Demand for Ultem polyetherimide began to spike above supply in 2014, allowing significant price increases while SABIC made incremental increases in capacity.
Now a big hike in capacity is coming to meet surging demand in China.
SABIC will expand its Singapore compounding operation, increasing global production by 50 percent. Also in the works is a recommissioning of a PPE plant at Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands by the end of 2019.
“Increased customer demand, especially in Asia, prompted the further capacity expansion plans,” said Ernesto Occhiello, executive vice president, Specialties, SABIC. “While interim capacity gains for both Ultem and Noryl resins have been achieved, global demand for both product lines has increased significantly, and SABIC is planning to expand its capacity to support our customers’ growth aspirations. We will continue to focus efforts to deliver the right capacity, in the right global properties similar to PEEK, which has also seen a big rise in demand. PEEK has advantages in impact strength and thermal properties but is more expensive.
Ultem, which was developed by Joseph G. Wirth in the early 1980s, is currently produced in Mount Vernon, Indiana, and Cartagena, Spain. SABIC said the planned operations in Singapore will localize supply for customers in Asia, reducing lead times, especially for shorter qualification cycle applications.
The new Noryl capacity will provide a second source, a must for many major buyers.
SABIC said it expects better availability of both plastics. The major Ultem investment was first signaled by The Molding Blog based on an interview with Occhiello at K 2016.