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LNP formulates long-range strategy.

A major increase in new-product development is the centerpiece of the five-year plan for custom compounder LNP Engineering Plastics Inc., Exton, Pa. Company officials told PLASTICS TECHNOLOGY in a recent interview that LNP will focus on new alloys and blends that impart conductivity and reduce moisture absorption, and also on improving its additive technologies in areas such as flame retardants, alloy compatibilizers, and wetting agents for fibers and fillers. LNP also plans to acquire new resin technology to complement its existing line of filled and unfilled engineering thermoplastic compounds.

LNP says it has adopted a new emphasis on longer-term, global growth strategies directly inspired by its Japanese parent firm, Kawasaki Steel, which purchased the compounder two years ago (see PT, Oct. '91, p. 79). LNP executives, beginning with company president Robert E. Schulz, also say LNP is now able to pursue a more independent course than was possible under its previous owner, British-based Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) PLC. As part of ICI's Advanced Materials Group, LNP was charged with marketing ICI's high-performance engineering thermoplastics.

By contrast, LNP officials say Kawasaki Steel provides arm's-length support for R&D and marketing strategies, allowing LNP to run its own affairs as an independent, market-driven custom compounder.

Kawasaki's stake in the current relationship is to diversify its image in key Asian markets from a steel company to an "engineering materials" firm. LNP and Kawasaki soon will announce an Asian site (Singapore or Malaysia are likely candidates) for a new compounding facility, and will begin to market LNP's Verton long-fiber thermoplastic compounds in Japan.

LNP this year achieved ISO 9002 quality certification for all three of its compounding facilities: Thorndale, Pa.; Santa Ana, Calif.; and Columbus, Ind. In addition, a $9.1 million expansion of the Columbus facility is under way and expected to be completed next July. Capital investments at Columbus include a new 70-mm twin-screw extruder from Werner & Pfleiderer Corp. for production of its Lubricomp, Stat-Kon and Thermocomp product lines, and two new thermoplastic pultrusion lines for its Verton series.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

By the end of the year, the company will broaden its long-fiber Verton product line with a new "UF" line based on Amodel polyphthalamide from Amoco Performance Products. The initial grade, Verton UF-700-10, will have a glass loading of 50%. The Verton UF series joins existing nylon 66 and polypropylene grades to offer high, middle, and general-purpose property performance levels.

Additional longer-range development programs now being explored by LNP for the Verton line are spurred by specific market demands. The result will be grades based on amorphous resins and on alternative reinforcements such as aramid and carbon fibers.

New products are expected to result in the near future from research on an improved brominated flame-retardant system. The additive package is designed to minimize both toxic gas and smoke emissions during combustion, while requiring a relatively low additive level so as not to disrupt flow, mechanical or thermal properties of the host resin.

Nylon grades are expected to be the first to employ the new additive package, with a new-product rollout slated for early next year. George Niznik, LNP v.p. and R&D director, says the new FR package is expected to compete with the new wave of nonhalogenated flame retardants, which he says adversely affect polymer properties because of the high loading levels required.

A similar development program is focusing on a new generation of impact-modifier technology, involving proprietary alloying and compatibilizing techniques. The thrust here will be to build an entirely new toughened compound line that will include filled nylons, polycarbonate, PBT, and PPS. These compounds will address market needs for enhanced impact performance in thinner-walled, injection molded components.

ANTISTATIC GRADES

LNP recently extended its Stat-Loy line of antistatic compounds with the A-FR grade of flame-retardant ABS. Niznik says the key challenge for the A-FR grade was to compatibilize flame-retardant additives with an inherently antistatic resin (LNP uses BFGoodrich's Stat-Rite polymer as one of several material sources for this line). The goal was to create a special morphology that "channels" the static charge through the polymer matrix.

High-growth markets for conductive resins include packaging and material-handling components for microprocessors. Priced at about $4/lb tl, Stat-Loy A-FR is rated UL94 V-0 at 0.031 in. and has a flexural modulus of 240,000 psi and notched Izod impact strength of 1.8 ft-lb/in.

Earlier this year, LNP introduced Thermocomp RF-1006 RM, a 30% glass-filled nylon 66 alloy that features a 64% reduction in moisture pickup compared with standard glass-filled nylon 66. Priced at $2.54/lb tl, the new grade has a lower specific gravity than standard glass-filled nylon 66 (1.24 vs. 1.37) and improved toughness (notched Izod is 2.5 ft-lb/in. compared with 2.0). Tensile strength, flex modulus, and HDT are slightly lower for Thermocomp RF-1006 RM. LNP officials decline to elaborate on the compounding technology employed to lower the material's moisture absorption, but typically this is done by alloying a special "functionalized" nylon with a polyolefin.

Other recent market-sensitive product developments from LNP include impact-modified and self-lubricating grades of Lubricomp PPS, and a revised flame-retardant package that imparts better toughness and higher tensile strength for glass-filled PBT.

NEW RESIN ACQUISITIONS?

Richard J. Burns, v.p. and director of marketing, says new material technologies are high on the priority list of acquisitions under the company's five-year plan. He also says LNP's goal is to have new products represent 20% of overall sales by 1997.

Burns carefully declines to tip his hand in terms of LNP's specific shopping list for new material technologies, but given its already strong position in mid-range to high-end engineering thermoplastics, a fair guess is the company is pondering acquisition of an established TP elastomer product line.

Such a move by LNP would be similar to a recent acquisition made by another aggressive custom compounder of reinforced engineering TPs: DSM Engineering Plastics last year purchased the Sarlink TPE line from Novacor Chemicals Inc. (see PT, March '92, p. 25).
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Title Annotation:Industry News: Materials; LNP Engineering Plastics Inc.
Author:Gabriele, Michael C.
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Dec 1, 1993
Words:999
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