Your Business in Brief - May 2001

Natural Fibers in Plastics Up 60%/YrNatural-fiber composites will surge by 60% annually over the next five years, according to a new study from Klein & Co., Inc., Little Falls, N.J.

Natural Fibers in Plastics Up 60%/Yr

Natural-fiber composites will surge by 60% annually over the next five years, according to a new study from Klein & Co., Inc., Little Falls, N.J. Especially strong growth is foreseen in plastic lumber for outdoor decking, fences, windows, and doors. Most of the fiber that goes into these products comes from wood, with a minor share from crops such as kenaf, flax, and hemp.

For information on the study, “Outlook for Natural Fiber Composites 2000-2005,” call (973) 435-3448.


Strong Growth Seen For Plastic Paper

The U.S. market for synthetic paper of PE or PP will grow 8.4%/yr to 2005, says a new study by Business Communications Co., Inc., Norwalk, Conn. BCC pegs current volume at 111 million lb, which will grow to 166 million lb in five years. Applications are book covers, maps, menus, banners, manuals, ID cards, signs, labels, and price tags that must resist moisture, outdoor exposure, and rough handling. Labels are more than 80% of the market, though commercial printing is growing faster.

Report RP-172, “Synthetic Paper Industry,” costs $3450. For information, call (203) 853-4266.


Aerospace Technology Enhances Bottle Molds

Aluminum bottle molds—especially complex, multi-cavity tools—are being produced faster and with higher quality as a result of upgraded tool-making technologies adopted in the last two years by Uniloy Milacron in Manchester, Mich. Uniloy’s Mold Div. has installed more than 20 horizontal high-speed machining centers (HMCs) to handle tools requiring extreme precision and contouring detail. HMCs’ rotary tables permit fixturing workpieces just once to perform multiple operations, thereby minimizing variation in tool dimensions. They allow faster machining and optimize tool access to deeper cavities and tighter features (e.g. necks). Benefits include five times better surface finish, superior feature precision, and more than 50% reduced machining times per cavity, claims Al Vanover, Mold Div. manager.

Taking a cue from the aerospace industry, Uniloy Milacron adopted Catia CAD/CAM software for bottle mold design. Catia uses more points to define contours than other systems, creating crisp detail and smooth transitions between features in blow molds.

Shrink-fit finishing tools, also adopted from aerospace, are used to achieve fine detail in exceptionally deep cavities, where conventional tooling would deflect or vibrate. Shrink-fit tools are tightly bonded by heating the toolholder and freezing the cutting device, so that the holder shrinks as it cools while the tool expands as it warms. The result is faster, more accurate cutting of highlights or engravings. “We’re getting superior surface finish and geometric accuracy on all mold work, particularly on unit molds where cavities need to be identical,” says Vanover.

The company expects these new capabilities to boost its business outside users of Uniloy Milacron machines.


PolyOne to Close A Dozen Plants

Cleveland-based PolyOne Corp., the product of the merger of Geon Co. and M.A. Hanna Co., plans to close at least one-third of the 34 plants in its North American Plastic Compounds and Colors group by early 2003. Four of those closings were announced at the end of January. At the same time, PolyOne will invest $45 million in new technology and equipment for the sites it will retain. The overall result is expected to be $35 million to $50 million in annual cost savings.


3D Systems to Buy DTM Corp.

A major merger in the rapid-prototyping or “solid-imaging” systems business was announced last month by 3D Systems Corp., Valencia, Calif., which has agreed to purchase DTM Corp. of Austin, Texas. 3D Systems is the original producer of SLA stereolithography equipment and also supplies ThermoJet 3D office printers. DTM is the sole supplier of selective laser sintering (SLS) equipment, trade named Sinterstation. It will become a subsidiary of 3D Systems.


