Ticona is keeping its new-applications pipeline full as it expands to meet global market demand.
``We've seen pretty good volume growth in all of our products this year, and that's being driven by our application development efforts,'' President Lyndon Cole said Oct. 21 at K 2004 in Dusseldorf.
Ticona - which is moving its North American headquarters to Florence, Ky. - is starting a 33 million-pound-capacity acetal expansion in Kelsterbach, Germany, and will increase its liquid-crystal-polymer capacity in Shelby, N.C., by 30 percent in mid-2005. The firm's polyphenylene sulfide plant in Wilmington, N.C. - operating as Fortron Industries - will see a 20 percent capacity boost in the second half of 2005 as well.
Even with half of its overall sales in the stagnant automotive market, Ticona's first-half sales were up 3 percent to $470 million.
``Demand has been a little stronger, which is surprising since automotive hasn't exactly been booming,'' said Cole, who joined Ticona parent Celanese AG in 2002 after a career of more than 20 years with Dow Chemical, GE Plastics and Elementis plc. ``Penetration [into automotive] has been important. We've expanded the range of polymers used for automotive projects.''
Current automotive projects at Ticona include use of its acetal, polybutylene terephthalate and long-fiber-reinforced resins in roof modules molded by Arvin Meritor of Frankfurt, Germany.
Other high-tech projects include use of those materials and others in cell phones equipped with heart monitors molded by Vitaphone GmbH of Mannheim, Germany. On the design front, Tecnologie Urbane of Marghera, Italy, has developed an all-plastic, folding bicycle using Ticona's LFR materials.
Ticona - which operates a European headquarters in Kelsterbach - also has done extensive work in fuel cells, which are moving toward an economically viable model as an alternative power source, according to Vice President Thomas Hensel.
Ticona materials are being used in fuel stacks and bipolar plates for fuel cells aimed at cell phones and home heating uses. With that goal in mind, Ticona recently invested in Pemeas, a fuel-cell technology firm in Frankfurt, Germany.
Pemeas technology is expected to be used in cell phones by 2007 and home heating by 2010. Entering the auto market will take longer, with no commercial applications expected until 2015.
Cole also repeated the industrywide mantra that most sales growth has been in Asian markets. In that region, Cole said Ticona has an advantage because of its long history with Polyplastics Co. Ltd. Ticona has owned a 45 percent stake in the business for more than 40 years.
``We've benefited more than most because we've been in Asia for so long,'' he said. ``But we're still seeing double-digit growth there.''