DuPont Engineering Polymers will spend another $200 million on new manufacturing plants and research equipment between 2008 and 2010, matching the amount the engineering resins leader spent from 2005-07.
DuPont officials addressed these plans at a pre-K 2007 news conference held May 31 in Prague, Czech Republic. DuPont's Tim McCann said in a June 7 telephone interview the firm's investment focus will be ``across the board.''
``We haven't lost faith in 60-year-old products like nylon and Delrin [acetal],'' said McCann, who serves as vice president of sales and marketing for the engineering polymers unit. ``These have been successful long-term projects in our engineering resin portfolio, and customers can still do something special with those materials.
``But at the same time, new products like our high-performance nylon are going great guns, which reconfirms our belief in the product.''
The $200 million investment will be used as capital for plant operations, marketing labs and technology labs, according to officials with DuPont, the Wilmington, Del.-based chemical giant that ranks as the world's largest nylon maker.
McCann said spending in 2008-10 will be ``a little heavy'' in favor of the Asia-Pacific region because of the area's high growth rates. The firm opened a research center in Shanghai in mid-2005, and will open a similar operation in Hyderabad, India, in 2008. The plastics portion of the Indian center should be operational by mid-2009.
In North America, DuPont's growth is occurring at a slower pace, partially because of a weak automotive sector. North American auto builds were down 11 percent in the first five months of 2007. The automotive market accounts for 40-50 percent of North American nylon use.
``It's not a great story, but it's what we expected this year,'' McCann said of the automotive slide. ``There was overbuilding, then [automakers] cut back a lot, and now they're moving back in. There's still growth in plastics penetration and we still need to match global demand needs.''
DuPont also plans to launch commercial sales of its Sorona-brand biodegradable resin in the second half of 2007. The product will use a feedstock made from corn sugar produced at a plant in Loudon, Tenn. It then will be polymerized in Kinston, N.C., before being compounded at several DuPont locations.
The first commercial application of Sorona is likely to be in automotive electronic connectors, which could be seen on vehicles in the next two to three years, McCann said.
DuPont also expects to roll out a nanocomposite-based resin in early 2008. The material can offer stiffness and toughness in injection molded and extruded packaging applications, McCann added.
Other recent successes for DuPont applications include:
* Rocker covers made with Minlon-brand nylon 6/6 for six-cylinder auto engines.
* Lower-weight truck body panels made from Crastin-brand polybutylene terephthalate.
* Blow molded air ducts made with Zytel-brand nylon for large trucks.
* Safety-enhanced auto headlight systems made from Zytel-brand high-temperature nylon.
In 2006, DuPont's Performance Materials unit - including DuPont Engineering Polymers - recorded sales of almost $6.9 billion, making it the largest of DuPont's five units. The sales mark was about 2 percent higher than its 2005 mark and represented almost 24 percent of DuPont's total sales. The Performance Materials unit's pretax profit of $627 million was up almost 17 percent from 2005.