Your Business In Brief - February 2000

Alliance to Supply Wood/Plastic Extrusion SystemsA cooperative alliance has been created to offer complete pre-engineered extrusion systems for wood/plastic composites.

Alliance to Supply Wood/Plastic Extrusion Systems
A cooperative alliance has been created to offer complete pre-engineered extrusion systems for wood/plastic composites. The partners are Krupp Werner & Pfleiderer Corp. of Ramsey, N.J., a maker of twin-screw compounders; Extrusion Services Inc. (ESI) of Akron, Ohio, a supplier of downstream equipment for profile, pipe, and tubing; and Extrusion Tooling Inc. of Cummings, Ga., a maker of extrusion dies and calibration tooling.

Extensive R&D was conducted among the three firms at W&P's pilot facility in Ramsey to develop systems to extrude 50% virgin wood flour with resins such as PE and PVC. The alliance enters a market populated with at least 24 producers of wood-composite profiles and tubing.


Composite House Goes Up in Two Days
A house whose exterior walls consist of FRP composite-skinned panels with insulating foam cores is being marketed by PDG Domus in Columbus, Ohio. The demonstration house pictured here was assembled in two days, using a crane-like boom to hoist prefabricated box sections into place. Even the roof consists of self-supporting FRP panels without conventional rafters. The basic house skeleton is a steel box. Floors are steel plates. PDG's CEO Nathan Pingel plans to manufacture future homes using pultruded FRP frames instead of steel.

The five major components that compose the house each measure roughly 10 x 10 x 20 ft. The outer skins are a composite of glass cloth and mat, ceramic fibers, and 30% fire-resistant Modar modified-acrylic thermoset resin from the Composite Polymers Div. of Ashland Specialty Chemical Co., Dublin, Ohio. A blend of resin and chopped ceramic fibers is simultaneously pumped and vacuum-drawn into a closed RTM-type mold that has previously received a fire-resistant gelcoat by spraying or roll coating.

The panels' inner skin is steel studs bonded to drywall. After inserting electrical conduit, the two skins are bonded together in a press using Ashland's Pliogrip urethane adhesive. The panel remains in the press while isocyanurate foam is injected between the skins. The wall sections are assembled to the box frame in-plant. Then, when the house is assembled on-site, the wall sections have steel members that slide into slots in the steel frame and are fastened with screws and adhesive.


Albemarle to Buy Ferro's Flame Retardant Business
Albemarle Corp., Baton Rouge, La., has agreed to buy the Pyro-Chek flame-retardant additives business from Ferro Corp., Cleveland. Pyro-Chek brominated-PS polymeric flame retardants will be added to Albemarle's Saytex and NcendX lines of brominated FR additives.

Separately, Albemarle and the Borax Flame Retardant Group of Valencia, Calif., have agreed to develop jointly new flame-retardant systems. They will explore new uses of zinc borate (ZnB) and other borates. ZnB is used mainly in rigid PVC, epoxies, and nylons. The two firms will also seek new applications for Albemarle's brominated FR agents, which are used primarily in styrenics. Joint R&D will explore PS, ABS, PBT, and PET. Another area will be polyolefin wire & cable, where borates can reduce dripping.


Arco Starts Up West Coast PP Unit
Arco Polypropylene, Los Angeles, a joint venture of Arco and Itochu of Japan, has started up its first polypropylene plant at Carson, Calif. The 440-million-lb/yr plant is the only PP facility west of the Rockies and represents Arco's re-entry into the polyolefins business.


ICI Acrylics Is Now Ineos Acrylics
Following its purchase by the U.K.-based Ineos Group, the former ICI Acrylics has changed its name to Ineos Acrylics. It is a global producer of methyl methacrylate and acrylic plastics. Lucite and Perspex are two of its brands. Its U.S. headquarters is in Cordova, Tenn.


Dow and Cargill Fund Large Biopolymer Plant
The boards of Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., and Cargill Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., have approved funding for joint construction of the first-ever world-scale facility to produce polylactic acid (PLA) polymers. The plant is being built by the two firms' 50/50 joint venture, Cargill Dow Polymers LLC, based in Minnetonka. It will have around 300 million lb/yr capacity and will come on stream in Blair, Neb., late next year. At present, Cargill Dow Polymers (CDP) has an 8 million lb/yr pilot plant that will be expanded to twice that size this spring.

CDP's PLA polymer, trade-named NatureWorks, is made originally from unrefined corn sugar, which is bacterially fermented to produce lactic acid. The purified lactic acid is then polymerized into PLA resin, a clear thermoplastic that is said to have properties very useful for packaging and fibers. It can be processed on standard equipment in virtually any thermoplastic process and is said to run very much like LDPE. PLA is expected to compete with a wide range of standard resins, including PET, PE, PP, PS, and PVC. It can be used in food contact and can be recycled or composted. Cargill Dow is hoping for a commercial price range of 50¢ to $1/lb. It is working with at least a dozen processors in Europe, Japan, and Canada, which are test marketing applications from bi-oriented films to coated paper, thermoformed packaging, bottles, and textiles.


