Toray Plastics America Inc. is adding significant capacity for oriented polypropylene and polyester film production, both globally and at its North Kingstown, R.I., plant. Richard Schloesser, senior vice president for sales and marketing of the film maker, confirmed reports Jan. 23 that Toray will purchase the French polyester film business of Rhone-Poulenc SA.
The purchase of Rhone-Poulenc Films SA's production facility in Lyon, France, bolsters Toray's position as one of the largest polyester film producers in the world, and adds 60 million pounds per year to its capacity. Toray's polyester films are used largely in magnetic audio and video tape, and the company already has significant capacity in the United States and Japan.
Ronald Wood, technical services manager for Rhone-Poulenc's North American film division in Holcomb, N.Y., said thepurchase will allow the New York operation to continue to import polyester films from the Lyon facility for three years. The company imports about 1 million pounds per year of polyester packaging films from Lyon, as well as specialty films for plain-paper copiers, and graphic and industrial films.
The bulk of the New York facility's output is about 6 million pounds per year of its Terphane-brand polyester barrier film, Wood said.
``For Rhone-Poulenc SA this was not a major part of the core business,'' he said. ``We look at it as positive in every way.''
Rhone-Poulenc SA, the parent of Rhone-Poulenc Films, is the largest general chemicals manufacturer in France. Toray announced it will spend about $120 million to improve the plant. Terms were not disclosed.
In North Kingstown, Toray is expanding to take advantage of the burgeoning markets for both polyester and OPP films.
Schloesser said the firm will add a new, 8-meter line capable of producing 10 million pounds annually of extra-thin, polyester, thermal-transfer ribbon. The ribbon most commonly is used in bar-code labeling. Toray expects the line to begin production by the first quarter of 1997. Schloesser said the company also will add a new, 8-meter OPP film line at the plant. The $50 million line will be able to produce 32 million pounds of thin-gauge OPP film per year.
The expansions will add about 50 employees to the plant's work force of about 500.
``That addition brings to 85 million pounds per year our OPP capacity at North Kingstown,'' Schloesser said. ``It should be up and running by late 1997.''
The North Kingstown facility currently has two 8-meter OPP lines in operation as well as one polyester line, producing film for use in magnetic tape.
The plant - Toray's only film plant in North America - will be expanded to accommodate the new lines, he said. Parent company Toray Industries Inc. of Tokyo operates four OPP lines at a plant in Tsuchiura, Japan, and cast PP film lines at Nakatsugawa, Japan, and Bangkok, Thailand. The Toray announcement comes at a time when other major producers also are boosting production.
Toray Plastics America was 40th in Plastics News' 1995 ranking of North American film and sheet producers with an estimated $118.7 million in annual sales of those products.