Fire blazes through three Mexican plants
MORELIA, MEXICO - Authorities in the western Mexico state of Michoacan are investigating a Jan. 25 fire in Morelia that consumed three plastic consumer-goods factories owned by a prominent local businessman.
The fire destroyed a polyethylene foam factory called Foam America SA de CV, a PE panel plant known as Aislapanel and a PE bag and fruit netting operation known as Artillas de Exportacón SA de CV (Arexa).
All three are owned by Michoacan entrepreneur Nicandro Ortiz Gaspar and employ a total of 300, according to the Michoacan state office of economic development.
Ortiz Gaspar, who was not available for comment, has other plastics processing plants in Michoacan and neighboring states. An employee said she believed much of the three companies' production had been transferred to those plants.
An Arexa manager, Angelica Salinas, declined to talk about the blaze, which took 100 firemen several hours to extinguish.
The blaze also forced the Mexican Army to activate a national defense plan, due to the severity of the flames and a series of explosions that rocked the city.
Employees at the three plants, situated in an industrial complex on the outskirts of Morelia, were all evacuated when the fire broke out about 3:30 p.m. No serious injuries were reported.
According to one local news report, the fire started when a maintenance team manually cleaning a PE foam-making machine inadvertently caused a short circuit.
Edmundo Fabian GÃ³mez, Morelia's fire chief, said three acetylene tanks, weighing 110 pounds each, blew up during the inferno, as did several other tanks containing unidentified substances.
``The authorities are continuing to investigate the identity of the substances that were dispersed into the environment,'' he said.
A spokeswoman for Mexico's National Association of Plastics Industries AC (Anipac) in Naucalpan said Ortiz Gaspar's companies are not members of the association.
Injection molding coming to Pyramid
CUCAMONGA, CALIF. - Pyramid Mold & Tool of Rancho Cucamonga plans to install its first in-house injection molding machine as part of a newly created, 1,000-square-foot technical center.
Pyramid intends to acquire an all-electric 200-ton press and, eventually, operate three presses in the clean-environment center.
Work on the center's infrastructure began in November. Adding molding capability gives Pyramid more control in supplying sample parts, in particular for customers that are original equipment manufacturers, said technical sales engineer Tony May.
``If we work with custom molders, we test at local facilities,'' May said.
During 2007, the firm invested about $650,000 in equipment, including a Makino V33 high-speed machining center, Mitsubishi wire electrical discharge machine and Okamoto numerical control grinder. Pyramid's capital equipment budget has averaged about $500,000 per year.
The V33 - Pyramid's third Makino - is equipped with Blum's LaserControl tool setting system and touch probe, a 40-station tool changer, spindle speed of 30,000 revolutions per minute, and an integrated thermal stabilizer that minimizes the impact of shop-temperature changes.
The other high-speed Makino units are a SNC64 graphite milling machine and S56 vertical hard milling center. Pyramid operates the V33 and SNC64 as a manufacturing cell.
Each Makino operates with a System 3R robot and tooling package including a carousel macro and Dynafix changer magazine rack. The latest 3R equipment arrived in October to support the V33.
In November, Pyramid hired a quality control manager for in-process inspection of graphite and steel components and receiving inspection. The firm is developing procedures for ISO compliance and aims for future certification.
Pyramid employs 32-35 and occupies about 20,000 square feet in a 31,000-square-foot structure.
Cumberland Farms exits bottle making
CANTON, MASS. - Convenience-store operator Cumberland Farms Inc. said it is exiting a plastics bottle-making operation at its Westborough, Mass., warehouse complex.
The company will lay off about 60 workers as it outsources its bakery, sandwich-making and bottle-making operations, according to Christen Graham, spokeswoman for the Canton-based company. The firm intends to focus on its core convenience-store business, she said, but will use the Westborough site for distribution.
Cumberland Farms operates about 1,000 convenience stores and gas stations in the Northeast and Florida.
Dow JV to produce elastomer in Thailand
MAP TA PHUT, THAILAND - Dow Chemical Co. plans to launch specialty elastomer production at a plant in Map Ta Phut, through a joint venture with Siam Cement Public Co. Ltd.
Production of Dow's Affinity-brand polyolefin plastomers and Engage-brand polyolefin elastomers is set to begin in 2011, said officials with the joint venture, SCG-Dow Group. The venture, formed in 1987, produces polyethylene and polystyrene, as well as a variety of compounds and related feedstocks and specialty chemicals.
The new production ``will supply customers in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region with some of the most technologically advanced plastomers and elastomers in the world,'' Dow Specialty Plastics and Elastomers group President George Biltz said in a Jan. 30 news release.
The materials will be supplied with feedstock from a second olefins plant that the venture is building, according to SCG Chemicals Co. Ltd. President Cholanat Yanaranop. Commercial production at that plant will commence in mid-2010.
Markets for Affinity and Engage include polymer modification and as a carrier for concentrates. Both products are made using Midland, Mich.-based Dow's Insite technology.
Loyal targets Poland for EPS production
POLICE, POLAND - Rising demand for packaging and insulation materials in Eastern Europe has encouraged a leading Asian producer of expandable polystyrene to invest $29 million on building a plant for the product in Poland.
Taiwanese company Loyal Chemical Industrial Corp. of Taipei is planning to construct a new 220 million-pound-per-year facility, employing 100, in Police, near Szczecin in northeastern Poland. The plant is due to go into operation during 2010.
Loyal, recognized as an Asian leader in EPS production, aims to partner with Japan's Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. in the project to secure the required styrene raw material supply for its new facility, according to Infrapark Police SA, operator of the industrial zone where the plant will be located.
The new Loyal facility is also targeting many of the electronics companies that have established operations in Poland.
Loyal group already runs five EPS plants in Ningbo, Jiangyin, Dongguan and Tianjin, China; and in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Together the plants have annual capacity of 2.4 billion pounds.