Your Business in Brief - May 2000

DuPont to Boost TiO2 CapacityDuPont Co., Wilmington, Del., will start up a third titanium dioxide pigment line at New Johnsonville, Tenn., in the third quarter.

DuPont to Boost TiO2 Capacity

DuPont Co., Wilmington, Del., will start up a third titanium dioxide pigment line at New Johnsonville, Tenn., in the third quarter. The company has not disclosed how much capacity will be added, but it is not likely to be over 330 million lb/yr, which is the standard size of its TiO2 production lines.


Ticona to Double UHMW-PE Output

Ticona of Summit, N.J., plans to build a 22-million-lb/yr plant in Bishop, Texas, which will double its U.S. production capacity for GUR ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene. The new plant will replace the existing one in Bayport, Texas, which has no further room for expansion. The new plant is due to be completed in 2002.


Huntsman Adds MDI Capacity

Huntsman Polyurethanes, West Deptford, N.J., has completed a 285-million-lb/yr expansion at Geismar, La. The plant also produces chemical precursors for MDI. Total MDI capacity at Geismar is now 840 million lb/yr. The plant is Huntsman's major U.S. polyurethane products manufacturing site.


DEHP Is Not Carcinogenic, Says WHO Cancer Research Agency

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, part of the World Health Organization, recently decided to reclassify DEHP plasticizer (also known as DOP) as a Group 3 agent--"not classifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans." This is the lowest level in IARC's classification scale. Previously, DEHP had been classified in Group 2B--"possibly carcinogenic to humans"--on the basis of animal test data. IARC concluded, "The mechanism by which DEHP increases the incidence of [liver] tumors in rats and mice is not relevant to humans." DOP is the most widely used PVC plasticizer. Applications include blood bags and medical tubing. DOP was mostly replaced by DINP in infant teething toys several years ago.

"IARC's decision that DEHP cannot be classified as a human cancer-causing agent confirms the findings of extensive scientific research conducted during the past two decades," said Marion Stanley, manager of the Phthalate Esters Panel of the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) in Arlington, Va. Stanley noted that Health Canada and the European Commission reached the same conclusion several years ago. Nonetheless, he noted, "Allegations by Greenpeace and its ally, Health Care Without Harm, about DEHP having cancer-causing potential in humans have received considerable media coverage, unduly alarming consumers."


PET Beer Bottle Goes National

A five-layer PET beer bottle designed for Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, is being rolled out nationally after undergoing regional testing since October 1998. This is the first nationwide distribution of a plastic beer bottle in the U.S. The recyclable bottle, consisting of PET, nylon, oxygen scavenger, and post-consumer recycled layer, is produced for Miller by Continental PET Technologies, Bedford, N.H. Miller offers the bottle in 16- and 20-oz sizes in its Miller Genuine Draft, Miller Lite, and Icehouse brands.


Reifenhauser Quits Pipe & Profiles

Extrusion machinery producer Reifenhauser GmbH of Troisdorf, Germany, has sold its pipe and profile equipment lines to Hans Weber Maschinenfabrik of Kronach, Germany. Reifenhauser will continue to handle service and spare parts for installed machines. The company is focusing its attention on film, sheet, and fibers.


Thermoformer Makers Form Alliance

Two suppliers of equipment for thin-gauge thermoforming, Lyle Industries Inc. of Beaverton, Mich., and Gabler Maschinenbau of Lubeck, Germany, have formed a partnership. Lyle will act as the exclusive agent for Gabler in North America, and Gabler will do the same for Lyle in Europe. The partnership will give Lyle access to Gabler's trim-in-place technology and lid-making capabilities. Gabler will get access to wide-bed, high-volume, roll-fed machinery from Lyle. The two firms intend to share technologies as well as R&D projects, and plan to establish an exclusive marketing organization for the rest of the world.

The two firms will make their first appearance together at NPE 2000 in Chicago in June. Lyle will show new machinery and Gabler will run PP lids on its Model D600 system.


M.A. Hanna and Geon Plan to Merge

The boards of directors of M.A. Hanna Co. and The Geon Co., both in Cleveland, have agreed to merge into a new company. It will have more than 10,000 employees, 80 manufacturing sites, and combined revenues around $3.5 billion. A name for the new company and a new headquarters in the greater Cleveland area have yet to be chosen. The deal still must be approved by regulatory authorities and company stockholders.

The merger would combine Geon's vinyl resin, film, and compounds operations with Hanna's broad-based thermoplastic compounding, color-concentrate, and resin-distribution businesses. The combined company intends to pursue an aggressive acquisition strategy, according to a joint announcement.


