The new product pipeline at the LNP compounding unit remains open as parent firm GE Plastics is changing hands from General Electric Co. to Saudi Basic Industries Corp.
``This is a great add for [Sabic] and for us,'' GE Plastics LNP General Manager Nitin Apte said at a recent media event at the unit's headquarters in Exton, Pa. ``Sabic is a company with a terrific growth record and the right model for engineering plastics.
``We want to be a specialty business - not in the crowd with everyone else,'' added Apte. ``We're more global than a lot of our competitors. We offer not only products and technology, we also provide service.
``If cycle times are an issue at an injection molder, we can still help with that, but we're also a technology leader.''
Changing ownership is nothing new at LNP. When the $11.6 billion GE-Sabic deal closes later this year, it will mark the fifth time the business has changed hands in its 59-year history. It most recently was bought by Pittsfield, Mass.-based GE Plastics in 2002.
Today, LNP does about $500 million in sales, with a little more than half of that amount coming from the electronics sector. The firm operates 11 plants worldwide and generates 40 percent of sales from Asia, its largest geographic market.
In the last year, LNP has commercialized new grades of its Verton, Stat-Loy, Faradex and Starflam product lines, with more on the horizon.
The Verton Xtreme line of LNP's long-fiber-reinforced compounds is offering enhanced color, flame retardance and weatherability, according to 29-year LNP veteran Jamie Tebay. The materials took four years to develop and now are being made at an LNP plant in Columbus, Ind. Essentially, they offer long-fiber performance in pellet form, said Tebay, who serves as the unit's structural product manager.
Verton Xtreme color grades are now in use on gas-assist frames for Steelcase Inc. office chairs. Flame-retardant grades of the product are being used in auto chassis and battery covers and hand-held electronic devices. New weatherable grades are based on GE Plastics' Geloy-brand acrylic styrene acrylonitrile and are being used in heavy-truck panels, golf carts and mirror brackets.
``We're going after painted metal,'' Tebay said. ``Our materials process better and make more parts of higher quality.''
Fourth-quarter launches are on tap for an ultrapure transparent grade of Stat-Loy compounds and a new generation of Faradex composites, according to conductive and shielding products manager Jim Fagan.
The new Stat-Loy offerings are polycarbonate/polyester blends, which offer better light transmittance and low haze for transparent shipping containers, chip boxes and lens cases. New Faradex II shielding composites have 25 percent better electromagnetic shielding and 20-50 percent better impact resistance, Fagan said. They're based on PC/ABS, polybutylene terephthalate and other engineering resins and are finding homes in markets for information technology, defense and aerospace.
LNP's Lubriloy line also has debuted new wear and friction grades. Both new grades are designed to reduce wear friction and noise in gears and cell phone parts, Fagan said.
A new PC-based Lubriloy, called D-HI, has better wear resistance and paintability for parts used in cell phones and other telecommunications items. A second new Lubriloy offering - Z-FR-ECO - is based on GE's Noryl-brand polyphenylene oxide and features improvements in wear, friction, dielectrical properties and moisture resistance for gears and business equipment.
Fagan said the new Lubriloy grades are being positioned against metals and fluoropolymer-filled plastics.
LNP's Starflam-brand flame-retardant line has new grades available under the Xgen name. The new products already are being used in electrical devices and are being expanded to appliances and seating markets for trains, buses and theaters, said program product manager Patrick Marteel.
``Regulations are banning some flame-retardant additives, and environmental awareness is adding to cost pressure,'' Marteel said.
The new grades are based on nylon 6, 6/6, 6/12 and other blends and are available globally. They offer easier recycling and better cycle times, and allow tools to last longer because moving from halogen and red phosphorus to new flame retardants has reduced corrosion.
Specialty nylon grades of the materials will be available by the end of the year.
French electronics firm Trelec is using the new material in fuse holders, while German manufacturer Franz Kiel is making bus and train seating from the compounds. An undisclosed customer in the appliance sector has reduced its system cost by almost 30 percent by using the new materials in blower pipes on clothes dryers, according to LNP.
On the research front, global technology manager Ann Marie Burnell said LNP is working on thermoplastic alternatives for X-ray shielding to replace lead, as well as to protect patients and clinicians. LNP has purchased equipment to do in-house testing of the materials, and now is testing them commercially with a variety of customers.
``There's concern with disposal of lead from the environmental side,'' said Burnell. ``We can offer lower cost on piece-price than lead, plus there's no secondary processing.''
LNP also is continuing work on nanotechnology-enabled products, which it's been making since the 1990s. Recently, LNP's nanoproducts have been used in polymeric nanofilm for performance electronic packaging.
Regional seminars are allowing LNP to reach a variety of customers at once, Tebay said. The firm hosted 13 such seminars in 2006 and already has hosted 11 in 2007.
Recent events in Detroit and Philadelphia each drew more than 200 customers, and a similar event in Cleveland ``got a big response,'' Tebay said.