SUPPLIERS TRY TO KEEP UP WITH COLOR ADVANCES

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NAPLES, FLA. — Change is fast and furious in the color and additives sector of the plastics industry, but processing technology is changing so quickly there's pressure on colorant suppliers to keep up.

``The technology is getting more difficult and advanced but, at the same time, it allows us to do much more with color,'' said Douglas R. Schrank, vice president of North American plastics operations for M.A. Hanna Co. of Cleveland. He spoke at a recent conference of the Color and Additive Compounders Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Naples.

Molding changes that present challenges for those in the color concentrate business include bigger parts from smaller machines. Molders ``are pushing the limits'' there, he said. Challenges come also with so-called family molds, with a variety of parts on one mold with varying cool rates and thicknesses.

Schrank said important trends in color technology include improved dispersion technology to achieve higher concentrations, and special-effect finishes, including pearlescent, granite, marble, brushed metal, frosted glass and camouflage.

As for the outlook for the color industry, Schrank predicted more change as new companies form, other companies exit the business and corporations continue to combine and consolidate.

``The change is so immense in magnitude it is hard to predict which color companies will be on the Top 10 list in 2006,'' he said.

Small color companies are certain to be around because of their custom capabilities, expertise and flexibility, and because they are close to their customers and have built excellent relationships with them, Schrank said.

Thomas J. Penrice, president of PenResearch Group Inc. in Wyomissing, Pa., said that large, sophisticated companies will benefit as their global business expands.

Some of that growth will come as customers look for uniform product identity around the world. That produces global specifications for color and performance but with local production, Penrice said.

``But the small, independent aggressive company with an overall lower cost structure and nimbleness to react to local customers' needs always will have a role,'' he said.

The color and additives group was created last year and is a business unit of Washington-based SPI.