Juice bottles made with Wellman Inc.'s new ThermaClear Ti-brand PET resin should be on store shelves by mid-2004.
Shrewsbury, N.J.-based Wellman began producing commercial quantities of the material earlier this year in Port Bienville, Miss. Pilot runs were made in early 2003, according to Michael Dewsbury, PET vice president.
ThermaClear Ti is an antimony-free resin based on a titanium catalyst. The product is aimed at the hot-fill packaging market, with juice being the first application. The product was developed partly out of concerns about antimony content raised by some European countries, according to Dewsbury.
Advantages provided by ThermaClear Ti include higher bottle crystallinity and reduced shrinkage, Wellman officials said. The material also offers processors more flexibility by expanding the processing window 50Ã¸-59Ã¸ F, Dewsbury added.
The new resin is being introduced commercially by Owens-Illinois Inc. of Toledo, Ohio.
``We probably sell more into hot fill than other PET makers,'' Dewsbury said. ``We have two strategic customers in Owens-Illinois and Graham [Packaging Co.], and we've developed [hot-fill] products for them that have worked very well.''
The product represents Wellman's first use of a titanium catalyst, but Dewsbury said it can be produced on Wellman's existing lines without any significant changes.
Wellman officials hope the new offering can help reverse its recent financial struggles. The firm lost almost $97 million in 2003, about half the size of the loss reported for 2002. The 2003 loss occurred even as sales rose 9 percent to more than $1.1 billion.
A good portion of the loss can be traced to Wellman's fibers and recycled products group, which does not include PET resin. Fibers and recycled products had an operating loss of $155 million in 2003, while Wellman's packaging products group - which includes PET resin and accounted for 57 percent of sales in 2003 - had an operating profit of $14 million.