Eastman opens polycarbonate replacement plant in Tennessee

13 May 2010 21:20  [Source: ICIS news]

KINGSPORT, Tennessee (ICIS news)--Eastman Chemical on Thursday officially opened its new Tritan copolyester plant at the company’s facility in Kingsport, Tennessee.

The copolyester could be used as a polycarbonate (PC) replacement in items that previously used the controversial bisphenol-A (BPA), Eastman said.

Only half of the facility’s 60,000 tonnes/year of Tritan capacity was running, but the company said the additional 30,000 tonnes would be needed by 2011.

“At the rate we are going, capacity will fill out soon,” said Eastman CEO Jim Rogers, adding that the company was planning ahead for additional capacity expansions.

The absence of BPA in Tritan would be a strong selling point for the copolyester, said Paul Anderson, Tritan launch manager for Eastman.

The copolyester was a drop-in replacement for PC, but it was “designed [in 2003] as a high-heat polymer”, Anderson noted.

Originally developed in the late 1950s as a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fiber modifier, Tritan was introduced in 2007, and construction of its plant began in 2008. The first run of Tritan began in December 2009.

Investment began five years ago with a $1.3bn (€1bn) investment project the company participated in with the state of Tennessee.

Tritan was not a large percentage of that budget, said Mark Costa, executive vice president, specialty plastics, but a “decent proportion”.

The overall growth rate of Eastman’s specialty plastics was estimated at 6-8%, but “growth of Tritan is much larger than that”, with public concerns over BPA driving the growth faster, said Costa.

Tritan had all of the properties of PC – clear, tough and chemical resistant - but could take much more heat, both in manufacturing and as a finished molded product, Costa said.

Useful in a variety of household and appliances applications, Tritan could also be used in many children’s products, he said. Clients include Wal-Mart, Rubbermaid, Weil Baby, GSI Outdoors, and others, Eastman said.

Because the optics were not compatible, Tritan was not recommended for use as a PC-replacement with DVDs or CDs. But as consumers turn more to electronically-delivered entertainment media, DVDs and CDs “are a dying market,” said Anderson.

Future applications Eastman was looking into for Tritan included bulletproof and shatter-resistant glass, it said.

($1 = €0.79)

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By: Ivan Lerner
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