GE Plastics Buys Another PC Sheet Producer

GE Plastics’ s Structured Products Group, Pittsfield, Mass., has acquired Matra Plast Industries’ polycarbonate sheet business and facility in Long Sault, Ont. The move adds to GE Plastics’ PC extrusion capacity for solid, multi-wall, and corrugated sheet. These products will continue to be sold by Matra Plast’s existing distributors under the current Verolite and Vistar trade names for products used in greenhouses, signs, and other agricultural and construction applications. The purchase includes the 250,000-sq-ft plant, which employs 63. Matra Plast Industries retains its other businesses in corrugated PE and PP sheet: Hi-Core Corrugated Polypropylene and Polyethylene of Berthierville, Que.; KMP Plastics in Fullerton, Calif.; and Numatech Industries, Puslinch, Ont.

GE Plastics’ move broadens its downstream push in producing and distributing fabricated PC products. Late last year, it acquired NIM Plastics Corp., a PC sheet extruder in Elk Grove Village, Ill. GE Plastics also created a new business unit in recent months to enhance the company’s role in the distribution of fabricated PC rod, tube and sheet. This group, as yet unnamed, combines the broad distribution capabilities of two other recent GE acquisitions, Cadillac Plastics in Troy, Mich., and Commercial Plastics & Supply Corp. in Boca Raton, Fla.


LNP Adds Color to BP Amoco Resins

A trademark licensing agreement between LNP Engineering Plastics, Exton, Pa., and BP Amoco Polymers, Alpharetta, Ga., is intended to open new opportunities for the use of color in high-temperature plastics. The deal allows LNP to produce and sell precolored compounds made from BP Amoco’s Radel polyphenylsulfone, Udel polysulfone, Amodel polyphthalamide, and Mindel polysulfone alloys and compounds. Further, LNP can link its Colorcomp trade name to BP Amoco’s brands for those resins. LNP has similar licensing agreements with Bayer AG in engineered styrenics and Victrex PLC in PEEK.

Josh Blackburn, LNP’s Colorcomp product marketing manager, says users of BP Amoco’s high-temperature resins are asking for a wider range of colors and availability in smaller lots. He attributes this to the need for product differentiation in computers and color coding of medical devices.


National Plastics Exam Moves to the Internet

Starting this month, SPI’s National Certification in Plastics (NCP) exam, a national standard to assess plastics worker skills and training, is available over the Internet. Previously, NCP candidates could take the test only at a designated center. Travel time and expenses, as well as lost work time, were perceived as a barrier to company participation, says Gary Moore, director of workforce development for the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), Washington, D.C. Now the test can be given in plastics plants or at local community colleges. However, the exam will still be given under the supervision of an independent proctor. For information, visit


Engel Joins Omnexus E-Commerce Venture

Last month, Engel of Austria, an injection machine supplier with operations in Guelph, Ont., and York, Pa., became an equity holder in Omnexus, the Atlanta-based on-line electronic marketplace for plastics. Engel’s move makes it the first equipment supplier to become an Omnexus stakeholder. Previously, its partners consisted of 14 materials suppliers. (The most recent of the latter to join up is Atofina of France, whose U.S. operations are in Philadelphia and Houston.)

An Omnexus spokesman claims Engel’s decision provides “tangible evidence” of the firm’s intent to push machinery and spare-parts buying via the Internet. Within months, the official said, Omnexus plans to launch programs to facilitate on-line machinery sales. They would primarily involve capabilities for product searches and quoting rather than direct on-line sales of new machines, the source added. Omnexus has said it would also like to offer tooling and MRO (maintenance, repair, overhaul) products.


Ashland & Plasticolors Team Up for Paint-Free Composites

A new strategic alliance is intended to foster exterior structural automotive applications for composites that are pigmented and uv-stable so that they need no paint. The Composite Polymers Div. of Ashland Specialty Chemical Co., Dublin, Ohio, is contributing its unsaturated polyester resin and low-profile technologies, while Plasticolors Inc. of Ashtabula, Ohio, brings its pigmenting and uv-stabilizing expertise to the alliance. The two firms have already cooperated in the development of Ashland’s new Ekadure 2001 resin, designed for molding non-painted SMC truck boxes.


