ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Solvay Draka plans to add lay-flat film extrusion technology to its recently acquired Commerce, Calif., plant and make other capital improvements there. Solvay Draka bought the Commerce plant in September when it purchased film and sheet producer Ellay Inc. Solvay Draka moved its Alkor Draka Advanced Films Inc. unit from La Porte, Ind., to Commerce and renamed the combined company Solvay Draka.
Draka President Fred Young declined to give details of the expansion, but said the firm plans to supply all lay-flat film in North America from Commerce, rather than importing it from a sister plant in the Netherlands, as Alkor Draka had done. The new equipment will be in place by year's end, and will be in a clean room of at least Class 100,000 specifications, Young said at the Medical Design and Manufacturing West show, held Jan. 18-20 in Anaheim.
The expansion also will upgrade the company's other processes in Commerce, including calendering, film extrusion and compounding, Young said.
Young headed Alkor Draka before the purchase. The previous president of Ellay, Stan Edmond, is a consultant.
Alkor Draka's estimated annual sales were about $30 million. Young said he would like Solvay Draka to have sales of $50 million in five years, and said it may buy other companies or explore joint ventures in the decorative laminate film market in North America to reach that informal goal. Draka currently imports laminate film from other Solvay operations, he said.
The company is focused on the medical market, where it supplies film used in blood, dialysis and IV bags, and packaging for nutrition and cell culturing products.
Draka's parent, Solvay SA in Brussels, Belgium, also is considering an extrusion and compounding plant in Asia, Young said.
Draka and Solvay's film operations in the Netherlands are researching PVC alternatives in response to questions about PVC by environmentalists, Young said.
The U.S. unit is focused on barrier laminate products, while the Netherlands is looking at coextruded film technology, Young said. While the company is making significant investments in olefin films as a replacement, he said PVC remains tough to compete against on cost and performance. Many competing materials cannot be welded using radio frequency, so companies entrenched in RF would find it very expensive to switch, he said.
"We're preparing for [a shift from PVC], but I don't see it in the near future," he said. "We have inquiries, but it's not a strong push. Right now the market does not know what direction it is looking for with non-PVC."