EXTON, PA. — Plants are expanding, data-storage discs are tightening and weld-line strengths are improving. It's just another year at LNP Engineering Plastics Inc.
As previously reported, the Exton-based compounder will add six twin-screw extruders, three color concentrate lines and two structural composite lines by January at plants in the United States, Europe and Asia. The $20 million investment will be the largest in company history.
The big winners will be LNP plants in Santa Ana, Calif., and Thornaby-on-Tees, England. Santa Ana is gaining two color lines and a twin-screw machine, while Thornaby-on-Tees will receive a color line and a structural composites line.
The structural composites lines, which will make LNP's Verton-brand long-fiber-filled nylons and polypropylenes, are most needed, according to LNP America President Richard Burns.
``We've been hurt by capacity limitations with Verton,'' Burns said in a recent interview in Exton. ``We could have sold more with the underhood automotive applications we've seen.''
The second new Verton line will be installed in Columbus, Ind.
The data-storage disc crunch is leading LNP to introduce Clean Compound Systems, a line consisting primarily of polycarbonate compounds in its Stat-Kon and Lubriloy product families.
With manufacturers seeking to cram more and more data into compact discs, the distance between the recording head and the magnetic medium has been reduced greatly and now is measured in microns. Potentially disruptive ions can transfer directly from one substrate to another.
Product marketing manager Mark Kaptur translates this problem into English, saying, ``If there's dust, it'll crash.''
LNP has tackled the issue by searching for the cleanest raw material it can find.
``We've been surprised by some of the results,'' Kaptur said. ``Some material that we think of as dirty in a handling sense, like carbon black, is clean in an ion sense.''
With business machines making up 25-30 percent of the Stat-Kon/Lubriloy market, the potential for superclean materials could be sizable. Two customers — Impec Inc. of Chanhassen, Minn., and Fluoroware of Chaska, Minn. — already use the materials in disc-drive production.
The weld-line issue is being addressed by Lubriloy RW, a lubricated nylon 6/6 alloy composite that can achieve a weld-line strength similar to straight nylon. The material is being used in printer parts, including gears, that receive a lot of wear and tear through repetitive motion.
Originally developed for automotive heating systems, Lubriloy RW has given business machine parts higher impact wear and friction resistance, said product marketing manager Mark Stokes.
LNP, a division of Japan's Kawasaki-LNP Inc., expects to post sales of $260 million this year. A recent market study by Frost & Sullivan of Mountain View, Calif., ranked LNP as one of the 25 largest compounders in the United States, with 1-2 percent of the overall market.