Specialty chemicals company Asahi Kasei Europe GmbH is looking to further expand its market share in Europe, where the company has started a whole new wave of activities since last year.
The company set up its European subsidiary in April 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany, to supply to the European market, with particular focus on the automotive industry. It then opened its engineering plastics technical center in February and, in October, opened a new R&D center in Dormagen, Germany.
According to Taku Ishida, general manager at the company's engineering plastics division, the recent movements are part of the Japanese company's bid to triple its sales in Europe from the current 750 million euros by 2025.
"We want to let the customers in the market to know that Asahi Kasei is putting in a big effort to supply materials to Europe, compared to what we've been doing in the past few years. We're going to set up some facilities for technical service, material development, and we have future plans for having our own compounding facility in Europe," Ishida said.
The company has been supplying engineering plastics to Europe for more than 30 years, which are mainly imported from plants in Asia or the United States.
As part of its European expansion plan, Asahi Kasei invested in a "several-million-euro" research and development facility in Dormagen, which at the moment is working on engineering plastics but will, at later stages, work on other businesses.
"We are currently bringing in equipment for data processing and basic machinery for injection molding and extrusion to the site. For the next stages, we have not decided an exact amount of investment, but the figure will depend on how the business grows in the next one to three years," Ishida added.
The company expects these investments to raise European sales threefold to more than 2 billion euros.
"The target is to triple the sales by 2025, for which we focus on strengthening collaboration with the automotive-related industry and R&D activities. One of our main targets is the automotive industry, and in general [with such customers], it takes time. You will need at least four to five years to start up," he added.
In terms of the planned compounding facility in Europe, Ishida expects the facility to be built in Germany in the next two years.
"Right now in Europe, we're doing some local compounding with toll companies in Germany and elsewhere. But to be more competitive in the market, we will definitely need to have our own compounding facility," he said.
The plant will start with a capacity of a few thousand metric tons per year for the initial stage.
"There are a lot of compounders in the market and even some plastic resin manufacturers do their own compounding, too. Those are much bigger factories, but some of their lines only make very standard-grade compounds. But we have a bit more focus on the specialty side, so we are not looking for large capacities," Ishida added.
In Fakuma this year, the company is launching new grades of its Leona 90G series, with Leona92G60 semi-aromatic nylon, which has higher stiffness and is more cost-efficient compared to its previous versions.
Another one of the company's offerings is Xyron mPPE, which is very suitable for batteries and ties in with its European expansion plans.
As automotive manufacturers increase their focus on electric vehicles and hybrid cars, engines become more obsolete and battery components will be required from materials suppliers.
According to Ishida, Xyron, due to its superior dimensional stability and flame-retardant features will be marketed within the automotive manufacturers.
The material, explained Ishida, is currently 90 percent supplied for industrial applications but the aim is to use it in automotive applications in the future.