharmaceuticals and less exposure to chemicals and plastics. Solvay’s divestment is expected to be closed in the first quarter of 2010, pending the approval by the relevant competition authorities. After closing, the supplier says it will reinvest the proceeds in organic and “sizeable external growth.” This also will include expansion of the company’s activities in Asia and Latin America.

Solvay’s plastics division is a major supplier of PVC and currently also supplies aromatic polyamide, fluoroelastomers and fluoropolymers, liquid crystal polymer, and high-heat materials such as PEEK and PAI, as well as others. The company’s plastics investments of the last few years have been in PEEK and other high-end materials as it has sought to limit its exposure to more cyclical demand cycles such as those associated with PVC. [email protected]

Italy’s industry seeing positive signals

The stability and minor upturn comes after a harsh 32% drop in the value of exports in the first half of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008. But Assocomoplast points out that exports climbed 4% in the second quarter of the year over the previous one, and that the monthly exports in June were 6% higher than those of January.
Comparing the first six months of 2009 to the same period of 2008, a 28% increase was recorded in exports to processors in the Benelux (Belgium/The Netherlands/Luxembourg), which is the ninth-largest export partner for Assocomoplast members. Exports to the top export market, Germany, dropped 25% in the period. The value of the invoiced machinery sold into the domestic market in January-June 2009 was down by 40% with respect to the same period of 2008. [email protected]