Automotive supplier Haartz Corp. is taking its first steps toward olefinic interior panels by adding a new extruder and expanding its plant.
The company, based in Acton, Mass., is investing $3.5 million to increase plant space and add the sheet coextrusion equipment, said automotive sales director Timothy Jackson.
The equipment is designed to extrude cross-linked polypropylene foam onto nonwoven PVC cover stock for instrument and door panels, said Jackson, who is based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
U.S.-based carmakers are just beginning to use PP foam for interiors, Jackson said. Most of today's vehicles use urethane foam. But urethane is messier to apply, leads to more scrap and is less easily recycled than PP, he said.
Haartz produced its first vinyl-coated PP foam skin for the instrument panel on the 1999-model Oldsmobile Alero from General Motors Corp. The entire panel is molded by Magna Interior Systems, a division of Aurora, Ontario-based Magna International Inc.
The auto industry also is starting to convert some interior panels to thermoplastic olefin skins instead of PVC, Jackson said. Haartz also can extrude TPO skins, he said.
``Suppliers expect a change in European legislation that could affect recycling laws here,'' Jackson said. ``A switch to olefins could happen very quickly.''
Haartz's Massachusetts plant contains equipment that can extrude, laminate and emboss sheet in one process. Embossing is done at high temperatures to add wood grain or other decorative features.
With the new equipment, the company now operates eight extrusion lines in Massachusetts.
The company will add an additional 58,000 square feet to the facility. Shipping and inventory space will be moved to the new addition to make room for additional equipment, Jackson said. Current plant size is 265,000 square feet, with a 60,000-square-foot warehouse off-site.
Haartz recorded about $100 million in 1998 sales, he said.