Your Business in Brief - January 2002

Bimetalix Joins With SpirexBimetalix of Sullivan, Wis., a producer of bimetallic single- and twin-screw barrels, has become a division of Spirex Corp., Youngstown, Ohio.

Bimetalix Joins With Spirex

Bimetalix of Sullivan, Wis., a producer of bimetallic single- and twin-screw barrels, has become a division of Spirex Corp., Youngstown, Ohio. Spirex, which makes screws, valves, and other plasticating components for extrusion, injection, and blow molding, now can design and build complete plasticating systems.


Alliance Develops Nano-Blend Screw

Nano-clay producer Nanocor, Inc., Arlington Heights, Ill., has a joint-development program with screw and barrel maker New Castle Industries of New Castle, Pa. Their goal is to develop plasticating equipment for injection molding and extruding plastic nanocomposites.

The first result of their technical cooperation was New Castle’s October introduction of the Nano Mixer screw, capable of dispersing Nanocor’s nano-clay concentrates in virtually any standard single-screw extruder or molding machine. Film-quality dispersions, however, require continued development.


Weatherable Film Steps Into People-Mover Role

Sollx decorative film from GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass., has found its first commercial application in the fender of the new Segway HT (Human Transporter) device. This self-balancing, two-wheeled unit, introduced last month by Segway LLC in Manchester, N.H., provides pedestrians with an ability to move more easily and quickly than before on sidewalks and in large workplaces. The surfacing film for this in-mold decorated part is extruded by GE Structured Products from a novel resin that GE now reveals is a polyestercarbonate, a type of polycarbonate copolymer.

“Esthetics are the prime reason for this film’s adoption, since it provides a paint-free solution,” says a GE source. A thermoformed film insert is placed in an injection mold and then backed up with GE’s Xenoy PC/PBT. The film imparts a paint-like, Class-A surface that is expected to retain its color and high gloss for 10 years outdoors. It also offers scratch and chemical resistance.

The Segway HT is electrically powered and uses a gyroscope to balance the rider and guide movement at up to 12.5 mph. The rider can carry up to 75-lb loads. The device has a footprint narrower than an average adult’s shoulder width. Initial evaluation of the devices is already under way by the U.S. Postal Service, Michelin North America, and the U.S. National Park Service.

GE expects to make Sollx film generally available by mid-2002. Development programs using Sollx film are under way in automotive and other areas. GE is also developing thicker sheet versions.


Three-Way Alliance for TP/TS Molding

Three German-based materials and machinery firms have signed a cooperation agreement to develop hard/soft combinations of engineering thermoplastics and thermoset silicone elastomers. Hard parts with molded-in seals would be one example. The partners are Bayer AG, GE Bayer Silicones (a joint venture of Bayer and GE Silicones), and Krauss-Maffei. Their efforts will focus on using K-M two-component, rotary-platen machines to mold liquid silicone and Bayer’s nylon, polycarbonate, and PBT, plus alloys.


Chevron Phillips To Add PPS Compounds

To satisfy fast-growing demand for PPS materials, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. is building a new 15.4-million-lb/yr compounding plant in Houston, where the company is headquartered. It will start up in September.


Cargill Dow PLA Plant Starts Up

The first-ever world-scale production facility for biodegradable polylactide (PLA) polymers opened last month in Blair, Neb. The 300-million-lb/yr plant produces NatureWorks PLA for the Cargill Dow LLC joint venture, based in Minnetonka, Minn. The resin is made from lactic acid, which is produced from cornstarch and other plant carbohydrates by bacterial fermentation. Using material from a semi-works plant, Cargill Dow has already developed applications in fibers, thermoformed containers, cups, and packaging films. Current commercial uses include film for packaging golf balls and mini-CDs, as well as thermoformed trays and film for packaging fresh pasta and salads. PLA is said to show good clarity, gloss, deadfold, twist retention, heat-sealability, and flavor and aroma barrier. After use, the material is fully compostable.

Meanwhile, Cargill Dow is now collaborating with Mitsui Chemicals, Inc. of Tokyo on PLA technology and market development. The companies are exchanging intellectual property and technical information. Customers of both parties will thereby not have to be concerned about potential patent restrictions from either firm. Mitsui has the rights to sell PLA resin in Japan, and Cargill Dow will continue to sell PLA to its accounts worldwide, including those in Japan.

Mitsui makes its own Lacea-brand PLA resin in a pilot plant. Dow found that Mitsui’s technology for materials, processing, and applications can be applied to NatureWorks PLA. Dow will supply resin from its new plant to Mitsui, which will sell it under the Lacea name.


PolyOne Expands Out West

This month, PolyOne Corp. of Cleveland plans to complete an expansion of its color-compounding plant in Glendale, Ariz. It will almost double plant capacity, improve rapid-response capabilities by focusing on small- and medium-lot order sizes, and greatly enhance customer service for the Western region, according to the company. The Glendale plant will grow from its present 25,000 sq ft to almost 60,000 sq ft. Many new employees will be transferred there from other company colorant facilities.

With the expansion and renovation, Western customers will typically see a seven-day or faster turnaround on orders. “We will significantly expand our services for the Western region for order sizes between 50 and 5000 lb,” says Glendale plant manager Rod Myers. PolyOne will also establish six new Western distribution centers by the end of the year.


Hull/finmac Builds Nano-Molder

Hull/finmac, Inc. of Warminster, Pa., has an exclusive license to build the patented Sesame Nanomolding machine developed by Murray, Inc., Buffalo Grove, Ill. This two-stage, electric- and air-driven micro-injection press molds parts as small as 0.0001 g with walls only 0.001 in. thick.


Spirex to Supply Twinshot Retrofits

Twinshot Technologies, Rifton, N.Y., has licensed Spirex Corp., Youngstown, Ohio, to supply equipment for retrofitting standard injection machines for the Twinshot coinjection process. The process is a relatively economical way to mold sandwich structures of two colors or materials (including virgin and regrind) with a single-barrel machine. Spirex, which built the first Twinshot prototype, offers a special screw, barrel, and check valve to convert existing presses.


Eastman Delays Spin-Off Of Specialty Business

Citing “adverse market conditions” and uncertainty about the near future, Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn., has decided to postpone the spin-off of its specialty chemicals and plastics business into a separate company. Eastman expects to review the situation in the middle of 2002.


European Union Stops Tetra Laval Bid for Sidel

The European Commission, executive arm of the European Union, has vetoed the proposed acquisition of Sidel S.A. of France by Swiss-based Tetra Laval, owner of the Tetra Pak packaging business. According to the EC, the take-over would “combine Tetra’s dominant position in liquid carton packaging with Sidel’s leading position in PET packaging equipment.” The Commission believes the two liquid packaging alternatives are too closely related to permit such a concentration.


Merger in Carbon Black

Degussa Corp. of Parsippany, N.J., and Engineered Carbons, Inc. (ECI), Borger, Texas, will combine their North American carbon-black businesses into a 50/50 joint venture to be called Degussa Engineered Carbons, LP. The new Parsippany-based company was scheduled to begin operating Jan. 1.

Sales and marketing will be handled by the Advanced Fillers & Pigments business unit of Degussa. The new venture has six plants.