The new face of the North American plastics industry is emerging as companies that are focused on plastics. One of the first large companies to divest its plastics portfolio was Monsanto back in 1997 when Solutia was created. Monsanto made a decision to focus on agricultural biotechnology. Solutia filed for bankruptcy in 2003 in the midst of a major manufacturing slowdown and emerged from bankruptcy early this year. The company believes it is now stronger and more competitive than at any time in its history, hopefully setting a positive tone for other plastics orphans. Solutia posted a first quarter profit of $1.4 billion, compared to a loss of $8 million for the same quarter in 2007 because of reorganization gains. Revenues were up 40 percent. What’s important from a design engineering perspective is that Solutia, a major nylon producer, is developing new products and expanding capacity. Vydyne GW350 was announced in April and is said to offer superior toughness and elongation. Solutia is also increasing nylon 66 capacity by 140,000 metric tons. Solutia’s plant in Pensacola, FL is the world’s largest integrated nylon manufacturing facility. Solutia operates five nylon-making plants in the U.S., while its sales to Asia are growing rapidly.
Several major companies have divested part or all of their plastics portfolios in recent years, ranging from GE Plastics and Dow to Bayer. When the spin-offs become standalone companies, such as Solutia, they may face trouble raising capital in tough credit markets, such as the one we face in 2008. In fact, Solutia had to file suit against three banks that had balked at providing the company with capital needed to exit bankruptcy. Solutia needed the funds for operations and won the lawsuit.
It’s important for companies like Solutia to survive and thrive, particularly when they are producing products with a limited supply base.
A make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
LeMond Composites, founded by three-time Tour de France cycling champion Greg LeMond, is the first to license a new carbon fiber production method invented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that's faster, cheaper, and greener.
This month will mark the launch of the SpeedFoiler, a super-fast, ultra-lightweight foiling catamaran that can fly short distances over water faster than other foiling designs, in part because of its carbon composite materials.
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