Aristech Acrylics LLC plans to add a fourth monstrous sheet casting machine to the company's Florence, Ky., manufacturing plant.
With the new custom-built machine — and throughput improvements to the other three lines — Aristech will more than double its capacity to 110 million pounds annually by 1999. The company also plans to add 50 employees by the year 2000, bringing its work force up to 350.
The new machine will be constructed with the help of Lockwood Greene Engineering Inc. of Spartanburg, S.C., and Berndorf Belt Systems Inc. of Schaumburg, Ill. Continuous casting lines produce acrylic sheet on steel conveyor belts. Each casting line at Aristech is longer than a football field, according to company literature.
Success of Aristech's solid surface material — Acrystone — prompted the expansion drive, according to spokesman Jack Maurer.
``Business has been good, demand has been good,'' he said in a June 11 interview. ``It's a reflection of the overall economy.
Acrystone is faster to produce than ``pure'' acrylic sheet, which is why the company's capacity can jump so high with just the one line.
Uses for Acrystone include the usual bathroom and kitchen surface applications, but Aristech has gone a little further. The firm has taken advantage of acrylic's excellent weatherability to clad its new research and development facility in Florence with Acrystone panels.
Aristech's expansion announcement comes amid a general growth spurt in the acrylic sheet industry.
Plaskolite Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, in May bought the American Mirror Division of American Louver Co. of Chicago. American, which produces mirrors with acrylic sheet, was Plaskolite's third acquisition in four years.
In late April, Cyro Industries of Rockaway, N.J., announced a $35 million expansion to its acrylic resin and sheet capacity. At the time, Cyro said it would be the largest continuous-cast sheet producer in the world.
Aristech Acrylics is a joint venture formed in September 1997 by Aristech Chemical Corp. of Pittsburgh and Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd. of Tokyo. The company formerly operated as the Aristech Chemical Corp.'s Acrylic Sheet Unit.
Aristech Acrylics sold about $90 million of sheet products in 1997, and ranked in a three-way tie for 51st in Plastics News' most recent survey of North American sheet and film manufacturers.