Zircar Ceramics’ recent purchase of 2,000-square-meter facility in Chester, N.Y., will be used for expanding the company’s CNC Milling, Precast Refractory Shape Making and R&D capabilities.

Here is what we are hearing:

Zircar expands manufacturing and R&D

Zircar Ceramics Inc., the New York-based manufacturer and international marketer of a wide range of ceramic fiber based products is proud to announce its recent expansion with its purchase of 2,000 square meters of new manufacturing space in Chester, N.Y. According to David Hamling, vice president and co-owner, “This extra space will be used as the site for new CNC milling, precast refractory shape making as well as new R&D activities. It will allow us to expand certain capabilities in response to customer demand.” The company produces a broad product range that includes alumina, alumina-silica and other refractory oxide fiber materials, heating elements, plus furnace insulation custom assemblies and accessories. Zircar can also custom manufacture many one-of-a-kind products, including furnace insulation, heating components and high temperature systems.

AGC’s Ecoglass contributes to energy saving in buildings by filtering out 75% of solar heat; will launch Sunbalance Triple Cool in November

Asahi Glass Co. has developed Sunbalance Triple Cool, which is the first triple-silver-coated glass product to be manufactured in Japan. Featuring the highest energy efficiency among AGC’s product lineups, this new Ecoglass product ensures indoor brightness while dramatically reducing incoming solar heat. Its production will take place at leading-edge facilities introduced at the Kashima Plant this spring. Product release is scheduled for November 2012. Demand for more energy-efficient buildings is surging against a backdrop of the increasing need to save electricity and reduce environmental impact in the current energy situation. Especially, in commercial buildings where air conditioning requires large amounts of energy, single-sheet flat glass used as window panes is a drawback in energy-saving efforts as large amounts of heat flow in and out through the windows. The solution is Ecoglass, and it is drawing increasing attention for its high energy-saving effects throughout the year. In summer, however, even greater heat shielding performance has been required to meet the tight electricity supply conditions during the hot season.

DuPont earnings fall sharply on weak TiO2 and electronics; company to cut 1,500 jobs

DuPont reported net income of $13 million, down from $460 million in the year-ago quarter. The company also sharply cut its fourth-quarter 2012 and 2013 earnings outlook. DuPont says it will eliminate 1,500 positions globally, roughly 2 percent of its workforce, over the next 12-18 months. “Weaker than expected demand in titanium dioxide and photovoltaic markets contributed to the decline from last year’s record third-quarter earnings,” says DuPont chair and CEO Ellen Kullman. “We are addressing these challenges now to position ourselves for improved performance.” Demand weakness was sharpest in electronics, due to the impact of solar, and performance chemicals, due to the impact of TiO2, with year-over-year volume declines of 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in those segments. Latin America, where volumes were up 2 percent, was the only region to post year-over year volume gains. Volumes fell 10 percent in Asia on weakness in electronics, 6 percent in Europe, and 2 percent in the US and Canada.

Saint-Gobain awarded major contract to supply sapphire armor

Saint-Gobain Crystals has been awarded a three-year contract, valued at approximately $20 million, to supply the Army and Marine Corps with sapphire-engineered armor and tooling to make bulletproof windshields and door windows for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Launcher. This next-generation transparent armor replaces conventional glass-glass armor. The superior mechanical and optical properties of sapphire armor meet the higher threat levels that combat vehicles now endure while providing greater than 50 percent weight savings, better night vision effectiveness and higher lifetime durability in challenging environments (including the desert). Saint-Gobain’s plant in Milford, New Hampshire, will supply the armor products, which consist of large sheets of sapphire laminated with multiple layers of glass and polycarbonate. According to Natesh Krishnan, director of global sales and marketing, “Saint-Gobain won the contract because our sapphire-glass armor solution met the Army’s demanding performance requirements for a high-value vehicle. This innovation will also offer additional protection to soldiers in the field and is the first large contract of its kind for high-end armor. Our sapphire armor provides superior ballistic performance combined with weight reduction, enhanced transmission capabilities for night vision and sand abrasion resistance. As sapphire is second in hardness only to diamond and is chemically inert, it is excellent for use in sandy desert conditions, and resists etching from gases emitted after a rocket launch.”

Job cuts possible at Corning

(The Leader) Corning Inc. may reduce its workforce as the company looks for ways to cut costs, but the layoffs would not be as significant as they were four years ago, officials said. “We’re still working through the details on those (potential layoffs), but we use the term ‘modest’ intentionally to indicate this is not like it was in the 2008, early 2009 recession,” Sr. Vice President and Corporate Controller Tony Tripeny said. “This is considerably lower than that. Since we don’t have the details worked through, we can’t really give you anything more than that.” Vice President of Corporate Communications Dan Collins said the company, which employs 5,300 people in the Corning area, could not identify where layoffs may occur because each business within the company has been given cost-reduction targets. “The likelihood of a workforce reduction, if it occurs, will be a decision made business-by-business, and primarily in the salaried workforce, rather than in manufacturing operations,” Collins said. The company said cost reductions will likely begin this quarter, but no other specifics were given. Company Vice Chairman and CFO Jim Flaws said the weakening economy necessitated the decision to reduce costs.

Morgan Crucible takeover seen with shares sliding 33%

(Bloomberg Businessweek) Morgan Crucible Co., the UK maker of ceramics used in wind-turbine blades, is vulnerable to becoming the industry’s next takeover target after its valuation sank to a three-year low and 3M Co. agreed to buy its rival. Shares of Morgan Crucible tumbled 33 percent from an almost 14-year high reached in February as revenue growth slowed on weakened demand and its profit outlook worsened. That left the Windsor, England-based company at its lowest valuation relative to earnings since 2009. Even based on analysts’ reduced estimates for next year, Morgan Crucible is still cheaper than 81 percent of similar-sized specialty-chemicals producers for the materials industry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A buyer, such as 3M, which agreed this month to acquire Ceradyne Inc., could now consider an offer for Morgan Crucible to take advantage of its cheap valuation, said Panmure Gordon & Co.