Kraiburg GmbH has chosen Duluth, Ga., as the site for its first North American compounding plant.
Kraiburg will launch production of its Thermolast K-brand thermoplastic elastomers on a twin-screw extrusion line in the fourth quarter of 2000, marketing manager Chuck Calhoun said. The line will have an annual capacity of 3 million pounds.
The firm, which operates in the United States as Kraiburg Corp., will add a second compounding line in Duluth sometime in 2002. Overall, the 25,000-square-foot site has room for six lines.
Kraiburg expects to have 12 employees in Duluth by the end of the year, according to Calhoun.
Thermolast K, a styrenic block copolymer based on Kraton-brand material from Kraton Polymers, is enjoying double-digit annual growth and is finding homes in applications ranging from toothbrushes to toys to handles for power tools and lawn equipment. About 25 percent of Kraiburg's 2000 TPE sales came from North America, Calhoun said.
Currently, Kraiburg's only TPE production is in Waldkraiburg, Germany, where the firm was launched as a rubber compounder in 1947. Production in Waldkraiburg is expected to ramp up from about 35 million pounds annually to about 45 million by October.
After the Duluth plant is up and running, Kraiburg plans to add compounding in Nilai, Malaysia, where it operates a sales office.
Thermolast K can be compounded with and adhered to a number of thermoplastics, including polypropylene, nylon and polycarbonate. A new line of Thermolast K - dubbed E2 - will be commercialized later this year, offering processors increased chemical resistance.
In North America, Kraiburg probably will compete with other Kraton licensees such as GLS Corp. and Teknor Apex, but Calhoun said he is confident that enough new applications will come along to keep Kraiburg's extruders running.
``It's a very competitive arena, but you have to remember that five or six years ago, there was no such thing as razor blade handles with a tactile feel, and now that's a solid niche market,'' he said.