Clariant Expands Global Masterbatch Capacity

22.02.2016 -

Swiss specialty chemicals producer Clariant is to invest more than 7.5 million Swiss francs over a five-year period to expand its masterbatch manufacturing capabilities. The largest investment has been earmarked for plants in Shanghai, China; Singapore; and Maine and Massachusetts in the US.

The announcement comes just days after Clariant said it had started building a masterbatch plant in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.

The color and additive masterbatches are formulated to be used in engineering resins and high-temperature plastics such as polyether ether ketone (PEEK), where they need to tolerate extreme levels of heat and shear.

Clariant said that while its three plants in the US have experience in working with these materials, its capabilities in Asia have been more limited and focused on materials such as polycarbonate, ABS and certain nylons which are processed at moderate temperatures. As a result, overseas customers sourcing the more advanced additives have faced longer product development and delivery times.

New production lines and associated capabilities will be added in Shanghai, China, by the end of 2016. In the US, equipment for processing fluoropolymers was installed at Lewiston, Maine, in late 2015, and new lines for specialty engineering compounds and black masterbatch for high-temperature resins will be added in Holden, Massachusetts, beginning in the first quarter of 2016. Details of the investment in Singapore were not disclosed.

Jeff Saeger, who is heading the expansion program, said global demand for high-temperature plastics and compatible masterbatches was booming. “Fueled by new products in the automotive, small consumer electronics and electrical markets, the use of engineering materials is growing at annual rates of 7-8% above the growth rate of the plastics industry as a whole,” he said.

Clariant said its expanded capabilities would provide new options for global manufacturers. Saeger explained that without high-temperature masterbatches, customers currently only have two choices: mold the parts in the resin’s natural color and paint them, or use pre-colored compounds. But because many companies only need fairly small quantities of engineering and high-temperature materials, both these methods are uneconomical, or even unavailable, he said.

The solution, said Saeger, is for processors to buy natural color resin and then add a masterbatch or a formulated color concentrate. This approach would be lower cost as it requires less inventory of expensive colored resin and would give better production efficiency as well as added flexibility in responding to changing color trends.

The company added that the high-temperature masterbatches would also be particularly beneficial to manufacturers of electrical products and appliances, as many of these devices and their components contain engineering plastics that must meet flammability-resistance standards.