Your Business in Brief - November 2001

Mannesmann Machinery Sale CollapsesThe deal to sell Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG (MPM) of Munich, Germany, fell apart last month.

Mannesmann Machinery Sale Collapses

The deal to sell Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG (MPM) of Munich, Germany, fell apart last month. London-based Apax Partners & Co. Ventures Ltd. halted its plans to purchase MPM from Siemens AG because of deteriorating profit prospects for MPM, according to a spokesman for one of the firms in the MPM group. Those firms are Berstorff, Billion, Demag Ergotech, Krauss-Maffei, and Van Dorn Demag. Netstal, a former part of the MPM group, was recently sold to a Swiss holding company.


ACS Opens Corporate Technical Center

ACS Group, Wood Dale, Ill., parent of auxiliary-equipment manufacturers AEC, Cumberland, and Sterling, has opened a national technical center and regional parts and service facility in Flint, Mich. The new site will be the firm’s central customer-training and equipment-demonstration center for North America, as well as its product-development center for material-handling equipment (drying, blending, and conveying). The center can be contacted at (810) 720-7300.


SBC Supplier Doubles Its Capacity

Kraton Polymers in Houston has doubled its capacity for producing Kraton D-1401P, a clear styrene-butadiene copolymer (SBC) typically used as a blending agent in crystal PS and styrenic-based alloys. The expansion comes from debottlenecking a production unit at Belpre, Ohio, and is intended to meet burgeoning needs for clear SBCs.

“This is a high-demand product due to its versatility and use in a wide range of applications,” says Garret Davies, Kraton Polymer’s v.p. for the Americas. D-1401P is a high-styrene-content (75% by weight) SBC primarily for enhancing the impact strength, ductility, clarity, and processability of PS-rich blends used in clear food containers, cups, and lids. The material is FDA-acceptable for food contact. It is also used in clear medical packaging, display equipment, films, and injection molded parts.

The past year has seen a severe supply shortfall of SBCs in the U.S., mainly as a result of the March 2000 accident that destroyed a 370-million-lb/yr Chevron Phillips plant in Pasadena, Texas, for manufacturing K-Resin. This is a comparable SBC material that has long been the dominant player in world markets. Following the accident, K-Resin supplies were scarce and prices rose. Chevron Phillips is in the process of rebuilding the Pasadena K-Resin facility.

Besides Kraton Polymers, other SBC suppliers have been prompted by the supply vacuum to expand capacity. In the NAFTA region, BASF plans to build a 100-million-lb/yr Styrolux plant in Altamira, Mexico. That plant is not scheduled to come on stream until 2003. In Europe, AtoFina plans to double capacity for its FinaClear material, while BASF has scheduled an expansion for Styrolux for 2002. In the Far East, Japan’s Asahi Chemical is boosting capacity for its Asaflex material.


Husky Brings Sales/Service HQ To Detroit

Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., Bolton, Ont., has broadened the role of its Detroit Technical Center (DTC) to serve as the firm’s North American sales and service headquarters for injection machines and hot-runner systems. Michael Urquhart, Husky v.p. of service and sales, has moved to Novi, as will a number of systems engineers, processing specialists, technicians, and hot-runner designers.

Since it opened in 1999, the Novi, Mich., site has focused on large machines for automotive. The DTC now houses machines from 90 up to 8000 tons for mold trials, training, and demonstrations.

The 100,000-sq-ft Novi center has ample room for large-scale system development and integration of up- and downstream product-handling devices for turnkey systems. Process technologies such as MuCell microcellular foam, magnetic platens, injection-compression, multi-material molding, remote diagnostics, large-tonnage stack molding, and in-line compounding are or will be offered through the DTC. Husky is creating a Hot Runner Design Center there. Contact the DTC at (248) 735-6300.


Plast-Control Moves

Extrusion controls maker Plast-Control Inc., Newburyport, Mass., has moved to larger facilities in that town. New address is 65 Parker St. Phone and fax numbers are unchanged.


