By Robert Grace
Plastics News Editor
Guangzhou, China -- Despite the economic slowdown, PolyOne Corp. is taking steps to push forward with its previously announced, two-pronged strategy of globalisation and specialisation by expanding in Asia and extending its portfolio of colourants, additives and various polymer materials.
Philippe Ximena, the firm's Singapore-based general manager for engineered materials in Asia, and other company representatives provided a brief update May 19 at the Chinaplas show in Guangzhou.
Current market conditions have forced the Avon Lake, Ohio-based firm to make some adjustments, officials said.
A year ago at Chinaplas 2008 in Shanghai, PolyOne was heavily promoting its push into biopolymer compounds, some of which were being used by Springfield, Illinois-based Design Ideas Ltd. to make an Eco-Gen brand of bathroom accessories.
The recent slowdown in demand for relatively higher-priced biopolymers is prompting PolyOne to get creative.
It is developing blends of such materials with traditional resins like polypropylene, polyethylene and ABS, and working with brand owners to find end-use applications for these blends, said Jakey Low, Asia business development manager for colour and engineered materials for PolyOne Shenzhen Co. Ltd. Low said PolyOne has not yet branded this line of products, which he said are made using the blending process generically known as biomass.
PolyOne is working directly with several original equipment manufacturers to integrate biomass blends into end products that include mobile phone handsets and USB modem housings. It also is helping brand owners to negotiate the diverse and often-changing laws related to meeting environmental marketing requirements, on a country-by-country basis.
Low said more details on PolyOne's biomass products should be available at NPE2009, which will be held 22-26 June in Chicago, Illinois.
PolyOne in April began initial production at a new color concentrates plant in India, according to Ximena, who recently relocated to Singapore from Europe to take up his current position.
The firm is finalising the commissioning of production lines in India, but declined to provide further details. Its colour concentrate products find use in various end markets, particularly packaging and wire and cable.
Ximena also noted that a PVC compounding plant in Dongguan, Guangdong province, which PolyOne acquired in late 2006 and officially reopened a year ago, is busy serving new business in Asia. The plant is fully integrated with PolyOne, and the firm has begun lean manufacturing and Six Sigma programs at the South China facility.
Speaking of integration, Chinaplas 2009 represented the first time that PolyOne and its GLS Corp. thermoplastic elastomers subsidiary exhibited together at the same booth in China.
The strongest markets in Asia now for PolyOne's engineered materials are electrical and electronics, automotive and health care, Ximena said. Demand in the construction market is softer, he said.
Ximena said industry in China is definitely starting to see the benefit of the Chinese government's aggressive economic stimulus package. He added that he expects a similar uptick from Beijing's stimulus plan for Chinese health care and hospitals, announced less than a month ago.
At Chinaplas, PolyOne highlighted its Kostrate Edge terpolymer, a bisphenol A-free, US Food and Drug Administration-compliant material that aims to replace polycarbonate, acrylic, styrene acrylonitrile and general-purpose polystyrene in certain applications. PolyOne is targeting end uses such as infant care cups, houseware items, drinkware and sports bottles, as well as appliance, point-of-purchase display, office furniture and personal-care applications.
The company also chose the Guangzhou show to introduce additions to its lineup of polymer additives. Its OnCap chain extender can increase viscosity by more than 15 percent for engineering thermoplastics that belong to a group of materials known as low intrinsic viscosity polycondensates.
The new OnCap UV absorber is designed to help protect plastic packaging from ultraviolet radiation. PolyOne sayid the additive also emits a blue tint to give products a clean, bright appearance. It is designed for PET bottles and other packaging.
Steven Chan, PolyOne's Asia color sales and marketing director, claimed OnCap UV is the first such product available in Asia.