Growing demand for lightweight composite materials in China has prompted global engineered foams manufacturer Armacell International SA to launch a new PET foam production line in the country.
The company also is expanding production in Canada.
According to the Luxembourg-based group, the new foam extrusion capacity, representing its fourth PET foam production line globally, is scheduled to come on stream by the end of next year.
Armacell already manufactures the foam material on production lines operating at plants in Thimister-Clermont, Belgium, and Mebane, N.C. A third extrusion line is about to start up at a plant in Brampton, Ontario, that was acquired in 2015 when Armacell bought Canadian polyethylene foam maker Industrial Thermo Polymers.
For the past five years, Armacell has supplied its ArmaForm brand PET foam exclusively in China through the Beijing-based agent Sino Composite Co in a bid to boost its presence and explore new applications and markets.
“It is time to expand our route to the Chinese composites industry and, as of now, to market and sell ArmaForm products through various supply channels,” explained Henri Chapelle, the group's PET foams sales and marketing general manager.
Armacell sees the move as “an important step in our global supply chain optimization process” and will allow the firm to serve the Chinese composite market more cost effectively and flexibly, according to its PET foams CEO Thomas Kessel.
In recent years, Armacell's engineered foams business has increased its market share in composite materials used as lightweight insulation for trucks and recreational boats.
But it has managed to strengthen its global PET core foams market position particularly in supplying the material for wind turbine blades.
Armacell's launch of PET foam production in Canada is being achieved in three stages. Last September the firm announced it had begun PET foam slicing at Brampton and the foam welding process was due to begin a month later.
The third phase sees the extrusion line set to start production by the end of March this year, according to the group.
Armacell said its major capacity expansion of PET foam products this year around the world would secure continuing business with American wind turbine customers. It would also open up new market opportunities identified in the marine, transportation, infrastructure and automotive sectors where composite use is growing.