By Lauren Hilgers, Plastics News Correspondent
Shanghai, China -- Following the lead of its Estane thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and conductive polymers businesses, Lubrizol Specialty Chemicals (Shanghai) Co. Ltd with its eye on the growing market for medical devices, is moving to expand its aliphatic TPU business in Asia.
Unlike the other materials, however, the company is responding to demand abroad with expansion at home. Lubrizol's Wilmington, Massachusetts-based manufacturing centre has expanded capacity specifically to serve the Asia market.
The Wickliffe, Ohio-based company's aliphatic TPU line, Thermedics, is used primarily for medical applications due to the material's strength and flexibility. Non-medical applications include products with high-specifications for clarity and durability.
"We're committed to growing our medicals," said Guy Davids, the director of Lubrizol's Thermedics business, in an interview at Medtec China 2008 in Shanghai. "Our business is growing worldwide."
The expansion of the Thermedics business complements Lubrizol's other moves in Asia, including an expansion of the company's Shanghai Estane TPU plant, serving the consumer goods, electronics and transportation markets, among others, and a conductive polymers plant in Seremban, Malaysia, which has been operational since 2007.
The Shanghai expansion is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year. Lubrizol has also announced plans to build a new plant in Tianjin.
Lubrizol Thermedics has had sales operations in China for the past three years, said Davids, and a handful of long-time customers in China, Japan and South Korea. Thermedics, however, serves a high-end market and growth in Asia's medical applications has only recently started to pick up.
"It is still too early to consider manufacturing in Asia," Davids said, who listed intellectual property protection as a particular concern. "There is plenty of room for growth in this market," Davids said.