DuPont Co. is boosting its product line for automotive electronics by acquiring Eastman Chemical Co.'s high- performance crystalline plastics businesses.
The deal gives DuPont a portfolio of materials needed in future high-voltage systems.
The buyout, announced March 5 at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2003 World Congress in Detroit, places Eastman's Titan liquid-crystal polymer, its Thermx polycyclohexylene dimethyl terephthalate and Thermx reinforced PET lines under DuPont's Advanced Electrical and Electronics group. Terms were not disclosed.
``There comes a time when opportunity and customer problem-solving requires extra muscle,'' said Craig Naylor, group vice president of DuPont Performance Materials. ``That's why we're reaching more deeply across DuPont to meet the accelerating demand for new electronics and electrical power in vehicles.''
The chemical giant also has created an Automotive Safety Systems team in its auto-focused market group to provide a single link to automakers and suppliers for all materials used in vehicle safety products - from air-bag covers to sensors and laminated glass.
The Eastman deal includes intellectual property and marketing for the LCP, PCT and specialized PET lines. No assets or personnel will change hands, said Eastman spokeswoman Nancy Ledford.
Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman had been looking to expand its LCP, PCT and PET lines just a year ago, but with the sale noted that the operations were not core products. DuPont has far more exposure with the auto suppliers that can use the resins, Ledford said.
Eastman will continue production under contract to DuPont for now, with Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont looking to transition some of the operations to its existing facilities, Naylor said.
DuPont already has its own LCP line, marketed under the brand name Zenite, but Eastman's resins bring additional toughness and weld-line strength, said Paul Kalicky, vice president of strategic planning for engineering polymers.
But the business lacked a PCT line until the acquisition. The resin is used for electronics and electrical connectors that require both high-heat and moisture tolerances, along with a capability to stand up to increased voltage tolerances needed in the 42-volt electrical systems now being phased in to the auto industry.
Five vehicles already are on the market with the high-voltage system, compared with the industry standard of 12 volts, and more are being developed. The entire electronic infrastructure has to change to meet the needs of the increased current.
The PCT line can be used in existing injection molding operations, replacing a variety of other materials, Kalicky said.
PCT will not be needed everywhere, noted David Glasscock, global business manager. It most likely will be aimed at connectors used in under-the-hood applications, where there are increased demands to stand up to heat and weather extremes.
The new electronics team within DuPont, led by Jim Hay, will seek out overall business strategies and requirements and will head up research into the materials needed in hybrid-powered vehicles, electronic ``drive-by-wire'' systems and additional demands.
Likewise the safety group, coordinated by Mike Sanders, will look for opportunities to coordinate DuPont's activities related to products for safety systems. Those products could include electronic sensors for crash avoidance, side air bags and external systems for pedestrian safety.
The auto industry spends an estimated $42 billion on safety systems annually, with that level expected to grow 8-10 percent each year. Sanders will seek to get in touch early with automakers and their suppliers as they plan what will go into each vehicle.