CHICAGO — Rhodia SA's Engineering Plastics division is looking to make a strong move into North America through a distribution deal with GE Polymerland and by compounding a new specialty nylon at its Canadian plant.
GE Polymerland now will distribute Rhodia's Technyl-brand nylon 6 and 6/6 resins on a global basis to small and medium-size processors. The partnership will begin in North America.
"Working with GE Polymerland will allow us to focus on strategic customers and add to our base in North America," Rhodia President Jean-Claude Steinmetz said at a June 19 news conference.
GE Polymerland President Peter Foss called the Rhodia deal "a significant addition to GE Polymerland that adds considerable power to our brand position."
Lyon, France-based Rhodia ranks as the world's third-largest nylon maker, producing resins in Lyon; Gorzow, Poland; Milan, Italy; Seoul, South Korea; and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The firm opened its first North American nylon compounding plant in Mississauga, Ontario, last year. It also operates a technical development center in Farmington Hills, Mich.
The new material Rhodia introduced at NPE is TechnylStar, a specialty nylon aimed at the automotive market. It boasts a unique, semi-crystalline, nonlinear polymer structure which provides outstanding flow, reinforcement levels of up to 65 percent and superior quality molded surface finish.
"TechnylStar changes the game in nylon by enhancing productivity and performance," Rhodia electrical and electronics markets director Paul Bacon said.
Rhodia officials expect TechnylStar to sell for a premium of 20 percent over standard nylon products. It initially will be made with a nylon 6 but the firm has plans to expand it into nylon 6/6, as well.
Production is under way in Gorzow, while Mississauga should begin compounding the new material early next year.
Initial automotive applications will include door handles and side-view mirrors and "anywhere appearance is a factor," said Chad Waldschmidt, Rhodia's North American automotive director.
The Mississauga site currently uses only about 11 million pounds of its 44 million-pound annual capacity, but that utilization rate could grow if TechnylStar takes off, Waldschmidt said.
Potential nonautomotive uses for the new material include ski bindings, connectors and small mechanical components.
Rhodia's nylon business posted sales of $1.2 billion in 1998, with nylon resins and compounds accounting for about $180 million.