Demand growth in the automotive market and other areas is leading resin maker Ticona to boost capacity at its polyphenylene sulfide plant in Wilmington, N.C., by 25 percent by the end of 2005.
Fortron Industries, the PPS-making joint venture between Ticona and Kureha Chemical Industries Ltd. of Tokyo, also has started conceptual design studies for a new PPS plant. The location of the new plant is undecided, although Wilmington is being considered, Ticona spokesman Paul Reichenbacher said by phone March 2. The plant is to be completed by 2009 to meet expected PPS growth.
The 2005 capacity boost will come via streamlining, which will help Fortron stay ahead of growing demand in auto and other traditional markets, while allowing it to supply materials for new segments such as aerospace, filtration and extruded profiles, Fortron President Kevin Cronin said in a recent news release. In automotive, PPS often is used in pumps, valves, fuel rails and power trains.
Ticona officials declined to reveal the plant's current capacity. Reichenbacher said the streamlining is not expected to create any new jobs at the site.
In 2003, Fortron unveiled new PPS grades for the medical market, aimed at drug-delivery systems and housings and filter media. Last year also saw the launch of a PPS grade suitable for melt-blown nonwoven fibers. Officials said that grade could be used in chemical plant filters, power-plant bag houses and medical devices.
Elsewhere, Ticona announced that its Topas-brand cyclic olefin copolymers now are being used in the Hefty-brand Slide-Rite advanced closure system made by Pactiv Corp. of Lake Forest, Ill. A linear low density polyethylene blended with 10 percent Topas is used to make the tracks in the system's zippers for commercial sliced meat and animal crackers, Ticona officials said.
Meat is packaged in a transparent, hooded bag, while crackers are cased in a foil-lined bag with a metal, tamperproof seal. The new applications are for Hormel Foods.
Pactiv's Slide-Rite technology can be integrated into new or existing horizontal form-fill-seal machinery for automated operations, or fabrication equipment for pre-made pouches and bags, officials said.
Ticona produces Topas in Oberhausen, Germany. The firm is based in Summit, N.J., but is relocating to Florence, Ky. Ticona's parent firm - Celanese AG of Frankfurt, Germany - also is weighing an acquisition offer from Blackstone Capital Partners, a New York investment firm.
Celanese management has expressed support for the Blackstone offer. Ticona ranked third among Celanese's five units in the first nine months of 2003, with sales of 548 million euros ($675 million). The unit's nine-month operating profit more than tripled to 118 million euros ($145 million), but most of that gain came from a special charge.