ExxonMobil & Basell Pool R&D on Metallocene PP

ExxonMobil Chemical, Houston, and Basell in Wilmington, Del., are now combining their R&D on metallocene polypropylene into a single effort. They will share mPP know-how and R&D, and each company will license the other to use its mPP patents. The partners will separately make and sell mPP resins.

Basell’s roots in the technology date back to the 1986 mPP project of Hoechst, one of Basell’s predecessor companies. Basell now markets Metocene mPP, primarily for injection molding. It can replace clear PS in items such as CD cases.

ExxonMobil was first in the industry to commercialize mPP in 1995. Its Achieve resins were initially focused on nonwoven fibers. Says worldwide PP product executive Dick Grabham, “We’ve been making a product with a fairly narrow molecular-weight distribution. The new catalyst we have developed will broaden the molecular weight and produce resins with a fractional MFR, similar to what can be made with conventional Ziegler-Natta catalysts.” Resins made with this catalyst have high purity, very little atactic content, low acidity, and low chloride levels. They offer improved processing over Z-N PP, says Grabham.

ExxonMobil has sampled the new resins, which are made on a pilot scale using both Basell’s Spheripol loop/gas-phase process and the Novalen gas-phase process that Basell sold to an Equistar joint venture. ExxonMobil’s first commercial run with the new catalyst last month used a bulk liquid process from Sumitomo Chemical.

Full commercial availability is expected in 2002. Initial offerings will be homopolymers for film and injection molding that feature clarity, heat resistance, and good stiffness. Basell is also investigating mPP for blow molding and profile extrusion, as well as random copolymers for everything from film seal layers to auto parts.


Compounders Move And Expand

Plastics Color Corp., (PCC), a manufacturer of custom color concentrates, specialty compounds, and dry and liquid colorants, has moved its headquarters from Somerset, N.J., to a 60-acre site in Dayville, Conn. The 220,000-sq-ft Dayville facility started up a year ago as a research, engineering, and production complex. The facility houses 19 compounding lines, a QC lab, development center, and test lab.

In addition, Consolidated Polymer Technologies, Inc. in Largo, Fla., has moved to a new plant three miles away. The larger facility will enable the firm to triple output of its C-Flex TPEs for medical, diagnostic, and pharmaceutical applications.


AtoFina Upgrades Bayport HDPE Plant

AtoFina Petrochemicals, Inc., Houston, recently completed a three-year program to expand and upgrade its Bayport, Texas, HDPE plant. Its capacity has been increased by 10%, or 40 million lb/yr. New control systems and compounding equipment are said to significantly improve product quality and consistency. One major improvement is extremely low gel counts, according to the company. The plant makes bimodal HMW-HDPE and unimodal specialty resins for film and agricultural pipe. AtoFina is developing new film and pipe grades with enhanced properties and processability.


Toray to Buy Nippisun’s Compounding Operation

Toray Industries’s U.S. subsidiary, Toray Resin Co. in Troy, Mich., will acquire its former supplier, Nippisun Indiana Corp., a U.S. subsidiary of Nippon Pigment Co. Nippisun is a compounder of engineering plastics in Shelbyville, Ind., with production capacity of 44 million lb/yr of automotive compounds, mainly nylon and PBT.

TREC markets compounds primarily to Japanese “transplant” automotive suppliers. Its compounding was previously outsourced to Nippisun. By acquiring its own compound production, TREC expects to expand its market to include Detroit’s Big Three automakers. TREC aims to triple its sales in the next five years.


Eastman Boosts Copolyester Capacity

Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn., has added 10% more global capacity for specialty copolyester resins by converting existing capacity for commodity PET at Kingsport. The conversion expands Eastman’s capacity for DuraStar PCTA polymer and Eastar PETG. The latter is targeted at cosmetics and oral-hygiene markets. For appliances and general molding, DuraStar PCTA offers sparkling clarity and gloss, toughness, and chemical resistance, as well as ease of processing.