Wellman Advanced Materials isn't slowing down in adding thermoplastic polyolefin compounding capacity to its plant in Johnsonville, S.C.
One 22-million-pound-per-year capacity TPO line will be in place by the end of the year, with a second similar line being put in place early next year, company officials said in a recent phone interview.
The new lines also will make compounds based on long-glass-reinforced polypropylene and other engineered PP grades. These materials will be aimed at North American automakers and their suppliers.
“TPO growth and the automotive market should remain strong both in the U.S. and China for the next four to five years,” CEO X.Y. Sun said.
Prior to being acquired earlier this year by Shanghai Pret Composites Co. Ltd. of Shanghai, Wellman primarily had been a recycling firm that also did some nylon and PP compounding work.
Pret is expanding product development and application testing in Johnsonville to make the site similar to its operations in China. The firm already has installed eight pieces of new equipment at the site, according to technical director Deen Chundury.
Wellman's customer support center in Troy, Mich., also is adding in-house design support and other forms of computer-aided engineering to its customer offerings. Compounds made in Johnsonville will be used in a variety of automotive interior trim components. Pret materials already have global automotive approvals from Ford, BMW, Daimler and other automakers.
Pret paid about $70 million for Wellman, which is North America's fourth-largest recycler, according to a recent Plastics News ranking. The site will continue to do recycling of PET fiber and reclaimed nylon carpet, sales and marketing vice president Larry Berkowski said.