GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass., has agreed with Kawasaki Steel Corp. of Japan to acquire Kawasaki's LNP Engineering Plastics business, based in Exton, Pa. The sale is expected to be completed in this first quarter. The LNP business will be combined with complementary GE units to form a global compounding business, headquartered in Exton. The resulting business will have 13 manufacturing locations throughout the world including Selkirk, N.Y.; Thorndale, Pa.; Columbus, Ind., Katy, Texas (recycled materials); Santa Ana, Calif.; and Cobourg, Ont., as well as plants in Mexico, Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy, France, England, and Malaysia.
Dow Plastics, Midland, Mich., has opted out of its polypropylene joint venture with oil refiner Tosco, which is now a subsidiary of Phillips Petroleum. Through its acquisition of Union Carbide, Dow acquired Carbide's share of a new 770-million-lb/yr PP plant in Linden, N.J. Phillips postponed the plant's start-up from late 2001 to about mid-year 2002. It is now Phillips' only chemical activity that is not part of ChevronPhillips Chemical.
The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in Washington, D.C., has alerted its members that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a special program to reduce workplace amputations in general industry. OSHA calculates industry amputation hazard rates using injury data and violations of machine safeguarding standards. By this method, OSHA established that workplaces classified as SIC 3089—Plastics Products Not Elsewhere Classified—have the highest risk for such injuries among all industry segments. Accordingly, SPI warns, "Plastics companies listed under SIC Code 3089 will be the No. 1 focus of OSHA inspections under this new initiative. These inspections are expected to begin in February."
SIC 3089 roughly corresponds to custom plastics processors other than compounders or producers of film, sheet, profiles, laminates, pipe, bottles, foams, and plumbing fixtures.
The OSHA National Emphasis Program on Hazardous Machinery Associated with Amputations targets workplaces that use any type of power press (including press brakes), saws, shears, slicers, and slitters. According to OSHA, workers who operate such equipment suffer more than 10,000 amputations and over 800 deaths per year. The OSHA program is described on the agency's website at www.osha-slc.gov/OshDoc/Directive_data/CPL_2-1.33.html.
SPI plans to kick off training on this subject on Feb. 14 with a machine and plant safety workshop telecast over its Plastics Learning Network to nearly a dozen viewing sites across the country. For information, contact Susan Howe, SPI senior technical director for worker & product safety, at (202) 974-5223 or e-mail email@example.com.
Solvay S.A. of Belgium is buying Ausimont, the Italian-based fluorinated specialties group, from Montedison of Italy and a minority investor. This acquisition would make Solvay the number-two producer worldwide of fluoroproducts, including fluoropolymers and fluoroelastomers. Solvay currently produces Solef PVDF resins, while Ausimont makes Hylar PVDF, Algoflon PTFE, Hyflon MFA and PFA, Halar ECTFE, and Tecnoflon fluoroelastomers. Completion of the acquisition is anticipated by mid-year. Solvay says it is likely to finance the purchase partly by selling its share of the new BP Solvay Polyethylene HDPE joint ventures in the U.S. and Europe.
Infinite Group, Inc., Warwick, R.I., has closed its Osley & Whitney, Inc. moldmaking subsidiary in Westfield, Mass. O&W, a venerable name among injection mold builders, posted losses for several quarters due to price competition from abroad and the severe slowdown in plastics.
Basell Polyolefins, Wilmington, Del., is getting out of the UHMW-PE (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) business and is mothballing its Spherilene LLDPE plant in Lake Charles, La. The moves are part of an overall restructuring plan, with the company's focus now aimed at improving the efficiency of its two world-scale PP plants at the Lake Charles site.
Basell agreed to sell its UHMW-PE business to Brazil's Polialden Petroquimica S.A. of Sao Paulo, one of the leading UHMW-PE producers in the world and a major HDPE supplier in South America. Polialden's global UHMW-PE business will be managed from a new subsidiary to be established in Wilmington. The sale does not include Basell's UHMW-PE plant in Lake Charles, which will be closed by the end of this January.
