Ticona has nearly doubled the capacity of its Celstran-brand long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic business in the past 18 months.
And with an eye on fiscal restraint, Ticona has done so primarily by improving line speeds at its Celstran operations in Winona, Minn., rather than through large capital investments, product manager Claire Bambenek said in a recent phone interview.
Frankfort, Ky.-based Ticona also recently upgraded several lines that make polypropylene-based Celstran in Winona. Bambenek said those lines were selected because PP has been Celstran's biggest demand area and looks to remain so in the future.
``Polypropylene is a very low-cost material with excellent performance characteristics,'' she said. ``In some cases, it's even replacing nylon. [Molders] who used to work with metal have a new comfort level, since they've already worked with the first generation of plastics.''
Overall North American LFRT growth is expected to be 12 percent in 2004 and 2005 and should climb to 15 percent in 2006. Automotive uses continue to lead the way in LFRTs, which are used bumper beams, door modules, front-end modules and other large parts.
In automotive, LFRTs offer weight reduction of 30 percent, on average. Parts consolidation is another attraction. Bambenek said a recent Celstran door assembly project reduced 27 parts to four.
Outside of the automotive market, Bambenek said Celstran has enjoyed ``significant growth'' in appliance parts such as washing- machine tub parts and gears and in sporting goods.
Like most plastic products, Celstran has struggled to pass on high raw material costs in 2004. Ticona already has raised prices of PP-based Celstran by 6 cents per pound and on all other Celstran grades by 10 cents per pound. Additional price increases may be needed in late 2004 or early 2005, Bambenek said.
Ticona is reviewing plans to add capacity in Winona - where it already operates seven lines -sometime in 2006 or 2007. The firm also produces Celstran in Kelsterbach, Germany.