ORLANDO, FLA. — GE Plastics has stepped up its efforts to re-enter the small-lot custom color compound market by dedicating more than 30 extrusion lines in Selkirk, N.Y., and Cobourg, Ontario, to the effort.
The business will target plastics processors who buy custom color compounds and filled/reinforced compounds in amounts of less than 5,000 pounds.
Pittsfield, Mass.-based GE also announced its ColorXpress Web site, offering online color matching and access to 30,000 GE colors, will be online March 1 at www.gecolorxpress.com.
Paul Hirt, general manager of GE's newly formed Specialty Products & Services business unit, announced both moves at Engineering Thermoplastics '99, held Jan. 25-27 in Orlando.
The ColorXpress segment will focus on small-lot compounding and color selection. The service will be able to match up spectrophotometer readings and provide standards from its color library within 48 hours of electronically receiving the order. GE officials said this process typically takes five days to four weeks. Once color matches are chosen, material can be delivered within four business days.
The new unit's other segment — Custom Engineered Products — will focus on developing new thermoplastic blends and improving resin performance through fillers and reinforcements such as minerals, glass and carbon.
Hirt said GE, the world's largest polycarbonate and ABS producer, is re-entering the small-lot business to energize the growth of its engineering resin business and because the number of processors ordering small lots is increasing.
But industry efficiency hasn't kept up as small-lot orders have increased, Hirt said. Some 20 percent of all such orders meet their target delivery dates between 70 and 94 percent of the time, according to GE. That ratio adds up to 70,000 defects for every 1 million shipments.
GE plans to combine efficiency with speed to increase its market share.
``We need to improve speed or lose business,'' Hirt said. ``When Silicon Valley took off we weren't ready and lost some [computer] applications to metal.''
Hirt said the new unit plans to accommodate color matching on the Web site through a screen that will allow users to calibrate their computer's color settings with that of the site.
The new unit also will be a supplier to Polymerland, the GE-owned resin distribution giant.
Conference attendees had many questions about the GE effort. Some wondered why GE was reversing itself after several years away from the small-lot market, while others questioned if the new unit could actually improve on existing color delivery times in the industry.
``Color-matching has always been a problem and it's hard to believe someone has the key to do it,'' said George Duncan, president of Certified Thermoplastics Co. Inc. in Burbank, Calif. ``The instrument [that GE] is using to determine color may well be different from what the processor is using.''
Duncan's company extrudes ABS and PC profiles for the business machine and aerospace industries.
``I'm not so sure [GE] can reach the speed goals,'' added Robert Mouro, compounding vice president for Reichhold, a maker of specialty polymers, adhesives and polymer systems based in Durham, N.C. ``I don't see them making custom colors so much as selling material they already have.''