EVANSVILLE, IND. — Ferro Corp. will build a $4 million twin-screw extrusion line at its Evansville site to meet surging demand for its Gapex-brand glass-filled polypropylene compounds.
The new line is scheduled to be operational by mid-1999, according to Steve Edge, general manager of Ferro's filled and reinforced products division.
Gapex sales have grown by 20 percent in each of the last three years and currently stand at about $25 million annually, Edge said. The product accounts for about 25 percent of the division's overall business.
The new line will give Cleveland-based Ferro a total of 19 compounding lines in Evansville. The company last expanded at the site in 1994 when it added three twin-screw lines.
Growth in the automotive market, where glass-filled PP is replacing glass-filled nylon in under-the-hood applications, has spurred Gapex growth, Edge said in an Oct. 29 telephone interview from Evansville.
``If our material can do the job, it's no contest from a price standpoint,'' Edge said. ``[Gapex] is really bridging the gap between commodity and engineering thermoplastics because of its heat deflection characteristics."
Glass-filled PP's chemical resistance has given it an advantage over competing materials, according to Edge.
``Our division has taken polypropylene to areas it's never been seen in before,'' he added. ``In some instances, it meets or exceeds engineering plastics specifications, and once we do that, the party's over.''
Gapex is also taking business from glass-filled polycarbonate and PBT in such applications as swimming pool pumps, sand filters, pressure tanks and power tools. William MacIver, the division's marketing director, added customers' search for a low-cost alternative to engineering resins has been a key factor in Gapex growth.
``Everybody wants to cost reduce, and when you go down the food chain, you eventually go to polyolefins,'' MacIver said in an Oct. 14 interview in Evansville.
The attractiveness of Gapex chemical resistance was evident in a customer's recent decision to use Gapex as a sprinkler housing on golf courses, MacIver said.
``The customer was concerned ABS parts would be eroded by the chemicals that were used on the fairways, so he decided to use glass-filled Gapex,'' MacIver said.
The division is also marketing metallocene-modified grades of several of its products, including Gapex, according to technical director Deen Chundury.
Metallocene-based PP compounds could find uses in auto applications such as carbon cannisters, air cleaners and heating ducts, as well as in automotive and appliance areas, in the next two to three years, Chundury said in an Oct. 14 interview in Evansville.