Radici Plastics USA is keeping an eye on its 2002 growth rate before deciding if it will expand nylon compounding capacity next year in South Carolina.
``Last year was difficult, but volume in our prime [resin] compounding has increased a lot this year,'' plant manager Davide Calegari said in a recent interview in Blacksburg.
Since starting nylon compounding at the site in 1999, Radici has increased annual capacity by 2 million pounds, to 10 million pounds, on its two lines. There's plenty of room for Radici to expand in Blacksburg, where it has a 140,000-square-foot plant that formerly housed American Micrell, a Radici-owned polyester fiber firm that closed in 1999.
Radici compounds both prime and post-industrial nylon 6 and 6/6 in Blacksburg. Prime compounding is done on its twin-screw line, while its single-screw is used for post-industrial. Most of the plant's output is glass-filled material, but the firm can produce a full line of compounds filled with minerals, glass microbeads and elastomeric materials, according to Silvio Dorati, who replaced Calegari as plant manager in June.
The site, which employs 15, also is beneficial to Radici because of its access to both the Atlantic Coast and a low-cost labor pool, Calegari added. Several automotive injection molders that use nylon compounds also have opened facilities in the Southeast in recent years. About half of the Blacksburg plant's output is sold into the automotive market.
Producing in South Carolina also presented some challenges for moisture-sensitive nylon compounds. The region's humidity forced Radici to relocate its silos away from the plant's walls and to install a customized blowing system, Calegari said.
Even in a slow economy last year, Radici posted double-digit sales growth, although not at the rate it had grown in its first two years of operation, according to Al Morgan, Radici's sales and marketing director.
``We're extending the business we currently have and are developing new combinations of glass and mineral compounds,'' said Morgan, who is based in the Detroit area. Sales in 2002 also could be boosted by Radici's Radicron-brand, glycol-modified PET. Radici began importing the material from its Italian sites earlier this year.
The firm may add one or two new extrusion lines in Blacksburg next year if 2002 sales continue to improve, Morgan added.
Radici Plastics USA is part of Radici Group, a Milan, Italy-based conglomerate with 9,000 employees and annual sales of $3 billion. Morgan declined to break out a separate sales figure for the U.S. unit.