Your Business in Brief - June 2001

Eastman, Spartech Partner in SheetSpartech Corp., St.

Eastman, Spartech Partner in Sheet

Spartech Corp., St. Louis, and Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn., have a new joint marketing agreement to supply Spectar PETG sheet to North American thermoformers and fabricators. Spartech Plastics will extrude the sheet from Eastman’s Spectar resin. Spartech is the exclusive North American distributor of Spectar sheet.
Eastman says Spectar fills a need in the sign and display market for a crystal-clear, durable material that is competitively priced. It has become Eastman’s fastest-growing specialty plastic.


Dynisco Hot Runners Changes Name

Next month, Synventive Molding Solutions becomes the new name of Dynisco Hot Runners, Gloucester, Mass. Ownership of Dynisco Hot Runners was separated from that of the other Dynisco units late last year.


BP Amoco Is Now Called BP

As of May 1, BP plc is the new name of BP Amoco, the petroleum and chemicals giant with offices in London and Chicago. The name change was voted by shareholders on April 19.


PLA Resin Finds First Use In Packaging Film

NatureWorks PLA, a degradable polylactide polymer made by Cargill Dow LLC, Minnetonka, Minn., has scored its first full-scale commercial use in packaging film. It is being used as the exterior film wrapping on golf-ball packages sold in Japan by Dunlop Japan Ltd. The biodegradable film is manufactured by Mitsubishi Plastics and is then laminated to the paperboard carton material. PLA film was chosen for its high clarity, high gloss, uv stability, and good deadfold properties. It is also fully degradable in a municipal compost.

NatureWorks PLA is made from lactic acid that is fermented from cornstarch. Cargill Dow says other applications of the technology include injection-blow molded bottles and foam products.


GE to Restructure Its Plastics Unit

Last month, the General Electric Co. announced a significant reorganization plan for its GE Plastics business unit based in Pittsfield, Mass. Under the plan, GE Plastics would retain the engineering resins, Structured Products, and PolymerShapes (stock-shapes distribution) business groups, while GE Silicones in Waterford, N.Y., and GE Specialty Chemicals, Parkersburg, W.Va., would become part of a new entity called GE Specialty Materials. Also to be folded into that new unit will be GE SuperAbrasives, and GE Quartz, a supplier of lighting materials. The restructuring anticipates GE’s acquisition of Honeywell International, which would contribute additional plastics and specialty-materials businesses. The U.S. Justice Dept. approved the merger plan last week, leaving agreement by the European Commission as the last major hurdle to the merger’s completion.


Two Acquisitions in Cable Compounds

Two wire and cable compounding businesses recently changed hands:

  • Equistar Chemicals LP in Houston signed a letter of intent to buy the low- and medium-voltage power-cable formulating business of AT Plastics Inc. in Brampton, Ont. AT Plastics’ medium-voltage polyolefin compounds are marketed under the name PowerGuard. They include crosslinkable insulation and semi-conductive insulation shields. AT’s low-voltage compounds are marketed under the trade name Aqua-Link and include moisture-crosslinkable compounds. Included in the acquisition is a compounding plant in Peachtree City, Ga., that started up in 1999.
  • Borealis Group of Denmark, a global producer of polyolefins and wire/cable compounds, has assumed full ownership and management control of Nova-Borealis Compounds LLC, a wire and cable compounding operation in Rockport, N.J. Nova-Borealis Compounds was formed in 1996 as a joint venture between Borealis and Nova Chemicals Ltd. of Calgary, Alberta. The facility is expected to triple its production this year.


Formosa Starts Up First Train of New PP Unit

Formosa Plastics Corp., Livingston, N.J., has started up the first half of its new 700-million-lb/yr PP plant in Point Comfort, Texas. The first 350-million-lb train produces homopolymers, impact copolymers, and random copolymers. Due to current PP oversupply, Formosa is postponing start-up of the second train. The new plant has the largest reactors in the world using Chisso technology, which produces fractional-melt and high-crystalline grades. Formosa’s existing PP unit in Texas uses BASF Novolen technology (now owned by Equistar).


