Specialty resin producer Elf Atochem SA of Paris recently gained a foothold in the Asian acrylic market through its acquisition of the acrylics business of Hanwha Chemical Corp. of Chinhae, South Korea.
The acquisition gives Elf Atochem 33 million pounds of acrylic resin capacity and 26 million pounds of acrylic and polycarbonate sheet capacity.
The firm, with North American headquarters in Philadelphia, also plans to add 2 million pounds of nylon 12 capacity through a debottlenecking in Birdsboro, Pa., and will begin importing a nylon 6 grade aimed at air-intake manifolds.
In the past year, Elf Atochem has acquired both controlling interest in the Korean plant and the Plexiglas acrylic resin and sheet business of rival Rohm and Haas Co., also of Philadelphia.
``The simplest way to be a world leader is to buy the people who are leading the world,'' said Plexiglas marketing manager William Rindosh.
Rindosh added that Plexiglas acrylic resins work well in the Elf Atochem portfolio since they can be paired in applications with the firm's nylon 12 and polyvinylidene fluoride resins. Plexiglas had been the only engineering resin in Rohm and Haas' lineup.
``If you have more than one [engineering resin], you can play the game,'' Rindosh said.
As an example, Rindosh cited an acrylic/PVDF blend currently being used in a film for bumper fascias.
Elf Atochem now produces acrylic resin in Louisville, Ky., and Bristol, Pa., and acrylic sheet in Kensington, Conn., and Matamoros, Mexico.
The company's Rylsan-brand nylon 12 is used as a multilayer fuel-system liner in conjunction with PVDF. The debottlenecking will raise the company's annual nylon 12 capacity to almost 25 million pounds.
Elf Atochem's status as the only nylon 12 producer in North America gives the company a distinct advantage, automotive market manager James Cole said.
``Our availability of production and quality control in this country is a real logistical advantage,'' Cole said.
Orgalloy, the nylon 6 resin to be imported from French plants, can be used in sequential blow molding and should be available midyear. If it finds a market in the United States, the firm may add domestic nylon 6 production, Cole said.
Elf Atochem also plans to add capacity at its PVDF plant in Calvert City, Ky., but has not set a date for that move.