Eastman to Buy McWhorter

Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn., intends to buy McWhorter Technologies, Inc. of Carpentersville, Ill. McWhorter produces unsaturated polyester and vinyl ester resins for composites, as well as materials for coatings and adhesives. Eastman does not make unsaturated polyesters but produces intermediates such as NPG glycol.


GE Plastics Emphasizes E-Business at NPE

Electronic business will be a key focus of the exhibit of GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass., at the NPE 2000 show in Chicago next month. GE will demonstrate several new value-added services on its e-business site,


  • On-line workspaces where designers, molders, toolmakers, and GE representatives can collaborate on customer projects.
  • Engineering software tools grouped into an on-line Design Solutions Center.
  • Web-based delivery of educational seminars.
  • Live on-line "chat" with GE technical representatives while a customer views GE web pages that can be "pushed" to the customer's computer.


Among the most novel features is a new Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) service, whereby sensors in customer silos enable GE to monitor customer inventories in real time and ensure timely restocking (see photo). Some 90 customer silos are already being monitored, and another 200-300 more are slated to join the program. Inventory reductions of 30-45% and elimination of rush orders are said to make VMI pay for itself in under five months. Although the program now only monitors silos, GE is working on means of monitoring inventories of bags, boxes, and pallets.

Also, GE is expanding its Colorxpress service, whereby customers can choose colors from an on-line catalog and order color chips and sample lots via the web. New Microlotxpress service provides small made-to-order color lots of 10 to 329 lb within four business days and is tailored.


PEN Copolymers Get FDA Clearance

Although PEN high-heat, enhanced-barrier polyester has been approved by the U.S. FDA for food contact since 1996, its uses in packaging have been limited by its high cost--currently $3.00-3.50/lb. Packaging manufacturers have been waiting for FDA approval to use more cost-effective blends and copolymers of PEN with PET.

Now, the wait is over. Last month, the FDA approved PEN copolymers from Shell Chemicals, Houston, for contact with all types of foods and for temperatures above 212 F. PEN resins have also been cleared for use in blends with PET, Shell reports. All Shell naphthalate-containing resins are covered by the clearance. These include two PET/PEN copolymers--Cleartuf Power beer-bottle resin and Hipertuf 89010 hot-fill grade--which contain less than 10% PEN and cost only about 16¢/lb more than PET. Also covered is the blendable copolymer, Hipertuf 86017, which contains more than 90% PEN.

In its review process, the FDA evaluated the environmental impact of the introduction of Hipertuf resins and concluded that PEN resins are compatible with the existing PET recycle stream and no significant impact on the stream is expected.


Resin Companies Form E-Commerce Venture

Last month, five large plastics resin makers said they had agreed to form a new company that would be "a neutral business-to-business on-line marketplace focused on delivering products and related services to plastics injection molders around the globe," according to a joint announcement. The partners--BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, and Ticona--said the as-yet unnamed company would pursue a global market worth around $50 billion.

The E-commerce venture will offer products and services from more than just these five companies. To make it a more attractive place to shop, the partners will invite other companies to join the venture, including makers of molding equipment, tooling, maintenance supplies, packaging materials, and related services.

The new electronic marketplace will offer a catalog with full product information, ability to make comparisons across product lines, order tracking, electronic billing and payment, and on-line customer support. The new venture aims to go on-line by Oct. 1.


There's No Business Like E-Business for GE

Although it does not intend to join the e-commerce consortium of other resin makers (see above), GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass., is plunging headlong into e-business on its own. "We are moving all our business processes to the Web as fast as possible," says Nanni Becalli, v.p. and general manager for GE Plastics Americas.

A recent step in that direction was combining the commercial organizations of its Polymerland distribution business and GE Plastics prime-resins business into one sales arm called GE Polymerland, based in Huntersville, N.C. It conducts on-line resin transactions at These sales have mushroomed from an annualized rate of $10 million at the start of 1999 to over $500 million today. The goal is to reach $1 billion by the end of this year, when 50% of GE's sales in the Americas are expected to be on-line. But GE won't be satisfied until 100% of its sales are on-line, according to Becalli.


Elastomer Suppliers Plan Joint E-Commerce Site

An international group of seven elastomer resin makers plan to launch an independent company to operate an e-commerce site, The online marketplace, due to be launched during the third quarter of this year, is intended to bring together rubber processors and suppliers of materials, additives, and equipment, as well as service providers and other parties.