Tier-One Molders License MuCell Process

Four tier-one automotive suppliers of injection molded parts have taken licenses to use the MuCell microcellular foam process offered by Trexel Inc., Woburn, Mass. The MuCell process heats and pressurizes carbon dioxide or nitrogen to a supercritical state and injects it into the melt to produce uniform closed cells as small as 5-50 microns. The new licensees are D&R Technologies LLC, Rolling Meadows, Ill.; Pixley Richards Inc., Plymouth, Mass.; Thermotech, Hopkins, Minn.; and Tricon Industries, Lisle, Ill.


Resin Sales Drop 3.5% Through Feb.

January’s 2.9% uptick in domestic consumption of volume thermoplastics—the first increase in nine months—proved to be a momentary blip. February’s statistics from the American Plastics Council (APC), Arlington, Va., showed a 9.1% drop in usage compared with February 2000. In January, sales of LDPE, LLDPE, and PP were up from 9% to 14%, pulling the overall average out of the minus column. But in February, all resin types showed declines. As a result, overall thermoplastics consumption for the first two months of this year was 3.5% less than for those months in 2000.

Resin suppliers speculate that the January blip occurred as processors restocked inventories that they let shrink in November and December. Prebuying in anticipation of price increases may have been another factor.


RKC Instrument Acquires Syscon-RKC

RKC Instrument of Japan, a producer of temperature and process controls and sensors, has purchased the Syscon-RKC div. of Syscon International, South Bend, Ind. Syscon-RKC has supplied RKC products in North America for over 20 years. RKC Instrument has new offices at 4245 Meghan Beeler Court, Suite 2, South Bend, IN 46628; tel. (219) 273-6099; or visit


HunkarAcquires TriData Technologies

Hunkar Laboratories Inc., Cincinnati, has bought TriData Technologies, also in Cincinnati. TriData is a 10-year-old developer and supplier of barcode product-tracking systems, time-and-attendance modules, scanning and label-printing equipment, and disposable ribbon and label materials. TriData will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Hunkar, which makes process and production data-acquisition systems, molding-machine process controls, barcode systems, pressure sensors, and parts-conveying equipment. Says Hunkar president and CEO Eric R. Thiemann, “TriData products are both easy to use and very affordable. TriData takes full responsibility for projects from system design right on through to installation, training, and follow-up support.”


Albemarle Expands into Mineral Flame Retardants

Albemarle Corp., Richmond, Va., a major supplier of bromine-based flame retardants, will soon expand its business to include mineral-based FR compounds. The company is acquiring Germany’s Martinswerk GmbH, the world’s biggest producer of alumina trihydrate for plastics and rubber. The deal includes Martinswerk’s manufacturing facilities and headquarters in Bergheim, and its 50% stake in Magnifin Magnesia Produkte GmbH, a leading producer of magnesium hydroxide FR agents in Austria. Both ATH and MgOH are used in applications that require low smoke and gas emissions. Acquisition of these non-halogen products is expected to expand Albemarle’s global reach and customer base in polyolefin wire and cable markets.


AGR Creates Agr TopWave

AGR International Inc. in Butler, Pa., has merged the recently acquired TopWave Industries with its own plastic product-testing equipment into a new entity, Agr TopWave LLC. TopWave makes test equipment related to plastic bottle manufacture, such as thickness and visual inspection devices. TopWave’s equipment is primarily for lab and off-line use, while AGR’s testing equipment is primarily for on-line inspection. Agr TopWave is headquartered in Butler and has regional offices elsewhere in the U.S. and throughout Europe.


Rotomolding Resins Get Distributors

Two new distribution deals will ease rotomolders’ access to polyolefin resins:

  • General Polymers Div. of Ashland Distribution Co., Dublin, Ohio, will be the U.S. distributor for natural PE rotomolding resins from Equistar Chemicals, Houston.
  • Nova Chemicals, Pittsburgh, has chosen McCann Plastics, North Canton, Ohio, to distribute rotomolding resins, including new grades to be made with Nova’s Advanced Sclairtech process. That process recently went into operation at a plant in Joffre, Alberta.


KoSa Delays PET Expansions

KoSa Ltd. in Houston has put off by one year its plans to bring on new grassroots PET capacity. The company announced last August that in 2003 it would start up two new 330-million-lb/yr PET plants in the U.S. and Europe. KoSa is now aiming for a 2004 start-up for both plants, locations of which remain undecided. KoSa blames the delay on the 6% growth in PET demand last year, which was significantly lower than the projected double-digit increase.