A major new player in global engineering plastics was officially launched today following the purchase of GE Plastics by the Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC). The name for the new entity is SABIC Innovative Plastics, reflecting GE Plastics’ long-standing role in developing not only new plastics, such as polycarbonate, but whole new application categories, particularly in automotive. The only potential problem was the stiffening of credit markets, but SABIC has a solid credit foundation, reaffirmed by Fitch Ratings service two days ago. The official announcement contained no news or surprises. Brian Gladden, who had been general manager of the Lexan brand, takes over as CEO of the company.
SABIC Innovative Plastics employs 11,000 and is a leading manufacturer and compounder of polycarbonate, ABS, ASA, PPE, PC/ABS, PBT and PEI resins. A few issues had to be ironed out before the completion of the deal:
GE Plastics acquired the entire equity of MCI and Nagase in their Japanese joint venture.
GE Plastics also bought out the equity position of Bayer MaterialsScience in Exatec, which develops protective coatings for the polycarbonate automotive glazing market. BMS will continue to develop glazing applications independently.
The two moves, completed this month, are an early sign that SABIC will be an investor in the plastics business. SABIC has already purchased the assets of DSM’s and Huntsman’s petrochemicals businesses in Europe. The GE Plastics move represents a major move into the engineering plastics area. Previously, its assets had been heavily focused on volume plastics, which are generally sold more on price than engineering features.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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