GE HOPES IRON WARMS APPLIANCE MANUFACTURERS TO PC/ABS BLEND

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PITTSFIELD, MASS. — GE Plastics hopes a new thin-walled design for a polycarbonate/ABS Black & Decker clothing iron will help open up the market for inexpensive small appliances to its engineering plastics.

Using technology developed for telecommunications — where thickness and weight are vital issues — Black & Decker this summer plans to unveil its high-end Pro-Finish iron, which uses resins and wall thicknesses more commonly found in higher-tech products.

That technology could be used in other small kitchen appliances, a market that had been lost to polypropylene and other less-expensive commodity resins not made by GE, said Stephen Murphy, GE's industry manager for consumer appliances.

The wall size in the iron is about 0.06 inch, compared with the 0.1-0.12 inch common in most PP designs, he said.

The resin is two to three times more expensive than the PP alternative, but manufacturers need 30 percent less material, the designs allow for faster cycle times and Black & Decker can use fewer machines, he said. It reportedly provides a net cost savings, but Murphy said he could not provide details.

Polycarbonate/ABS also looks better than PP, which can appear dull and scratch easily, he said. Some PP makers add fillers like talc to improve its appearance, he added.

Black & Decker officials were not available for comment.

The Pro-Finish model is considered a ``high-end'' iron, but Black & Decker officials have said they ``wish they would have known about thin-wall for the low-end irons,'' Murphy said.