DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. is adding production capacity for glass-reinforcing fibers at its plants in Brazil and South Korea, and has plans to expand prod-uction in the United States in the next two years. Speaking at a news conference at the K'95 trade show in Dusseldorf, Glen Hiner, chairman and chief executive officer of Owens-Corning, said his firm is adding 99 million pounds of production capacity a year through expansions in Brazil and Korea.
OCF of Toledo, Ohio, has added 220 million pounds of annual production capacity since 1994, and the company's competitors also have boosted capacity, according to Hiner. Despite the higher production, the plastics industry's increased demand for glass reinforcements has kept supplies tight, he said.
Efthimios Vidalis, president of OCF's Composites business, said the expansions will allow OCF to keep up with demand for fiber reinforcements. However, he does not expect supplies to be sufficient to permit price cuts unless there is an unexpected decline in world economies.
OCF will add a fourth furnace to production at its complex in Rio Claro, Brazil. That will increase production by 44 million pounds a year.
In Kimchon, South Korea, OCF will add 55 million pounds of additional annual capacity. The Korean facility is a joint venture operated by LG/Owens-Corning, a Korean company.
In the United States, OCF has a second furnace still mothballed at its Jackson, Tenn., facility.
That facility was closed for several years, and one furnace was restarted in 1994. Hiner said with the renovation and restarting of the single furnace, 80 employees now produce the same amount of glass fibers a year that 500 employees previously produced with two furnaces.
The restarting of the second furnace at Jackson could begin as early as next year, and would add as much as 154 million pounds per year of additional capacity, Hiner said.
Vidalis said such projects as the new structural member for Ford Motor Co.'s Taurus and Sable models, a new glass-fiber-reinforced tub for Whirlpool Corp. washing machines that are built in Italy, and a new hood for a car built by Alfa Romeo in Italy, are driving demand for glass fibers. The Alfa Romeo hood is the largest application of sheet molding compound in the European automotive industry, Vidalis said, and shows that demand for all glass reinforcements is increasing.
Some executives of thermoplastic resin-making companies have said thermoset sheet molding compounds are mature technologies that could not be expected to see increased demand.
Even with growth in demand for thermoset uses, demand for glass reinforcements is greater for applications in thermoplastic applications, Hiner said.
Growth is especially strong in Southeast Asia and South America, Vidalis said.
In part to address new growth, Hiner said OCF is considering building a glass fiber production facility in India. Such a plant would have a minimum capacity of 110 million pounds per year and would represent an investment of $90 million to $100 million, he said.
Separately, Hiner announced the development of a glass fiber product under the trade name Miraflex.
While Hiner said the Miraflex product combines the chemistries of two types of glass, initial applications for the product will be for insulation and other building products, not for composites. No research has been done on using that product as a reinforcement, he said.