Armacell Canada Inc. has installed a new extrusion line that will convert recycled PET resin into PET foam.
The company spent about 6 million euros (US$6.42 million) on the project, which was officially inaugurated at an April 6 ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Brampton, Ontario, facility.
The new line, the first of its kind in Canada, joins similar Armacell PET foam extrusion lines in Thimister-Clermont, Belgium, and Mebane, N.C. The Canadian line has annual production capacity of 1.19 million cubic feet, said Bart Janssen, vice president of engineered foams.
About 75 percent of Armacell's PET foam, called ArmaForm PET, is used as the core for wind turbine rotor blades. About 50,000 PET beverage bottles are recycled and converted into the core of one wind turbine. Armacell estimates ArmaForm PET is used in more than 30,000 rotor blades globally.
"The expansion of our PET manufacturing footprint into Canada delivers on our overall business strategy to enhance Armacell's international presence," Armacell International SA President and CEO Patrick Mathieu said at the Brampton inauguration.
The installation in Brampton follows Armacell's announcement two months ago that it will install a PET foam line in China to launch production in that country by the end of 2018. It has been marketing the foam products in China through Sino Composite Co. Ltd.
"With the market introduction of ArmaForm PET in 2006, Armacell paved the way for PET foam cores in the composites industry," Armacell's general manager of PET foams Thomas Kessel told attendees at the Brampton ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"But our research did not stop there; as a technology leader, we developed further, and today, we are the only manufacturer offering PET foam cores 100 percent made from recycled PET."
Armacell said the next largest markets for its PET foam are transportation and construction, followed by marine use and a range of industrial and commercial applications. Typically the foam is made into the core of sandwich-like composite structures with glass-reinforced thermoset resin layers. Other types of skins also can be applied to PET foam slabs. ArmaForm's light weight, durability and strength are fuelling new demand in a range of markets.
Armacell's sustainability approach extends to the manufacturing process. PET foams are made without ozone-depleting HFC or CFC blowing agents. Armacell claims its foaming process reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent compared with standard PET foaming using virgin resin.
CO2 emission reduction in recycled PET foam is even greater compared with non-PET resins. The company says its process generates 52 percent less CO2 than PVC foam and 62 percent less than polyurethane foam.
Armacell says all its foam scrap is recycled in-house. As well, the foam itself can be recycled when its useful life ends, according to the company.
Armacell operates six manufacturing operations in the United States, where it employs more than 550. Its North American headquarters is in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Canadian operation employs about 100 and has been running two low density polyethylene foam lines. Employment at the facility could rise by as much as ten as a result of the expansion. Armacell acquired the Brampton operation in 2015 when it bought Industrial Thermo Polymers Ltd.
Armacell also has been expanding its stake in other foam products. Early this year it acquired Nomaco's insulation business, a leading producer of extruded PE foam insulation based in Yukon, Okla. More recently it bought Danmat Iso Systems A/S, an Ølstykke, Denmark, producer of technical insulation products. It also recently expanded its PE foam manufacturing through its 2016 acquisition of PoliPex based in Florianopolis, Brazil. In early 2016, it began producing plastic foams in Lobnya, Russia.
Corporate origins of Armacell date to 1954, when Armaflex, the first flexible insulation product, was launched. In 2000, Armacell was established as a company from a small division of Armstrong World Industries of Münster, Germany. In 2015, Armacell was bought by investment firms Blackstone Group LP of New York and Kirkbi A/S of Billund, Denmark. The latter owns 75 percent of toy construction block major Lego A/S and has interests in wind turbine farms.
Armacell's global sales rose 3.4 percent last year to 558.6 million euros (US$597.8 million). Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes and amortization grew 4.7 percent to 82.5 million euros (US$88.3 million).