There are more questions than answers surrounding recent reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times that General Electric Co. is in the early stages of placing its plastics business on the auction block. The parent company is reported to be seeking bids from as many as six parties, including private-equity investors and plastics firms. Coincidentally or not, the engineering-resins giant also laid off 20 employees at its corporate headquarters in Pittsfield, Mass., the same day the WSJ report was published.
The key parties—including GE and Goldman Sachs, the investment bank hired by GE to find buyers—are mum on the subject. However, a recent statement by GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt suggests that the plastics unit is no longer seen as a high-growth profit contributor and doesn’t fit GE’s ambitious growth strategy. In a quarterly assessment late last year, Immelt said GE would “invest only in specialized higher-margin plastics, not the commodity plastics in its portfolio.”
That left it unclear whether GE would divest the entire unit, sell the pieces separately, or even keep parts such as its flagship Lexan polycarbonate business and some higher-performance specialty materials like Ultem polyetherimide and its brand-new Extem TP polyimide, a super-high-heat cousin to Ultem.
GM Electric Car Has Plastic Glazing And New TP Composite Panels
A range of engineering resins and a new lightweight thermoplastic composite from GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass., are employed in the body panels and glazing of General Motors’ latest concept vehicle, the new Chevrolet Volt. The hybrid electric-drive vehicle, introduced last month at the North American International Auto show in Detroit, is designed to run 40 miles on pure electric power with a battery that can be recharged via a small gas engine (though the battery has yet to be developed).
The Volt features GE’s developmental high-performance thermoplastic composite (HPCC) in the doors and hood. The three-layer sheet manufactured by Azdel Inc. (a GE/PPG joint venture), Southfield, Mich., has a core of low-density Azdel Superlite sheet consisting of 50% random chopped glass and GE’s Valox PBT. The skins are made from 50% continuous unidirectional glass and Xenoy iQ PC/PBT resin, a new GE blend of PBT made with 85% post-consumer recycled PET. The 3-mm-thick sheet is heated and formed in a low-pressure process similar to compression molding. It offers high ductility and Class A surface. HPCC will appear in off-line paintable parts in 2007 and in on-line paintable applications in 2008, according to Derek Buckmaster, GE’s global marketing director for body panels and glazing.
The concept car’s roof, rear deck, and fixed side glazing is injection molded of high-impact, weatherable Lexan GLX polycarbonate with a special coating from Exatec LLC, Wixom, Mich., GE’s joint venture with Bayer MaterialScience. The steering wheel and instrument panel with integrated airbag chute are injection molded of Lexan EXL PC-silicone copolymer for high ductility at low temperature, and the front fenders are Noryl GTX PPO/nylon alloy. Bumper energy absorbers of Xenoy iQ meet pedestrian safety regulations worldwide. The car’s wire coating is made of Flexible Noryl.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics (SGPPL), Aurora, Ohio, has acquired Consolidated Polymer Technologies (CPT), Clearwater, Fla. CPT makes C-Flex SEBS-based medical-grade TPE compounds and TPE tubing and molded products. SGPPL extrudes specialty pipe and tubing.
Fiberglass maker Johns Manville, Denver, is expanding its chopped-strand and rovings plant in Waterville, Ohio. Until the project’s mid-summer completion, the unit will be out of service, but customers will be supplied from inventory.
A merger in Germany creates a new force in plastics machinery. Bruckner Group (U.S. office in Greenville, S.C.), specialist in cast film extrusion and orienting, has purchased Kiefel AG. One of Kiefel’s two main branches (parent of Kiefel Technologies, Hampton, N.H.) makes thermoforming and welding equipment. Kiefel Extrusion GmbH (parent of Kiefel Inc., Wrentham, Mass.) is known for blown film systems and winders.
Composites equipment maker Magnum Venus Products, Clearwater, Fla., has changed its name as a result of its acquisition of Plastech T.T., a U.K. producer of RTM equipment. The new name is Magnum Venus Plastech.
Illinois Tool Works Inc., Glenview, Ill., has purchased Franklynn Industries, Inc., Loveland, Ohio. Franklynn—a supplier of mold releases, sealers, and rust-proofers—will remain in Loveland as part of ITW Performance Polymers.
Canon U.S.A., Inc., a supplier of cameras, printers, copiers, and fax machines, is now offering its expertise in making complex injection molds to other manufacturers. This service comes from Canon Virginia, Inc. (Newport News), an injection molding and moldmaking facility. Its proprietary “quick tooling” software reportedly converts mold designs rapidly into machining code to shorten lead times.
Molders of packaging for perfume, cosmetics, and personal-care items can visit a new website launched by DuPont Packaging and Industrial Polymers, Wilmington, Del. The site, www.cosmetics.dupont.com, discusses the company’s materials for these applications, as well as product designs, applications, consumer trends, and globalization of the cosmetics industry.