The partners are Bayer AG (Leverkusen, Germany), Crompton Corp. (Greenwich, Conn.), DSM Elastomers (Heerlen, the Netherlands), DuPont Dow Elastomers L.L.C. (Wilmington, Del.), Flexsys (Brussels, Belgium), M.A. Hanna Rubber Compounding (Cleveland), and Zeon Chemicals L.P. (Louisville, Ky.). Negotiations are under way with additional potential investors, including Advanced Elastomer Systems of Akron, Ohio, and the elastomers division of Enichem S.p.A. of Rome, Italy.


Hanna Resin Distribution Launches Internet 'Store'

M.A. Hanna Resin Distribution, Lemont, Ill., has launched what it calls an "e-commerce store" on the World Wide Web at Customers can use the website to place orders, inquire about real-time inventory levels, make inquiries about invoices, quote an order prior to placement, and access their account histories.


Detroit's Big Three Plan Electronic Supply Chain

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and DaimlerChrysler are jointly developing an electronic supplier exchange through a single global internet portal. It will offer participation to all auto manufacturers around the world and their suppliers and dealers. "This combination will allow suppliers to channel their efforts through a single exchange and will reduce overall inventories, develop industry standards, and provide productivity to all participants," said Brian Kelley, Ford v.p. and president of Ford's ConsumerConnect e-business.

The Big Three claim that this venture will create the world's largest virtual marketplace. They plan to have equal ownership in the venture, which would operate as an independent business.


After K-Resin Shutdown, BASF Plans SBC Expansions

Since late March, Phillips Chemical Co.'s K-Resin styrene-butadiene copolymer plant in Houston has been shut down, following an explosion and fire that killed one person and injured 71. The 370-million-lb/yr facility was also shut down by a fire last June.

To alleviate the resulting supply crunch for K-Resin, BASF AG in Germany will significantly increase production capacity of its Styrolux SBC packaging resin. In Germany and Belgium, BASF plans to add more than 44 million lb/yr of production, almost a 60% increase, by mid-2001. In addition, BASF plans its first North American production with a 100-million-lb plant in Altamira, Mexico, by the start of 2003.


GE Plastics Forms J.V. To Make DVDs from Film

GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass., and Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (ECD), a materials-based high-technology company in Troy, Mich., have formed a joint venture to develop and commercialize rewritable DVDs made from GE's Lexan polycarbonate film.

GE will own 51% of the venture, called Ovonic Media L.L.C., also based in Troy. It will develop an ultra-high-speed manufacturing process based on continuous-web, roll-to-roll processing. ECD previously developed phase-change technology that is used to make rewritable CDs and DVDs by injection molding.


Anheuser-Busch Gives Plastic a Second Chance

Anheuser-Busch Inc., St. Louis, the nation's largest brewer, has started test marketing two new multi-layer PET beer bottles. Both designs are being tested with Budweiser and Bud Light brands in a 16-oz amber bottle with an aluminum closure and standard paper or metallized label, according to the company. Initial testing is at stadiums and arenas in Houston and several markets in Florida. Plans are to expand to at least 20 other markets.

A-B tested a 100%-PEN bottle in 1998, but found it to be too expensive and its properties limited, according to Norman Nieder, senior director of packaging technology. The new multi-layer designs provide a better cost/performance balance, he says.

The company is testing three-layer and five-layer bottles, both expected to provide 110-day shelf life. The three-layer design uses an oxygen scavenger/barrier between two PET layers and is being produced by Constar Inc., Philadelphia. The five-layer bottle has nylon, PET, and two oxygen scavenger/barrier layers. Continental PET Plastics Technologies Inc., Florence, Ky., is making that bottle.


Shinwa Seiki Loses U.S. Sales Agent

Methods Machine Tools Inc., Sudbury, Mass., recently ended its role as U.S. agent for injection molding presses from Shinwa Seiki Co. Ltd. of Japan. Methods Machine plans to concentrate its business entirely on selling imported machine tools. The move also prompted the firm to pull out of the NPE show next month in Chicago.

Methods Machine has sold about 700 units during its 10-year relationship with Shinwa Seiki. Methods will continue to service and sell parts for the Shinwa units for the foreseeable future.


Battenfeld Plans New U.S. Technology Centers

Battenfeld of America, West Warwick, R.I., plans to open three regional technology and support centers this year. Because more than half the company's injection molding machinery business is in the automotive market, its first new sales and service center will open by mid-year in the Detroit area. Later this year, Battenfeld plans to add two more regional centers in New Jersey and in Greenville, N.C. Additional regional centers are under consideration. Battenfeld Canada in Mississauga, Ont., also operates as a regional center.

