Your Business in Brief - April 2002

Dow to End Nylon Sales for SolutiaDow Plastics, Midland, Mich., and Solutia Inc., St.

Dow to End Nylon Sales for Solutia

Dow Plastics, Midland, Mich., and Solutia Inc., St. Louis, have agreed to end their joint nylon marketing arrangement, which began in January 1999. Since then, Dow has been the exclusive marketer of Solutia’s nylon molding resins. On May 1, Solutia will resume marketing of its Vydyne nylons. A statement from the two companies said, “The anticipated synergies between the historical Dow product portfolio and Vydyne nylon resins did not materialize as expected.”


BASF to Halt U.S. Acetal Production

BASF Corp. in Mt. Olive, N.J., plans to shut down its U.S. capacity for making acetal copolymers by the second half of the year. Its plant in Theodore, Ala., has 75-million-lb/yr capacity. Despite the shutdown, BASF says it remains fully committed to supplying its Ultraform acetal in the U.S. It signed a long-term toll-production agreement with Ticona LLC of Summit, N.J., the only other U.S. maker of acetal copolymer. Ticona will make acetals for BASF in Bishop, Texas.

Industry sources say BASF’s move is linked to shifting geographic demand. Fastest growth in acetal use is now in China. OEMs that use acetals, and processors that serve them, are shifting operations to China and other Pacific Rim nations.


Low-Cost Biopolymers May Be Coming Soon

Genetically engineered microbes that produce thermoplastic polymers by fermenting cornstarch or sugar are going to start nibbling away at hydrocarbon-based resins more quickly than is generally expected. That is the view of James Barber, president of Metabolix Inc., whose company operates a pilot plant for polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) fermentation at its headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

“We’re fine-tuning our fermented PHA materials for possible use by late 2002 in adhesives, coatings, and coextrusion tie layers and heat-seal layers,” Barber said in a recent interview. He said work on scaling up production of PHA— a biodegradable polyester—is already well-advanced.

Barber anticipates that PHA production in existing, under-utilized industrial fermentation units could reduce the cost of making PHA to under $1/lb. He says grades suitable for injection and blow molding and extrusion are likely to emerge within a few years. Metabolix’s Biopol technology can already make resins with ultimate elongation from 5% to 1000%. A broad range of molecular weights and thermal and mechanical properties has also been made with PHA fermentation.

Metabolix was created in 1992 to develop PHA technology. In 2001, the company acquired Biopol technology from Monsanto. Biopol was originally developed by ICI in the 1980s. A recent $7.4 million grant to Metabolix by the U.S. Dept. of Energy will help develop a new route to bio-production of PHA. Instead of fermentation, Metabolix will investigate making PHA through photosynthesis in the leaves or roots of the switchgrass plant. This is a fast-growing, native American grass that grows relatively well even on marginal farmland. “Direct plant-grown PHA could allow us to challenge volume resins in lower-cost packaging and other markets,” Barber says.


Techmer PM to Buy Custom Colorants

Martin Color-Fi, Inc. of Edgefield, S.C., has agreed to sell the assets of its Custom Colorants Div. in Dalton, Ga., to Techmer PM, LLC of Clinton, Tenn. Custom Colorants makes pigment and additive dispersions for fibers.


LNP to CloseWest Coast Plant

LNP Engineering Plastics, Exton, Pa., will close its compounding plant in Santa Ana, Calif., this month. It is one of LNP’s four domestic and nine global plants.

Explaining the move, LNP president Richard Burns said, “Many OEMs, especially those in the information technology market, have taken their manufacturing out of the U.S.” Products made at Santa Ana will be transferred to LNP facilities in Thorndale, Pa., and San Luis Potosi, Mexico.


Wentworth Acquires Jersey Mold

Wentworth Technologies Co. Ltd., Mississauga, Ont., has purchased Jersey Mold, Inc., Millville, N.J., reportedly the leading maker of injection blow molds. This completes Wentworth’s goal to become a one-stop source for all types of blow molds for packaging anywhere in the world. Over the last six years, Wentworth has bought 10 moldmaking companies.


Sun Chemical to Buy Bayer’s U.S. Pigments

Sun Chemical Corp., Fort Lee, N.J., will acquire the U.S. organic pigments manufacturing capacity of Bayer Corp. in Bushy Park, S.C. Already one of the three leading pigments producers, Sun Chemical will expand its position in the plastics and coatings markets.

Bayer’s U.S.-made organic pigments include quinacridone reds, violets, and magentas, as well as phthalocyanine blue and green (of which Sun already is a major supplier). The purchase also includes a line of perylene reds and maroons, which complement the one perylene red currently made by Sun Chemical.

Bayer will continue to supply organic and inorganic pigments from Mexico and Germany. Those products include nickel azo yellow, Macrolex dyes, and Bauferrox iron oxides.


Goodyear Sells Off Its Specialty Modifiers

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. of Akron, Ohio, has sold its Eliokem specialty chemicals business (headquartered in France) to private investment firm Littlejohn & Co. in Greenwich, Conn. Eliokem has a broad product portfolio that includes Chemigum NBR and Sunigum elastomers used as plastics modifiers.

Chemigum NBR elastomers are copolymers of acrylonitrile and butadiene used to add permanent flexibility to PVC and CPE blends. NBR offers good resistance to fuels, fats, and oils, Sunigum is a pre-crosslinked acrylate terpolymer with functional carboxylic groups that make it compatible with a wide range of polar resins, including PVC, CPE, TPU, ABS, copolyester TPEs, EVA and EMA. This elastomer allows users to make softer grades of TPEs with superior weatherability.


Atlas Sells Non-Weather Test Systems to Dynisco

Dynisco Polymer Test, Morgantown, Pa., a division of Dynisco LLC, is acquiring the Polymer Evaluation Products business unit of Atlas Materials Testing Solutions in Chicago. The acquisition leaves Atlas to focus on its core business of weathering test instruments and services. For Dynisco, the acquisition significantly broadens the company’s materials-testing product line, which already includes melt indexers, capillary rheometers, hot-tack/heat-seal testers, and other film testing instruments for laboratory and in-process measurement.

New to the Dynisco instrument portfolio will be HDT/Vicat testers, advanced Charpy and Izod impact testers and automatic sample notcher, and LOI (limited oxygen index) testers for wire, cable, and tubing. Also included in the purchase are Atlas’ LMM (lab mixing molder) and LME (lab mixing extruder).


Alloy Polymers Buys PP Compounding Plant

Alloy Polymers of Richmond, Va., will acquire a 110-million-lb/yr polypropylene compounding plant in Gahanna, Ohio, from Basell USA, Wilmington, Del. The plant produces precolored and mineral-filled PP. For Alloy Polymers, a toll compounder of engineering thermoplastics, the acquisition marks its entry into the specialty PP compounding business. For Basell, the move is part of a strategic plan to consolidate its PP compounding at Jackson, Tenn.