Firm seeks abatement for compounding line
AVON LAKE, OHIO - PolyOne Corp. plans to move five compounding lines and 25 jobs to its Avon Lake plant if local government officials approve a tax abatement.
Avon Lake City Council is expected to vote in January on a multiyear tax abatement for the move. PolyOne will invest about $6 million in the projects, mostly to outfit an existing warehouse with utilities and water infrastructure needed for compound production, said Dennis Cocco, vice president of investor relations for the Avon Lake-based firm.
Even if the abatement is approved, PolyOne will pay 35 percent of the amount it saves to Avon Lake schools. Cocco said the firm took that same step for a previous expansion of PVC compounding capacity in Avon Lake.
The jobs and equipment will come from a plant the firm closed earlier this year in Broadview Heights, Ohio. That site had employed 35 and was the only company plant that made both engineered materials and color compounds. Two Broadview Heights production lines already have been transferred to other PolyOne sites, Cocco said.
University nano work creates first product
AKRON, OHIO - The University of Dayton's $1.2 million nanocomposite production expansion is wrapping up its first year of operation and already has commercialized its first product.
The 2,000-square-foot expansion opened in January and was funded via a state grant. The site includes equipment for dispersion, drying, extrusion, film forming, curing, prepreg production and solvent recovery. It is intended to allow researchers to develop new ways to combine nanoparticles with polymers, solvents and additives, according to Don Klosterman, group leader of UD's Center for Basic and Applied Polymer Research.
Klosterman spoke at a Nanocomposites Processing forum held at the University of Akron on Dec. 12. The event was co-sponsored by UA's Polymer Engineering department and Polymer Ohio Inc., a state-funded research group.
Work now under way could yield results in aerospace and a number of consumer and industrial markets. To date, the UD expansion has worked with polyolefins, polyurethane, nylon and epoxies in pilot runs of up to 100 pounds, Klosterman said. Its first commercial product is a black epoxy concentrate used by Nanosperse LLC, an Akron-based start-up firm owned and operated by former Harwick Chemical executive Arthur Fritts. Nanosperse is licensing dispersion technology from UD.
Work at the UD expansion also is being done with Readco Manufacturing Inc. of York, Pa. Readco has supplied UD with a continuous processor to study different kinds of nanocomposite mixing and to analyze the results.
The expansion also boasts its own 80-gallon tank mixer, a condenser, a vacuum pump and a chiller, along with equipment that can make 18-inch-wide film samples and 12-inch-wide fabric prepreg samples.
UD also continues to work with the National Composites Center, a $23 million research effort based in nearby Kettering, Ohio. UD has partnered with UA and Ohio State University of Columbus in the NCC project.
Solutia launching new nylon grades
Solutia Inc. is launching new grades of nylon 6/6 in early 2006 and expects solid results from that market for the entire year.
The new grades of Vydyne-brand nylon 6/6 resin are impact-modified and are expected to give manufacturers and designers better options in such applications as automotive fasteners, snow ski boots and fire extinguisher nozzles. The new products can be made at Solutia plants in Pensacola, Fla., or Greenwood, S.C.
``Demand is up over the last couple of years and is still at good levels,'' said Nadim Qureshi, general manager of Solutia's nylon plastics and polymers unit. ``We saw a lot of growth at the end of 2004 and that's continued in our compounding, automotive and electrical/electronic areas.''
St. Louis-based Solutia also has returned to close-to-normal production at its Gulf Coast plants that were affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All of Solutia's assets in the region remain affected, Qureshi said in a recent interview, but supplies of nylon feedstock acrylonitrile produced at Solutia's plant in Alvin, Texas, were limited for several weeks.
Looking ahead, Qureshi said nylon resin demand could grow 3-4 percent in 2006, although growth in Europe could be slightly less.
``End markets are still growing, but we probably won't see two times gross domestic product,'' he said. ``But it's reasonable to expect growth rates of GDP or slightly higher.''
Longer-term, the future of nylon, like most other engineering and commodity plastics, will come down to its component parts.
``It all depends on raw materials,'' Qureshi said. ``We don't expect prices to go down to where they were three or four years ago - oil's not going back to $10 a barrel. It's no different than at the gas pump.''
The transportation market - with 40-50 percent of U.S./Canadian nylon resin demand - also looms large. Qureshi said Solutia's growth in this area has been in traditional manifold and under-hood parts for the auto sector.
``The Big Three's auto production isn't what it used to be,'' he said. ``But transplant [automakers] now are focusing production on North America, and that's not declining.''
As a company, Solutia is working to exit a bankruptcy that it entered in late 2003. At that time, the firm cited heavy environmental legacy liabilities from its predecessor, Monsanto Co., as a reason for the filing. Since then, Solutia has reduced costs and exited unprofitable businesses, and now hopes to exit bankruptcy in early to mid-2006.
Recently, Solutia bought out a partner's share in a polyvinyl butyral interlayer joint venture in Mexico and announced plans to open a plant making that same product in Suzhou, China, in early 2007.
Husky to invest in magnesium molding
TORONTO - Magnesium molding increasingly will help Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. differentiate itself from other molding machinery suppliers, according to Husky President and Chief Executive Officer John Galt.
Husky will exploit magnesium molding as a replacement for die-cast metal and, in some cases, as a replacement for plastics, Galt told shareholders at Husky's Dec. 8 annual meeting in Toronto. Magnesium molding is exceptionally promising in lightweight consumer electronics and in automotive applications where the metal's strength and rigidity can be combined with high productivity of molding.
In an interview after the meeting, Galt said Husky has been promoting magnesium molding rather than waiting for original equipment manufacturers to look for it. Husky is one of two Thixomat technology licensees for magnesium molding, the other being Japan Steel Works Ltd. Husky commercially introduced its magnesium molding machinery in 2002. Galt said for now his firm is focusing on magnesium but eventually it might extend its metal molding technology to include aluminum.
Besides magnesium parts, consumer electronics markets offer other sales opportunities to Husky, Galt pointed out. Production of consumer electronics is outstripping the components supply chain, affording new opportunities for Husky hot runners and mold bases.
Husky's investment in automotive molding is paying off with orders for its Quadloc Tandem Index machinery with a rotating center platen for glazing and overmolding large parts. Husky recently expanded its auto technology with in-line compounding systems for structural parts incorporating long-glass fibers.
Husky recorded a net loss of US$9.3 million in the quarter ended Oct. 31, compared with a loss of US$13.3 million a year earlier. Sales grew 8 percent to US$175.9 million.
The Bolton, Ontario, company expects to break even for the six months ended Jan. 31.