New Machinery Rep Firm For the Midwest

A group of plastics-industry veterans has established a new full-service machinery sales firm called Process Solutions Group in Roselle, Ill. It has been named the exclusive agent for Van Dorn Demag and Newbury injection machines, Sterling Inc. auxiliaries (Sterlco, Sterltech, and Ball & Jewell lines), and Motan conveying and drying systems in northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and parts of northwestern Indiana. Process Solutions also represents New Castle Industries for screws, barrels, and rebuilding services. The new firm has set up a technical center and will stock several molding machines for demonstrations, testing, and immediate shipment.

One of the two principals of Process Solutions is Lou Zavala, who has over 25 years’ experience in injection molding and extrusion with ITW Plastiglide, NRM, Conair, and AEC. Most recently, he was v.p. of engineering and marketing for AEC. Partner Will Dale has over 20 years’ experience in designing, installing, and starting up plastics and other industrial facilities. Also on board are seasoned plastics machinery reps Ben Schepp, Steve Wojcieszek, and Joe Fitzgerald, each with 10 to 30 years’ experience.


ITW to Buy Foilmark

Adding to its large stable of hot-stamp foil suppliers, Illinois Tool Works Inc. in Glenview, Ill., has agreed to buy Foilmark, a maker of foils and holographic security products in Newburyport, Mass. Foilmark has six plants in the U.S. and Canada.

ITW’s other hot-stamp and foil-related companies in the U.S. and Europe are Eurofoil, Giulianelli, Grawo, Holographic and Specialty Films Co. Ltd., Maple Roll Leaf, Pro/Mark, Trimark, and Veneta Decalgramme.

Denver’s Hybrid Bus Has Thermoformed Body and Seats Denver has 10 new low-polluting buses with all-thermoformed body and roof panels and interior seats. Designed by local firm TransTeq, Inc., the 116-passenger buses use a hybrid combination of natural gas and electric battery power. The plastic used is Kydex acrylic/PVC sheet from Kleerdex of Aiken, S.C. It was chosen for its smooth finish, easy formability, resistance to road salt and cleaning fluids, ability withstand 110 F summer heat, and impact resistance at winter chills of -20 F.

Kydex 103 sheet for the body panels is heated in a 9 x 16 ft forming oven. Roof panels are produced by drape forming the curved sides and then welding them to flat sheet stock. The front and rear panels would normally be a thermoset fiberglass composite, but thermoforming was chosen to eliminate the labor costs for hand lay-up and finishing. Flame-retardant Kydex 100 was chosen for the seats because its chemical resistance can withstand contact with batteries stored under the seats. Eight bucket-type seats are molded in one piece. Eight fiberglass-composite seats joined together served as the mold.


New E-Commerce Site Trades Used Machinery

First launched in December, The Dock is a new Los Angeles-based e-commerce firm with a site ( for buying and selling new or used equipment of many types, including plastics. Its plastics/rubber offerings (mostly used primary and auxiliary machinery) currently list 3097 items, including 45 blow molders, 45 extrusion systems, and 390 injection machines.


Linden/EMB Opens Center For Polyurethane Training

Linden/EMB, a maker of polyurethane processing equipment, has opened a training center at its headquarters in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It will offer three-to five-day courses to small groups.


Dow to Supply Michelin With Run-Flat Wheels

A polyurethane RIM inner support wheel that allows a vehicle with a flat tire to travel up to 125 miles at 55 mph will be supplied by the Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., to the Michelin Group, Greenville, S.C. This run-flat support wheel will be featured in Michelin’s PAX integrated tire and wheel system. Dow’s doughnut-shaped PUR wheel support, weighing 6 to 12 lb, slides into the PAX oversized wheel rim. According to Dow’s program director Peter Danielson, the PUR support is made by a one-shot RIM process using a proprietary formulation that is based on brand-new polymer chemistry. The company has made developmental quantities of the PUR supports at Freeport, Texas. Initially, Dow plans to use an outside contract manufacturer to produce commercial quantities of the wheel for Michelin’s North American market. Dow is evaluating the option of building new facilities to make the wheel support itself.