THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - ICI Polyurethanes is doubling capacity for thermoplastic polyure-thanes to about 22 million pounds a year by installing a second twin-screw extruder at its Shepton Mallet, England, plant, at a cost of more than 1 million ($1.6 million). ICI has a deliberate policy of specializing in a few niche areas of TPUs - footwear and automotive - rather than covering a whole range of markets, David Payne, global manager for ICI Polyurethanes flexibles business, said at UTECH '96 at The Hague.
ICI's projected capacity represents about 5 percent of world demand, Payne said. But it has, ``a big market share in the segments we're attacking, especially foot-wear,'' he said.
On the footwear side, ICI's TPUs have a strong position, complementing other ICI poly-urethane products for footwear, and giving the firm a ``total product offering,'' Payne said.
The footwear sector is very competitive, so ICI has worked hard to improve the cost-effectiveness of its materials, to achieve lower-weight products, which are currently being tested. In the classic shoe market it needs to offer better production efficiency than the lower-cost materials, such as ethylene vinyl acetate, that are now in use, Payne said.
The footwear business is ``really fast-growing in Asia,'' Payne said.
In automotive uses, ICI is developing products with good abrasion and heat resistance. High growth rates for TPUs of up to 20 percent a year are fueled by uses such as automotive window encapsulation, Payne said. ICI is ``not going for that market,'' but is looking at under-the-hood applications, said Payne, declining to be more specific.
In a global TPE market of 2.2 billion pounds, TPUs constitute about 330 million pounds, Payne said. Positioning TPUs in speciality uses is important, Payne said, because the raw material costs are ``very high.''
For TPUs, ``we will continue to see double-digit growth,'' - greater in footwear - ``if we get the right cost/performance ratio,'' he added.
Separately, Patrick Thomas, European business director for ICI Polyurethanes, described ICI's new methylene diphenyl diisocyanate plant, now being built at Rozenburg, The Netherlands.Thomas said ICI has a ``total commitment to MDI - with a total investment in the project and related plants of 250 million ($380 million).
The Rozenburg plant will have 352.7 million pounds initial capacity, Thomas said. It is integrated with the existing Rozenburg plant of 220.4 million pounds capacity.