MOUNT VERNON, IND. — The boom continues for GE Plastics' Valox thermoplastic polyester line, as company executives expect a debottlenecking to produce as much as 60 million pounds of additional capacity by year's end to help meet 260 million pounds' worth of new product applications.
Valox General Manager Mike Brown said the extra capacity will be gained ``just through good practices'' in producing Valox, a compounded polybutylene terephthalate.
``The average company doesn't build a plant that big,'' Brown said in an Oct. 15 interview at GE's Mount Vernon site. ``Most companies are only using 10,000- to 25,000-ton kettles.''
Telecommunications uses are driving growth in Valox and the PBT field in general, according to Brown.
This includes particularly strong growth in network information device systems in cable, home-computer and fiber-optic uses, according to Craig Nikrant, product manager for Valox and Xenoy resins.
GE also reports aggressive growth in several other engineering resin lines.
GE's Xenoy resins, which are blends of Valox and the company's Lexan-brand polycarbonate, also continue to grow 5-6 percent annually. Brown said GE is embarking on a strategy to grow Xenoy outside of its automotive uses in bumper fascias.
Brown described lawnmower decks, power tools and tractor hoods as ``big growth areas'' that are still in development for Xenoy.
The company's Enduran line continues to be marketed toward kitchen and bath applications. The product, a mineral-filled PBT formerly known as ``heavy Valox,'' was split from the Valox line earlier this year to establish its own identity with designers, who have been attracted to the product because of its heavy feel.
Enduran has a ceramic-type look and feel but the strength of an engineering plastic, according to Nikrant.
Officials said GE is developing 200 million pounds of new Enduran applications.
GE's Ultem-brand polyetherimide expects to exceed a 15 percent growth rate this year due greatly to its move into automotive markets.
Ultem, which often is blended with GE's PC and polyphenylene oxide products, is moving beyond its original uses in food-service trays and high-temperature applications and finding a niche in reflectors and auto lighting applications because of its clarity and styling advantages, according to Ultem general manager Mike Huff.