-Upgrades in Europe, Asia and U.S.A. proceeding on schedule
-Lab and QC testing capabilities also expanding
-Project is part of 5-year, CHF 10 million global investment
Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, is announcing its approximately CHF 10 million global initiative to expand its ability to produce color and additive masterbatches and compounds using engineering polymers and high-temperature plastics like PEEK (polyether ether ketone) is progressing on schedule.
Jeff Saeger, who heads the expansion program for Clariant, reports two extrusion lines at the
Masterbatches plant in Ahrensburg, Germany, have been refurbished and can now run at
temperatures up to 450°C.
Another new line will be installed and running by the end of Q1 2017.
In Shanghai, two new co-rotating extruders are now up and running and a smaller high-temperature
unit has been started up in Singapore. Saeger says equipment for processing fluoropolymers has
been installed in Lewiston, Maine, U.S.A, and new lines for specialty high-temperature compounds
are now running in Holden, Massachusetts. A new black masterbatch line, for engineering polymers
is schedule start-up in Holden in Q3 2017.
In addition, the Shanghai plant is being expanded to include not only additional compounding
space, but also a new testing and quality-control laboratory. The Asian region already is served by a
state-of-the-art lab in Singapore, but Clariant plans to add new physical, chemical and weathering
test equipment there as well in the first half of 2017.
In order to work effectively in polymers that are processed at temperatures between 300° and
450°C, masterbatches must be specially formulated using not only the same high-temperature base
material, but also special pigments and additives that can stand up to extreme levels of heat and
shear. All of this requires not only advanced extrusion equipment but also specialized auxiliaries,
including pre- and post-drying drying equipment and multiple gravimetric side feeders.
“Clariant is going all-out to meet increasing demand for high-temperature-compatible
masterbatches and compounds around the world,” explains Jeff Saeger. “Processing knowledge and
capabilities that were first developed in the U.S. and Singapore are now being replicated in Europe
and China, and we are adding new personnel, including some with specialized expertise in key
market sectors like electrical/electronics. Around the world, our customers will soon have a local source of supply for these advanced materials, which means substantially reduced product-development and delivery times as well as back-up supplies that are critical to BCP [Business Continuity Planning]”
Besides masterbatches, the plants also can produce fully-compounded and pre-colored resins in
small and medium quantities in collaboration with major resin producers. This is particularly
important as these companies have begun to limit availability of certain colors and/or increase
minimum order quantities, leaving many users in a difficult supply position.
“NATURAL-PLUS” OPTIONS FOR GLOBAL MANUFACTURERS
Without high-temperature masterbatches, part producers have only a couple of choices. They can
mold the parts in the resin’s natural color and then paint them, or they can use pre-colored
compounds. However, Saeger explains, many companies need relatively small quantities of
engineering and high temperature materials, making both these methods un-economical or even
unavailable. “The major resin producers today are offering only a narrow range of standard colors
and usually will not produce small quantities of special colors. Smaller custom compounders can
produce smaller volumes but at higher costs,” he says.
The solution, he continued, is “natural plus.” Processors buy readily available natural-color resin
and then add a color concentrate (masterbatch) precisely formulated to achieve the exact finished
color required. The advantages of this approach are many. The high cost of small quantities of
custom-colored resin is avoided. Processors can buy larger quantities of natural resin and also have
less capital tied up in an inventory of colored resin that may only be used occasionally. Storage space
requirements are minimized. Production benefits accrue from centralized drying and handling of
natural resin and faster color changes. Manufacturers are also much more flexible in responding to
changing consumer color preferences.
The new investments are expected to be especially beneficial to manufacturers of electrical products
and appliances, since many of these devices and the components in them contain engineering
plastics that need to meet flammability-resistance standards promulgated by Underwriters
Laboratories (UL). Clariant has obtained UL94 masterbatch listing for more than 200 commercial