GE Plastics has revamped its portfolio of optical-quality polycarbonate and added manufacturing capacity in Europe.
The Pittsfield, Mass.-based supplier exhibits the changes June 8-10 at Replitech North America in San Francisco.
``The optical-media market is changing fast,'' said Blair Souder, global marketing manager with GE Plastics' media programs group, recently formed to unify GE's global customer support.
While the market has been ``the realm of compact discs,'' digital versatile discs and DVD recordables and minidiscs now present more-demanding material requirements, he said by telephone.
Formula changes reflect input both from customers and the year-old, fully outfitted Optical Media Development Center in Pittsfield. Engineers dissected all processes to identify potential gains for molders.
As a result, GE Plastics has refined and improved the particulate level and viscosity of Lexan OQ1030L, which entered the market initially in 1997. An addition, Lexan OQ1040L, is arriving in the market now as an ultralow-viscosity resin for DVD replicators needing a higher-flow, optical-quality PC. Another resin, Lexan OQ1050, is arriving from Europe.
In February, GE Plastics opened a PC facility in Cartagena, Spain, with four major lines and annual capacity of 286 million pounds. The lines will begin operating one at a time, he said.
The plant will focus on optical-quality PC with tight control of melt flow and particulates, Souder said. Using a continuous melt-polymerization process, the plant will produce OQ1050, and will distribute the material initially in Europe and Asia and, next year, worldwide. GE used the same manufacturing technology in Chiba, Japan, before committing to the substantial operation in Spain.
GE has operated a separate compounding plant at Cartagena since 1995. The firm also makes PC in Mount Vernon, Ind., and Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands.
GE expects tighter production requirements on future formats. Within four years, media formats may contain 20 gigabytes per side using blue-laser and other technologies, Souder said. While all the formats will be plastic, Souder predicts, they may not be PC.
Digital and high-definition television are driving change. Most current DVDs with random access memory have per-side capacity of 2.6 gigabytes and may go to 5 gigabytes next year.
GE works with customers on new materials and technologies, tightening specifications, replicating smaller grooves and pits and dealing with vibration, shock and tilt characteristics.