ExxonMobil Chemical, Houston, plans to become the sole owner of Advanced Elastomer Systems (AES) in Akron, Ohio, by acquiring Solutia's 50% share in the joint venture. AES was formed in 1991. It makes thermoplastic elastomers, most notably Santoprene thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs). Exxon produces both major components of Santoprene—polypropylene and EPDM.
Remember the polystyrene foam clamshell that was used to package McDonald's Big Macs? In 1990, the fast-food giant dumped the foam clamshell after intense environmental pressure, replacing it with paper wrapping. Well, the plastic clamshell burger box is back, though in a new material, only a minority of which is plastic. This biodegradable and compostable packaging system, developed by EarthShell Corp. of Santa Barbara, Calif., has been tested for a year by McDonald's Corp. at 465 outlets in the Chicago area. Around 20 million Big Macs have been dished out in EarthShell clamshells so far, and the test program is soon to be extended to the West Coast.
EarthShell's package is mostly a batter composed of natural limestone, water, potato starch (left over from food processing), and recycled paper pulp. The dough-like material is processed into rigid containers (clamshells, bowls, plates and cups) using heated metal molds. The heat generates steam, which forms and sets the partially aerated, lightweight packages. Plastic's role in the new package is reduced to a film or coating that prevents moisture and grease from penetrating into the substrate, yet permits enough moisture penetration after disposal to allow composting.
Biodegradable plastics being tested for this role include Biomax copolyester from DuPont Polyester Specialty Resins in Wilmington, Del., and Eastar Bio copolyester made by Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn. Julian Jensen, Eastman's business market manager for biodegradable materials, says plastic film imparts extra rigidity and enhanced printability to the clamshells. Meanwhile, DuPont's polyester group has joined EarthShell in helping design a soft, flexible film for sandwich wrap using Earthshell materials.
American Roller Co., Bannockburn, Ill., has been purchased by CM Acquisitions LLC, a Chicago private equity firm. American Roller will keep its name but will soon move its headquarters to Union Grove, Wis., site of its administrative offices, R&D center, and three of its six manufacturing facilities.
Cloeren Incorporated of Orange, Texas, is investing $5 million to up its manufacturing capacity for extrusion dies. It's buying three new five-axis CNC machining centers, including one with a capacity of 15 meters or 590 in. "This new machining center provides Cloeren with the largest in-house width capacity in the global extrusion-die market," says president Peter Cloeren, Jr. "We have seen a trend toward wider dies, particularly for cast film. We have delivered multiple dies more than 5 meters wide and one 6-meter die over the past 12 months. We have had inquiries for dies up to 7.5 meters wide."
A new dual spindle machine will address growing demand for internally deckled dies. "It gives us the capacity to manufacture internal deckle blades to unprecedented accuracy," says Cloeren.
Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn., last month canceled its year-old plan to spin off its specialty chemicals and plastics business into a separate company. Instead, Eastman is keeping the new divisional structure launched this January. This structure involves the creation of Voridian Co. as a new operating division that produces PET, polyethylene, and acetate fibers. Voridian also offers EMAC and EBAC ethylene copolymers, but not Eastman's Eastar PETG or DuraStar PET for injection molding.
Voridian Co., the new division of Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn., has discontinued its precolored green PET resins. In recent years, demand for colored containers has shifted to lower-cost alternatives. Voridian still offers precolored amber polymers.
Mikrotek Laboratories, Anaheim, Calif., is now offering testing services to plastics manufacturers. The firm has been an independent test lab for the printed wiring-board industry. It offers environmental and mechanical testing, thermal-stress and thermal-shock testing, UL materials testing, microsectional analysis, and physical analysis.