Solutia Inc.'s Saflex unit is expanding its polyvinyl butyral resin production by more than 59 million pounds in the coming years with recently announced plant upgrades in Springfield, Mass., and in Antwerp, Belgium.
The St. Louis-based company held a groundbreaking May 19 in Springfield, announcing it will spend $25 million to raise the site's capacity by 26 million pounds annually. It will add two jobs and is due to come on stream in early 2009.
``This expansion, as well as the other previously announced expansions we are making throughout our global asset base, will help meet increasing demand for PVB, and is necessitated by the tight supply conditions in the PVB market,'' said Luc De Temmerman, senior vice president of Solutia and president of Saflex, in a news release.
Earlier in the month, the company said it was expanding its Antwerp facility, adding 33 million pounds of capacity, which is due to come on stream in 2010. Antwerp expects to add about seven employees. This additional capacity will feed a new PVB sheet extrusion line in Ghent, Belgium, which will start up later in 2008.
``We developed it for automobile windshields. It's still our largest application. It is pretty much in every windshield in every vehicle,'' said Tim Feast, vice president of business management for Saflex, in a May 21 telephone interview.
PVB resin is the key raw material used in making PVB sheet, which Solutia markets under the Saflex brand name. It is used as a layer in glass to keep a windshield from shattering when it is struck. The company said that its collective output of Saflex has grown 50 percent in the last few years. However, it did not disclose total output.
Feast said its PVB sheet use is currently about 55 percent for automotive glass and 45 percent for architectural uses, such as overhead glazing in commercial buildings.
He said both areas of business are growing, but the architectural side is growing faster. In Europe, he said that architectural use has been boosted by favorable building codes. Ghent's new line will produce 10.5-feet-wide rolls, primarily for building applications.
Likewise, since Hurricane Andrew hit the United States in 1992, Feast said hurricane glazing is being used in the U.S. to meet new codes. He said that the new code adoption started in southern Florida and has moved up the East Coast.
Feast also pointed out that PVB use is growing rapidly in China. He said the Chinese automotive market is growing domestically and also is exporting windshields. Secondly, the architectural uses for residential buildings in China are booming as well.
Solutia opened a PVB plant in Suzhou, China, in September, with a line that produces 107.6 million square feet of Saflex interlayer a year. It also had room for expansion.
The company also said it has added more capability to its sheet production facility in Santo Toribio, Mexico. Overall, Solutia has six PVB sheet plants in Springfield, Trenton, Ghent, Suzhou, Santo Toribio, and São Jose dos Campos, Brazil. It makes the resin in Springfield, Antwerp and Trenton.
Solutia emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in February, and its stock is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.