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CHICAGO — Chris-Craft Industrial Products Inc. just bagged its first big U.S. order for a new polyvinyl alcohol water-soluble packaging film, dubbed M9500.

The firm's MonoSol Division featured the PVAL film at Pack Expo, held Nov. 17-21 in Chicago.

Launched in September, the PVAL film, which can be used to package gels, liquid and dry products, is the culmination of 20 years' work, according to the company.

MonoSol's first U.S. customer for M9500 is Gowan Co., a large contract packager of agrichemicals in Yuma, Ariz., which last month placed an $80,000 order for the film, said P. Scott Bening, MonoSol's managing director. Gowan uses the film to package fungicides and insecticides, for customers such as DuPont Co., Rhone-Poulenc Inc. and Ciba-Geigy Corp.

``The reason we're using it is because of its resistance to acidic conditions,'' said Dave Creech, Gowan's chief chemist. ``The seals are excellent. Its machining characteristics are surprisingly good.''

MonoSol and Gowan have worked together for about seven years on the application. Bening said the backbone of the film is a proprietary plasticizer that gives it a wide heat-seal range and improved cold storage, plus keeps it from drying out, despite hygroscopic tendencies of the products being packaged. One challenge was balancing solubility with sealing properties.

``When you heat-seal PVAL film you can render it insoluble very quickly. Every time you try to make a film more soluble, you affect the tensile sealing properties of the film,'' Bening said. ``9500 happened to get us over a big, big barrier.''

Since 1990, Chris-Craft has invested heavily to expand its stable of PVAL materials from two to 15 different films. MonoSol, which did $4 million in sales six years ago, now makes up roughly half of Chris-Craft Industrial Division's $25 million in sales.

The M9500 film finds use in high-end packaging for agrichemicals and industrial detergents. In Europe, contract packager Greensol SA of Sens, France, has been exclusive supplier of M9500 since the first prototypes came out two to three months ago.

Right now Gowan is packaging dry chemicals with the film, but Creech said the firm also plans to use it for liquids, once testing for that application is complete.

Because the packaging dissolves in water, workers need never handle the hazardous chemicals inside. Other advantages are source reduction and lower disposal costs, Bening said.

Carlton Wong, sales coordinator for Mitsui Plastics Inc. of White Plains, N.Y., said Aicello Chemical Co. of Toyohashi, Japan, is Chris-Craft's main competitor in high-end PVAL film markets. Both firms also serve low-end markets, which include hospital laundry bags.

Mitsui distributes films for Aicello, which manufactures them in Japan. Its largest U.S. customer is contract packager BPS Inc. in West Helena, Ark. Aicello's newest PVAL film for dry and liquid chemical packaging, called BOS, has yet to hit the U.S. market, Wong said.

At its 66,000-square-foot plant in Gary, Ind., MonoSol makes its PVAL film by casting a water solution of the polymer onto moving, 60-inch steel belts. It has four casting lines and employs 88.

Chris-Craft Industrial Products is part of New York-based Chris-Craft Industries Inc., known for its signature boats — a business Chris-Craft sold off in 1981. The public company also owns nine television stations, and had operating sales of $472.1 million in 1995.