GE Plastics' Structured Products Division will build a plant devoted to multiwall polycarbonate sheet production in North America by mid-1999.
The Pittsfield, Mass.-based firm announced the move Sept. 4, but said it will not reveal the plant's location until later in the year. GE Plastics, the world's leading PC maker, also declined to reveal how many jobs it expects the new plant to create.
The company already makes Thermoclear multiwall PC sheet in Mount Vernon, Ind. The Structured Products Division placed 19th in Plastics News' 1998 ranking of North American film and sheet manufacturers, with an estimated $255.1 million in annual sales.
In the past year, GE has opened a multiwall PC sheet plant in Campinas, Brazil, and PC film operations at a plant in Nansha, China. Industry estimates place the company's total extrusion capacity at about 200 million pounds.
Company officials said in a news release the proposed plant is designed to capitalize on growing demand for multiwall PC sheet. In Europe, GE sells the product for architectural applications such as atriums, stadiums, skylights, roof vaults and walls. To date, North American uses have primarily been in garden-center roofing.
``Lexan Thermoclear sheet has achieved broad market acceptance in Europe, but the U.S. multiwall market is potentially much bigger,'' said Lyndon Cole, GE Structured Products' general manager. ``We anticipate that this market could equal Europe in the not-too-distant future.''
The company declined to disclose multiwall PC sheet sales.
GE's Thermoclear product is extruded in thicknesses of 6-25 millimeters.
Industry sources said GE Plastics has at least 45 percent of the North American market for PC film and sheet, with its nearest competitor having less than 10 percent.