Material Insights: Price changes for PVC and PET

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Let’s hope that North American PVC resin buyers have their seatbelts fastened. Prices for that material shot up 3 cents per pound for the third straight month in March. We’ll talk about that, and more pricing news for PET, in today’s Material Insights.

The PVC increases have been driven by production and delivery issues at several suppliers including Oxy Vinyls and Westlake. Extreme winter weather was partly to blame.

The back-to-back-to-back hikes have not sat well with PVC buyers. A buyer in the southern United States told Plastics News that “Business is down, so taking the full three will be hard on us. But with resin still somewhat tight, we may have to take it.”

PVC makers say the increases are warranted because of supply tightness caused by disruptions in production. OxyVinyls and Westlake Chemicals Corp. had been on control distribution with customers because of limited ethylene supplies. OxyVinyls also has had production challenges because of cold weather.

The increases have come even though U.S. and Canadian PVC sales for the first two months of the year were down almost 4 percent compared to that same period in 2013. That’s according to the American Chemistry Council. That drop is due, in part, to the effect that weather has had on U.S. construction activity. Housing starts for February were down more than 6 percent from the same month last year, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

PET prices slip in March

In the PET bottle resin market, prices fell for the third straight month in March, as a result of lower feedstock prices and weak beverage demand, particularly in carbonated soft drinks and bottled water, The March drop was 1 cent, and it as preceded by a 2 cent drop in February and a 1 cent drop in January That 4 cents of total volatility has the market on pace to surpass the 12 cents of volatility that it showed for all of 2013.

3-D printer maker buys a compounder

There also was quite a bit of activity in the compounding market last week. 3-D printing equipment maker Stratasys Ltd. confirmed its acquisition of materials firm Interfacial Solutions LLC of River Falls, Wis. Interfacial develops materials and processes, and does low-volume compounding. Minneapolis-based Stratasys has been a customer of Interfacial Solutions for the last three years.

CEO David Reis said buying a company with materials expertise will help Stratasys become vertically integrated in materials development and manufacturing. Stratasys also announced last week that it has developed a 3-D printing material that “simulates” polypropylene.

Lanxess adds capacity in Brazil

More compounding news came from Brazil, where Lanxess AG opened an auto-oriented thermoplastics compounding plant in Porto Feliz. The $28 million plant has initial annual capacity of 44 million pounds to compound nylon and PBT with additives and glass fiber reinforcements. The compounding operation will employ up to 50.

Lanxess first announced the project in spring of 2013. Automotive is a fast growing market in Brazil and Latin America, creating demand for lightweight materials to replace metals.

Prepreg deal

Finally this week, composites maker TenCate Advanced Composites has partnered with high-performance resin supplier Performance Polymer Solutions Inc. to develop and market prepreg materials to the aerospace industry. Performance Polymer is based in Moraine, Ohio, and specializes in high-temperature structural materials. TenCate currently uses Performance Polymer’s resin systems to make prepreg materials for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The materials will be made at a TenCate plant in Morgan Hill, Calif. Performance Polymer is owned by PROOF Research, a Columbia Falls, Montana-based maker of carbon fiber firearm barrels and other components.