CHICAGO — Van Leer Flexibles Inc. has invested $6 million to increase Valeron film capacity at its Houston plant. Van Leer first announced the Valeron-related news Nov. 18, during Pack Expo in Chicago.
By year's end, the company also will install a second multimillion-dollar film line at the 200,000-square-foot plant, to boost capacity for its other specialty films, according to spokesman Terry Bazzoon.
The Valeron line raises annual extrusion capacity for that film to 20 million pounds, from 15 million, Bazzoon said last week by telephone from Van Leer's Houston headquarters.
``It's been under construction for a number of months. But it's up and making product now,'' he said.
He noted that the Valeron line is the first expansion for the firm in several years.
The second new line will have multiproduct capability to boost capacity by 30 percent for blown high density polyethylene, rubber-modified HDPE, PET and glycol-modified PET films, he said. Van Leer's blown HDPE is an ultrasmooth film used in printing and bar-code applications, such as brick and lumber tags, posters and banners.
Valeron, an oriented, cross-laminated, high-molecular-weight HDPE, also is used in the fast-growing label and tag market, such as for airline bag tags, Bazzoon said. Other key applications fueling growth in North and Latin American markets include child-resistant packaging and shipping sacks. Though the firm focuses on packaging, its film also is used to wrap houses and to line ponds. All its markets are growing, according to Bazzoon, and 1995 film sales were about $30 million.
Making Valeron is a fairly labor-intensive, multistep process. First HMW HDPE is extruded, then stretched to complete its orientation. Next, the film is cut spirally, to give the orientation a 45-degree bias. Finally, two single-ply layers of the film are laminated together, to render it tear-resistant in both machine and transverse directions. For many applications, Valeron's high strength-to-weight ratio translates into source reduction, he said.
``Its 3-mil base product is as strong as materials three to four times thicker,'' Bazzoon said, likening the film's orientation to plywood.
The two new film lines give Van Leer eight lines total. Bazzoon said the company has geared up to about 200 workers in the past 11/2 years to prepare for this year's expansion.
Van Leer is the U.S. film subsidiary of Royal Packaging Industries BV Van Leer, a $2.5 billion business based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Van Leer's sister plant in Essen, Belgium, also makes Valeron film.