Wolfgang Meyer, who has headed up Battenfeld's injection machinery business, will be in charge of the new Detroit sales and service center. Management of Battenfeld of America will be assumed by Thomas Lenz. He is a long-time Battenfeld injection molding specialist, who most recently was in charge of Battenfeld do Brasil.


Kerr-McGee Gets Kemira TiO2 Plant

Kerr-McGee Corp., Oklahoma City, Okla., has purchased a titanium dioxide pigment plant in Savannah, Ga., from Kemira Oyj of Finland. Kerr-McGee awaits European regulatory approval to buy Kemira's operation in Botlek, Netherlands. The plants have a combined capacity of 440 million lb/yr. Acquiring them reportedly will make Kerr-McGee the world's third-largest TiO2 producer, with a market share of 16%, or 1.3 billion lb/yr.


Electra Form Is Broken Up

Electra Form Inc., Vandalia, Ohio, manufacturer of PET reheat stretch-blow molding units and of preform tooling and custom molds has sold off its assets and entered into receivership. Electra Form's Formex blow molding machine division was sold to Autotec Inc., Sylvania, Ohio, a custom machine builder and designer of in-mold labeling systems for blow molding. The moldmaking operations of Electra Form were sold to Wentworth Technologies Co. Ltd., Mississauga, Ont., a maker of blow and injection molds. Wentworth has created a new division, Electra Form Industries Inc.


Dow Buys General Latex

In another move to strengthen its polyurethane business, Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., has reached a definitive agreement to buy General Latex and Chemical Corp., Cambridge, Mass. General Latex is one of the largest suppliers of rigid PUR systems in North America. In February, Dow also acquired Flexible Products Co. of Marietta, Ga.


Rhodia Opens Center for Application Development

Rhodia Engineering Plastics, Mississauga, Ont., recently opened its first North American Application Development Center in Farmington Hills, Mich. The 8000-sq-ft facility has a staff of eight and facilities for CAE and materials and parts testing. Equipment includes a 150-ton injection machine and instruments for leak testing, static and dynamic burst-pressure testing, heat aging, fluid aging, and pressure cycling, as well as vacuum and temperature-shock chambers. This facility will aid auto companies and their Tier 1 suppliers in development of under-the-hood applications in nylon, says Chad Waldschmidt, North American automotive director.

Last December, Rhodia opened its first North American nylon compounding plant in Mississauga.


Plenco Acquires Plaslok

Plastics Engineering Co. of Sheboygan, Wis., maker of Plenco-brand phenolics and other resins and compounds, has agreed to acquire the equipment, formulations, and trademarks of Plaslok Corp., Buffalo, N.Y. Plaslok made phenolic molding compounds and Plas Glas polyester BMC.


CK Witco Becomes Crompton Corp.

Polymer additives supplier CK Witco Corp., Greenwich, Conn., recently changed its name to Crompton Corp. The firm resulted from last year's merger of Witco Chemical and Crompton & Knowles.


ECC International Is Renamed Imerys

Engineered minerals supplier ECC International of the U.K. and Roswell, Ga., is now called Imerys. The name change results from ECC's purchase by Imetal of France.


BP Amoco Acquires Arco's New PP Plant

Following Federal Trade Commission approval last month, London-based BP Amoco plc completed its acquisition of Arco. As part of the deal, BP Amoco assumes two-thirds ownership in Arco Polypropylene, LLC, a joint venture of Arco and Itochu Corp. of Japan. Arco Polypropylene started up a 440-million-lb/yr PP plant in Carson, Calif., last December.


Elf Atochem Opens Polymer Technology Center

Philadelphia-based Elf Atochem North America, Inc. has built a new Polymer Technology Center in King of Prussia, Pa. The $15-million center has a staff of 70 and serves as the main R&D and technical-service center for Elf Atochem's Performance Polymers business unit. That unit has three business segments:

•Technical Polymers includes Kynar PVDF, Rilsan nylon 11 and 12, Pebax polyether amide TPEs, Platamid copolyamide, and Platherm copolyester.

•Atoglas Div. produces Plexiglas acrylic resins and sheet, as well as Tuffak polycarbonate sheet.

•Functional Polymers supplies SMA modifier resins, polybutadienes, and functionalized polyolefins for uses such as coextrusion tie layers.

The Center includes testing laboratories, pilot plants, accelerated-weathering facilities, and equipment for injection molding, sheet and pipe extrusion, thermoforming, and rotomolding.