CHICAGO — Engineering resins maker Ticona is more than doubling its liquid crystal polymer capacity in Shelby, N.C., and is adding 4 million pounds of polyphenylene sulfide capacity by debottlenecking its Wilmington, N.C., plant.
Summit, N.J.-based Ticona, which is not exhibiting at NPE, also launched its Buy Ticona Direct e-commerce site June 19. The site will allow U.S. customers to place orders, view open orders and their order history, make changes and reprint key documents.
Ticona also is joining Bayer Corp., DuPont, Dow Chemical Co. and BASF Corp. in Omnexis, a joint e-commerce site featuring resin pricing and information for the injection molding industry.
Ticona made the announcements at a June 19 news conference.
The LCP expansion will more than double Shelby's capacity, which stands at about 8 million pounds per year.
More than 80 percent of Ticona's Vectra-brand LCP is sold into electrical/electronic components such as connectors, sockets, bobbins, switches and printed circuit boards.
High growth in these applications is fueling the expansion, as well as a 4.5 million-pound capacity expansion at Polyplastics Co. Ltd., a joint venture Ticona operates with Daicel Chemical Industries Ltd. in Fuji, Japan.
The Shelby expansion should be complete in early 2002, while the Fuji project should be fully operational later this year.
In PPS, Fortron Industries, a joint venture between Ticona and Kureha Chemical Industries of Tokyo, is adding equipment in Wilmington while increasing the site's total capacity to 16 million pounds a year.
PPS is penetrating such applications as automotive pumps and valves, electronic connectors, heater grilles, power tools and microwave components.
The other big project on Ticona's to-do list for 2000 is the opening of the first world-scale cyclic-olefin copolymer plant in Oberhausen, Germany. The 66 million-pound-per-year plant should open in September.
Ticona's e-commerce site has to go beyond existing e-commerce models, according to Ticona Chief Executive Officer Ed Munoz.
"If it's only a resin portal, it's not going to succeed," Munoz said. "We need tooling, packaging and service people involved."
Signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down could affect Ticona if it affects auto sales, since the automotive market accounted for almost half of the firm's overall sales of $800 million in 1999, Munoz said.
But at the same time, Ticona's international sales mix — with 38 percent in the Americas, 36 percent in Asia Pacific and 26 percent in Europe — should help smooth out any bumps in the road, he said.
"Our international balance should definitely help us out," Munoz added. "Europe wasn't in great shape until about six months ago and Asia is just starting to recover. But it went the other way a couple of years ago when the Asian markets fell while the U.S. was going strong."
Ticona is a unit of Celanese AG of Frankurt, Germany. It accounted for 18 percent of Celanese sales in 1999 and ranked fourth among the world's engineering resin makers with a 10 percent share of a market estimated at 9.3 billion pounds.