Clariant Masterbatches doesn't want to live on masterbatches alone.
As a result, the Swiss specialty chemicals maker is ramping up its efforts to produce color and additive compounds in North America. Compounds currently make up about 10 percent of the firm's business in the region, but new products are being introduced and a new production line recently was added at a Clariant site making medical-grade compounds in Lewiston, Maine.
Muttenz, Switzerland-based Clariant with North American headquarters in Holden, Mass. also has a site in Milford, Del., dedicated to making compounds based on engineering resins.
``A lot of opportunities occur when resin makers are eliminating products,'' said North American marketing director Jeff Saeger. ``In some cases, a product's volume doesn't warrant it for them anymore unless it can be sold in rail-car quantities.''
An example of those opportunities is a high-melt-flow polystyrene compound that's used as a carrier resin for masterbatches used in thin-wall molding. A major resin maker which Clariant officials declined to identify discontinued the prod- uct, leaving a void in the marketplace. Clariant began making the prod- ucts and has gained at least 5 million pounds in annual business, Saeger said.
Most of the customer base for Clariant's compounds is in injection molding, including micro-injection molding. The firm also has developed a nylon compound that it said adheres well to thermoplastic olefins, and a polyethylene compound aimed at replacing PVC wall coverings.
Clariant's medical compounds are being used in catheters. The firm also recently commercialized a PET/nylon compound for the monofilament market that it said offers good abrasion resistance.
``A lot of what we do depends on customer requirements,'' Saeger said. ``We're really doing custom compounding putting twists on what's out there and available.
``There's a gap in polymer modification and that's given us the opportunity to focus on more than just plain glass-filled products. We're looking at value-added compounds, not just polymer modification.''
Clariant's compounding efforts also have been combined with its resin distribution unit, which also is based in Milford. The distribution business imports hard-to-find medical and automotive resins from Europe. Clariant has exclusive distribution deals in those sectors for PE and polypropylene made by LyondellBasell Industries AF SCA and specialty additives and polymers made by Arkema Inc. and DuPont Co.