Meanwhile, Basell's Spherilene LLDPE plant in Lake Charles will be shut down at the end of March. Basell's only other Spherilene plant is a pilot facility in Ferrara, Italy, used for R&D. Globally, Basell has six licensees operating their own Spherilene plants. Even with Spherilene as only a licensing and R&D business, Basell will remain a leading supplier PE in Europe. It has a total capacity there of almost 5.35 billion lb/yr of mostly HDPE and LDPE. A French joint venture produces LLDPE, but not with Spherilene technology.
Basell will also continue to supply PE in North America—e.g., Lupolen 4261AG HDPE for automotive fuel systems and intermediate bulk containers. It is made for Basell by ChevronPhillips Chemical. Basell also will import PE grades for crosslinked pipe and pharmaceutical packaging.
Azdel Inc., Shelby, N.C., producer of Azdel glass-mat thermoplastic (GMT) sheet for compression molding, will approximately double the capacity of its Lynchburg, Va., plant to 30 million lb/yr in this first quarter. This plant makes Azdel SuperLite low-density composite, which is rapidly gaining acceptance in automotive interior uses such as headliners, according to the company. The expansion will provide increased product widths to 2 meters, plus improved weight consistency and surface quality.
Azdel also will install a new chopped-strand GMT production line at Shelby by the fourth quarter. It will produce new materials, such as a grade designed for bumpers.
Azdel products are marketed by GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass.
The first commercial plastics application of polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT) polyester has been launched by RTP Co. of Winona, Minn., in conjunction with Epcos AG, a German manufacturer of electronic components. Epcos needed a halogen-free FR compound for coil bobbins (photo). Epcos settled on one of RTP's 4700 series of PTT compounds, which contain 10% to 33% glass and non-halogen flame retardants. RTP says PTT has higher strength and stiffness than PBT, plus lower cost. PTT is also less moisture sensitive than PET and much easier to crystallize.
There are two suppliers of PTT resin, both of which have focused their attention mainly on fibers. PTT's potential in plastics compounding is still in the early stages. Shell Chemical Co., Houston, produces Corterra PTT at a 160-million-lb/yr plant in Geismar, La. Marketing manager Chris Smith says that while the company's marketing effort is dedicated to fibers, Corterra is also available to plastics compounders. Through a proposed joint venture, Shell aims to build a world-scale, 210-million-lb/yr PTT plant in Quebec by 2003.
DuPont Co. in Wilmington, Del., has licensed its PTT fiber technology globally and has been supplying Sorona 3GT (three-carbon glycol/terephthalate) PTT polymer to the fibers market since April 2000 from a 20-million-lb/yr plant in Kingston, N.C. For the future, DuPont is developing a biotechnology process using plant sugars as a PTT raw material. According to technology and business development manager Ray Miller, the biotechnology process is more economical, so the price of sugar-derived polymer would likely be somewhere between PET and nylon 6. DuPont aims to commercialize this approach in 2003.
Both DuPont's engineering thermoplastics and packaging businesses are actively exploring applications for PTT. Initial research evaluations indicate that it has higher oxygen and moisture barrier than PET. Unlike PET, PTT has inherent stretchiness, which could provide puncture resistance in packaging and improved elastic recovery for industrial parts like snap-fit connectors. In addition, the HDT and melting point of PTT are very similar to PBT and nylon 6.
Sustatec LLC, a custom extruder of plastic rod, sheet, and tube, has opened its first U.S. plant to produce high-performance stock shapes for machining. The company was created in late 2001 by Sustaplast AG, itself part of Rochling Plastics Group, in Mannheim, Germany. Sustatec is separate from Sustaplast in Edgewood, N.Y., a sister company that supplies standard stock shapes from inventory.
Sustatec's new 25,000-sq-ft facility in Exton, Pa., extrudes shapes from specialty compounds of polymers like PEEK, PPS, PBT, PC/PBT, and ABS. These are modified with carbon fibers and other reinforcements, as well as flame retardants, lubricants, conductive fillers, and other additives.
