Japanese nylon producer Ube Industries Ltd. plans to beef up its nylon compounding business and expand research and development, to develop unique materials quickly for customers, officials said at NPE 2006.
Akio Koma, vice president of Ube's Chemicals and Plastics Group, said the company needs more compounding capacity to meet demand for nylon in the automotive industry. Ube plans to establish a compounding base first in Europe, then expand in China and finally, in North America.
A major Ube nylon application is tubing for fuel lines. Koma said that Ube is the largest player in nylon 12 tubing in Europe.
But Ube also is developing the market for large automotive parts. At NPE, Ube displayed an intake manifold molded from glass-fiber reinforced nylon 6, and an engine cover that uses nanocomposites.
Ube executives outlined their nylon strategy during a June 21 press conference at NPE in Chicago.
Koma also said Ube is expanding its global R&D network, by opening up its fourth research center last year, in Thailand.
In other news, Ube this year is boosting the volume of nylon 6 at its factory in Castellon, Spain, from 13.2 million pounds a year to 35.2 million pounds a year. Officials said Ube is studying additional expansion of other products, in other parts of the world.
Meanwhile, Ube continues to promote nylon pipe for use in natural gas mains, through its Ubesta nylon 12. In Chicago, Ube introduced a new way to join sections of nylon pipe during installation, called laser fusion bonding. Nylon can replace metal gas main pipes, which are aging and need replacement, officials said.
Traditionally, sections of nylon gas pipe are joined together by the butt fusion process or electro fusion joining. Ube said that using a laser to weld the pipe is easier and less expensive, and much faster, giving a stable long-lasting weld.
In application news, Ube:
* Showed film made from nylon 6 that has improved stability during extrusion compared with other brands, the company said.
* Announced that shoe soles made from Ubesta XPA - a nylon elastomer made of Ube's nylon 12 for the hard segment and a specialty polyether soft segment - was used on shoes worn by the German national soccer team during World Cup 2006. Ube also said the Mizuno Pro brand of high-end baseball shoes are using XPA, which is very strong but lightweight, with a very low density.
Other applications for Ubesta XPA include textiles, films, sealing parts, flexible tubing and power tool housings. XPA also can be used in the outer layer of Ube's Sunbesta bilayer tubing for use on spray-painting robots and pneumatic controls for semiconductors, among other products.
Another grade, Ubesta XPA-T, boasts significantly enhanced transparency.