Markets for glass reinforcements are very tight and demand continues to grow, and the combination is giving reinforced plastics compounders fits. ``There are major shortages in glass fibers and they have really underscored how global the world has become,'' said Bob Schulz, president and chief executive officer of LNP Engineering Plastics Inc. of Exton, Pa.
``Glass makers are making ev-erything they can, and compounders are buying regularly on the spot market. When you do that, you have to pay the spot market prices,'' he said.
``Ten years ago, we wouldn't have had this problem. Then, if there was a shortage in Europe, you usually had enough raw materials in the United States or Far East. Today, shortages are global. It's like that with all raw materials,'' Schulz added.
While he acknowledged the difficulties the tightness in glass markets has caused, Schulz and several other executives of large compounders said their companies have not gone without supplies. Glass makers are continuing to supply barely sufficient quantities to their largest customers, the executives said.
``Many compounders in Europe have been cut off, and smaller compounders are really hurting, but the larger, long-term customers haven't had difficulties,'' Schulz said.
Stephen Copeland, national sales manager for A. Schulman Inc. of Akron, Ohio, agreed, but said launching projects is dicey.
``You have to be careful in expanding the market for glass reinforcements. We are looking at hybrid products, using mineral fillers and polymer reinforcements, and we are engineering around the shortage of glass,'' Copeland said.
Demand for glass reinforcements grew 16 percent in 1994, outstripping the 10-12 percent rate that was predicted in 1993, and causing shortages well into 1995.
This year, glass makers predicted 5-6 percent growth in demand, and said shortages would last through the first half of the year before easing.