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A reorganized Hoechst Celanese details plans for engineering resins.

Four months after announcing a major restructuring of its Advanced Materials Group, Hoechst Celanese Corp., Chatham, N.J., plans to close an almost brand-new development center and is considering the possible sale of an engineering TP elastomer line. At the same time, the firm has several resin capacity expansions under way, and is taking on a new line of Japanese ABS resins and alloys.

These and other moves were clarified during an interview with Edward H. Munoz, recently appointed president of the Advanced Materials Group of Hoechst Celanese, and other recently appointed group executives.

In November, the Advanced Materials Group was reorganized into two separate units: Engineering Thermoplastics Business, which includes Carl Amond; and High-Performance Polymers, encompassing liquid-crystal polymers (LCPs), polyphenylene sulphide (PPS), fluoropolymers, and thermoplastic polyesters, led by Robert Jackson.

Munoz says the decision to restructure the Advanced Materials Group was made as the company sought to eliminate overlaps in planning, research and administration in the Advanced Materials Group.

One move linked to the streamlining effort is the company's plan to phase out its Cincinnati Development Center by the end of this year. The facility was opened in late 1990 (PT, Dec. '91, p. 76). Production equipment and technical research programs, which included such leading-edge programs as gas-assist injection molding, lost-core molding, and 3-D structural blow molding, will be redeployed to the company's Auburn Hills, Mich., Automotive Development Center and Specialty Products facility in Florence, Ky.

In addition, Munoz candidly admitted that the company is "taking a hard look" at its Riteflex polyester TP elastomer line, possibly considering a sale of the business. He said Riteflex, as an elastomer, is "not a direct fit" with the Advanced Materials Group.

(In another major restructuring move, Hoechst Celanese is looking to sell off its HDPE business in Texas, but that belongs to its Specialty Polymers & Waxes Div., not to Advanced Materials. See PT, Feb. '92, p. 65.)


On the positive side, Hoechst Celanese has several new projects under way for Advanced Materials. The company remains committed to three "emerging" product lines: Vectra LCP, Fortron PPS, and Durel polyarylate. The company produces Vectra at a 5-million-lb/yr facility in Shelby N.C., and is currently working to boost LCP production capacity there by 50% in order to meet growing demand, says Mark Gibbons, senior business specialist. The capacity increase, which will be achieved through a combination of new capital investment and debottlenecking, is slated to be on-line by early 1993.

Meanwhile, Hoechst Celanese also is proceeding with its first domestic PPS plant (joining Phillips 66 Co., previously the sole U.S. producer). An 8-million-lb/yr facility in Wilmington, N.C., is scheduled to go on-line at the end of 1993 (PT, Jan. '92, p. 60).

Jackson says the company hopes to exploit new market potential for its Fortron PPS in automotive engine manifolds made by lost-core injection molding. The company was expected to show off new lost-core PPS intake manifolds with integral fuel rails at last month's Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) show in Detroit. They will be molded for a Big Three auto maker by Handy & Harman Automotive Group Inc. of Auburn Hills, using "advanced lost-core technology" jointly developed by the molder and resin supplier.

Development of Durel polyarylate is proceeding at a more deliberate pace, compared with LCP and PPS, yet Durel remains a strategic technology for the High-Performance Polymers unit, according to Jackson. Polyarylate, as an amorphous resin, complements the firm's crystalline lines in applications involving optical clarity and processing of larger parts, and also offers potential alloying possibilities.

Company executives decline to specify a commercial timetable for Durel, saying only that research continues at a pilot facility in Corpus Christi, Texas (PT, June '90, p. 81). The company reportedly has made substantial progress in improving the optical clarity of the resin, which officials concede to have been a major factor in delaying its commercial introduction.

The company is further enhancing its amorphous engineering resin repertoire with the recent agreement to become the exclusive domestic distributor for Daicel U.S.A. Inc., Los Angeles, of flame-retardant Cevian ABS and ABS/PBT alloys (PT, Sept. '91, p. 95).
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Title Annotation:Hoechst Celanese Corp. Advanced Materials Group
Author:Gabriele, Michael C.
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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