Conoco to Commercialize New Pitch-Based Carbon Fiber
A new type of carbon fiber expected to have applications in plastics and composites will be introduced next year by Conoco Inc., the Houston-based oil company formerly owned by DuPont Co. After 12 years of development, Conoco is making its entry into the carbon-fiber market with a new production technology based on petroleum pitch. Unlike carbon fibers based on relatively costly polyacrylonitrile, Conoco's process converts a low-value oil-refinery byproduct into a high-strength fiber. Conoco executive v.p. Jim Nokes says this fiber is "vastly different from existing carbon-based fibers" and has unique properties that can enhance existing reinforced products and open up new applications. Conoco plans to start up an 8-million-lb/yr plant in Ponca City, Okla., in the second quarter of 2001.


Ticona to Expand Nylon Compounding
Ticona in Summit, N.J., will add 25 million lb/yr of Celanese nylon 66 compounding capacity at Bishop, Texas, during the second half of this year. Products to be made at the new facility include impact-modified, uv-stabilized, glass-filled, and glass/mineral-filled grades.


PolyChem Alloy Moving
PolyChem Alloy, Inc., a custom and toll compounder of polyolefins and engineering resins in Granite Falls, N.C., is moving to a larger facility in Lenoir, N.C. To meet increased demand, the company built a 30,000-sq-ft plant adjacent to a new 5000-sq-ft office facility in Lenoir Industrial Park. Construction will be completed this month. PolyChem will expand its capacity there with a new twin-screw compounding line.


Steel Maker Offers Mold Components
Thyssen Specialty Steels Inc., Carol Stream, Ill., is now selling mold and die components made by Lamina Inc. of Royal Oak, Mich. Thyssen will stock and sell five types of bushings: L gibs, V gibs, and gib assemblies in self-lubricating or non-lubricating versions. It will also offer bronze and self-lube wear plates, as well as leader pins and springs.


DuPont & Multibase In TPE Alliance
DuPont Co., Wilmington, Del., has entered into a global alliance with French compounder Multibase (parent of Multibase, Inc. in Copley, Ohio) to manufacture and distribute new TPEs based on DuPont's Elvaloy TPE NH4 and NH2 materials. Based on DuPont's proprietary multipolymer reactive chemistry, Elvaloy will be combined with polyolefins to make TPEs with good elastic memory and high resistance to heat, uv, and chemicals. Applications are sought in automotive, cosmetics packaging, and wire and cable.


Dow Opens SPS Plant
Dow Plastics, Midland, Mich., has started up its first commercial production plant for Questra syndiotactic polystyrene (SPS) crystalline polymers. Located in Schkopau, Germany, it can produce 80 million lb/yr.


Spartech to Buy Uniroyal's High-Performance Plastics
St. Louis-based Spartech Corp. has agreed to acquire all of the assets of High Performance Plastics Inc., South Bend, Ind., from Uniroyal Technology Corp. It has two operating divisions: Polycast, which makes cell-cast acrylic, and Royalite, which extrudes thermoplastic sheet. The acquisition includes nine HPP manufacturing plants in North America.


Reifenhauser Moves Offices
Reifenhauser Inc. moved last month from Lawrence, Mass., to a 19,000-sq-ft facility in Ipswich, Mass. A blown film line is available for lab and demonstration purposes. Phone and fax numbers are unchanged.


Dow & BASF to Buy PUR Systems Houses
Last month, two major producers of polyurethane chemicals agreed to purchase large PUR systems formulators. First, Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., will buy Flexible Products Co. of Marietta, Ga. Flexible Products supplies custom foam formulations and dispensing equipment. It serves refrigeration, construction, furniture, roofing, packaging, geotechnical, and transportation markets. Flexible Products owns four manufacturing sites in Marietta; Joliet, Ill.; Austin, Texas; and Toronto. BASF Corp. in Mt. Olive, N.J., will acquire IPI International, a unit of PMC Inc., in Elkton, Md. IPI supplies PUR systems for sprayed insulation and other rigid and flexible foam and non-foam products.


AEC Sterling Moves Granulator Operations
AEC Sterling Corp., Wood Dale, Ill., is moving all Nelmor and Ball & Jewell granulator and shredder operations from North Uxbridge, Mass., to South Attleboro, Mass. South Attleboro is the home of Cumberland Engineering, a sister company of AEC Sterling that makes granulators and pelletizers. Both firms will continue to market their own lines of products.