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October 1, 2012

High-tech plastic from Bayer driving investment

Gerald Ondrey

The sharply rising global demand for the high-tech plastic Apec from Bayer MaterialScience AG (Leverkusen, Germany; www.bayermaterialscience.de)  is spawning major investment in eastern Germany. Another plant for the production of a key precursor for Apec is currently under construction in the chemical industry center of Bitterfeld of a cost of approximately €50 million. The operator is Hi-Bis GmbH. The joint venture, in which Bayer MaterialScience also holds an interest, is doubling its production capacity there. Ground was broken on Monday, and the plant is scheduled to come on stream in mid-2014.

Apec, which is particularly heat resistant, is used in automotive lighting, lighting technology, the electrical and electronics industry and in household appliances. The transparent Bayer plastic is particularly well suited for articles with demanding optical requirements that must withstand high temperatures. Examples include the lenses of automotive headlights, housings for light fittings or hot air nozzles in hair dryers.

Sales of the material are growing significantly faster than the overall plastics market, which is expected to grow at a rate of 5%/yr in the medium term. Bayer MaterialScience produces Apec at it site in Antwerp, Belgium.

Hi-Bis in Bitterfeld manufactures a key component for it, so-called special bisphenols. The Japanese-German joint venture brought an initial production facility for these materials on stream in 2004. The capacity expansion was made necessary by the steadily rising demand for Apec.

"This expansion will ensure that we can continue to meet the needs of the market," says Ralf Echterhoff, head of Production and Technology in the Polycarbonates Business Unit of Bayer MaterialScience. The company holds a 10% interest in Hi-Bis. The remaining shares are held by the Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co (35%) and its Honshu Chemical Industry subsidiary (55%). The Bayer Group maintains an important production site in Bitterfeld, which is also home to other companies from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

 

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