Continued military-market growth is prompting DSM NV to build a $50 million Dyneema-brand high-performance polyethylene fiber line in Greenville, N.C.
The new Greenville line will increase U.S.-based Dyneema production more than 50 percent, DSM officials said in a Feb. 17 news release. DSM also is boosting its Dyneema production by 10 percent in Heerlen, the Netherlands, where it is based.
Recent Dyneema activity has been focused on increasing demand for personal security and protection against terrorism. The material is used in small-arms protective inserts and armoring of vehicles such as the Humvee.
The Greenville expansion - to be completed in late 2006 - is the third for Dyneema production there since 2003 and DSM's fifth overall Dyneema expansion since 2001. DSM will have more than tripled its Dyneema capacity between 2000 and 2006.
Dyneema fibers can be used in a number of military applications, including bulletproof vests and helmets. In vehicle-armor panels, Dyneema can protect against a range of projectiles, from handgun ammunition to antitank weaponry and mines, officials said.
Military protection was in the spotlight in December when, during a ``town hall'' meeting in Iraq, American soldier Thomas Wilson asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld why soldiers had to dig through landfills for pieces of metal to use on their vehicles.
Other military materials makers are reporting similar growth. DuPont Co. is expanding capacity for its Kevlar-brand aramid fibers for the fourth time since 2000. Sales of similar fiber products made by Celanese AG and Honeywell Inc. also have increased.
Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont also won a $2.5 million government contract late last year to develop protective suits for soldiers and firefighters. The suits will be made of Kevlar and Nomex-brand aramid fibers and will resist chemical and biological agents. DuPont is developing the suits in a partnership with North Carolina State University.
DSM wrapped up a solid year in 2004, as sales grew 28 percent to almost 7.8 billion euros ($10.3 billion) and profit jumped 88 percent to 262 million euros ($345 million). Sales in the firm's performance materials unit - including engineering resins and fibers - climbed 13 percent to just over 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion).
Officials said that Dyneema's higher sales volume was one of the main factors in the DSM performance materials unit's ability to increase 2004 operating profit to 147 million euros ($194 million).