The company offers rods of 0.25 to 12 in. diam., slabs 0.25 to 4 in. thick, and calendered sheet and tubular bar products. Key target markets are medical, semi-conductor, and defense-equipment, as well as the oil, gas, and chemicals industries.
PolyOne Corp., Avon Lake, Ohio, plans to reorganize its far-flung PVC compounding operations, shutter capacity at three locations, and reinvest in new processing equipment as a way to spur growth. PolyOne earlier announced similar plans for the rest of its Plastic Compounds and Colors group.
The lynchpin of PolyOne's reorganization is the creation of nine Centers of Manufacturing Excellence (CMEs) at existing production sites, each dedicated to specialized aspects of PVC compounding. Conversion of existing multi-purpose sites into CMEs with more defined roles is expected to occur by late 2002. At that time, three other PolyOne PVC compounding operations will be permanently shuttered.
Two of the plants scheduled for shutdown are in New Jersey. They are a facility in Burlington that makes rigid vinyls, and a second in Farmingdale that does laboratory work and compounding. A third plant to be closed is in Valleyfield, Que. Products made there include Syncure crosslinked-PE compounds for wire and cable. That business is to be transferred to PolyOne's site in Macedonia, Ohio.
Another CME is the Avon Lake, Ohio, flagship facility, which will supply FDA grades for food and medical packaging, as well as rigid compounds for custom molding and profiles. Terra Haute, Ind., will supply rigid pipe-fitting compounds. Niagara Falls, Ont., will concentrate on compounds for custom and automotive profiles. A CME in Louisville, Ky., will focus on wire and cable compounds. The bulk of PolyOne's planned $19-million investment in its vinyl business over the coming year will be concentrated at these facilities.
For flexible PVC, additional CMEs are to be located in Orangeville, Ont. (for wire and cable), and Long Beach, Calif. (supporting the West Coast). Meanwhile, CMEs dedicated to dry powder blends will be located in Pasadena, Tex., Plaquemine, La., and St. Remi-de-Napierville, Que.
Two compounders of engineering thermoplastics recently added capacity. Both installed additional twin-screw compounding lines from NFM/Welding Engineers of Massilon, Ohio.
Chem Polymer Corp. in Ft. Myers, Fla., added a new 75-mm corotating TEM-75SS machine, built by NFM/WE under license from Toshiba of Japan. The new line will help Chem Polymer extend its activities in automotive materials and diversify into other markets, says president Evan DeWulf.
Multibase, Inc. in Copley, Ohio, increased its capacity by 15 million lb/yr through the addition of two new twin-screw lines and the purchase of underwater pelletizers to raise outputs of existing lines. The expansion reportedly was necessitated by growing usage of precolored airbag materials and special TPOs for building construction.
3D Systems Corp., Valencia, Calif., and DSM Desotech Inc., Elgin, Ill., have formed OptoForm LLC, a joint venture to develop new equipment and materials for photocurable rapid-tooling and rapid-manufacturing processes. The materials will include ceramics, composite tooling materials, and toughened plastics suitable for functional parts. R&D is proceeding at both 3D Systems and DSM Somos Div. of DSM Desotech in New Castle, Del.
3D Systems is the world's leading supplier of equipment for stereolithography and selective laser sintering (it acquired DTM Systems' SLS business in 2001). With the purchase of RPC Ltd. in Switzerland last year, 3D Systems also produces SLA materials. DSM Desotech and DSM Somos are major producers of photocurable materials.
The joint venture is developing process technology acquired by 3D Systems last year when it bought OptoForm SARL in France. OptoForm machines for rapid tooling and rapid manufacturing can use liquid or non-liquid materials such as pastes or composites containing glass, ceramics, or metals. With this technology, 3D Systems began developing systems for "DCM" (direct composite manufacturing). Commercialization of DCM is expected in the last half of 2002 or early 2003. The partners believe it will ultimately rival stereolithography in market importance.
The joint venture is placing three OptoForm prototype units at customer locations to aid in development of materials, hardware, and software. Initial tests will focus on automotive and aerospace uses.