Here is what we are hearing:

Zircoa transfers product business activities from Didier, forms Zircoa GmbH

For more than 20 years Didier served as representative for many of Zircoa’s products to much of Europe and parts of Asia. The successful relationship of these two respected refractory materials manufacturers expanded both awareness of Zircoa and their market share in areas of world not (at the time) served directly by Zircoa Inc. President Ronne Proch says, “We strive to exceed the customer’s expectations. Didier, as our representative, was an embodiment of that goal. With the torch now passed and with the formation of Zircoa GmbH, we reaffirm our commitment and will continue to back it up with the excellence in product support and customer service. Existing customers may rest knowing that with the formation of Zircoa GmbH; nearly all existing staff will remain.” Zircoa GmbH will further its market development and grow it sales activities into Eastern Europe, Russia and other EMEA member countries. As part of this growth, Zircoa GmbH seeks the development of relationships with other ceramic and refractory materials companies with products complementing Zircoa’s and sharing similar sales objectives in the target markets.

TenCate acquires Amber Composites in England

TenCate has reached an agreement on the acquisition of Amber Composites, a UK-based manufacturer of thermoset composites for the industrial and automotive market. The major portion of the global composite market consists of thermoset materials. The activities of TenCate in this market are mainly focused on aerospace, space and radome applications and within TenCate Advanced Composites concentrated in the United States. The acquisition of Amber Composites will help accelerate activities in the European market in the field of thermoset composite materials. As a result of the acquisition of Amber Composites, TenCate increases its presence in the market for industrial and automotive composites, tooling materials and in the aerospace market in Europe, with both thermoset and thermoplastic composites. Thermoset composites are used as an alternative for those applications that can not be met by thermoplastic composites. This creates a one stop shop for customers of TenCate Advanced Composites.

Freeman Tech appoints ATS Scientific Inc. as distribution partner in Canada

In a move that reflects sustained sales growth throughout North America, powder characterisation company Freeman Technology (Tewkesbury, UK) has appointed ATS Scientific Inc. as its distributor for Canada. Headquartered in Burlington, Ontario, ATS Scientific now assumes responsibility for sales of Freeman Technology’s FT4 powder rheometer throughout this territory. Tim Freeman, managing director of Freeman Technology, says: “It is just one year since we established Freeman Technology Inc. to serve the USA, so it is especially pleasing that we are now able to further extend the support we provide to customers throughout North America.” Freeman Technology provides systems for the measurement of powder flow properties. With a strong process focus and significant commitment to R&D and applications development, the company delivers extensive know-how alongside its universal powder tester, the FT4 Powder Rheometer, with expert teams guiding and supporting users in addressing specific powder challenges.

Saint-Gobain begins Verallia exit with $1.7 billion deal

(Reuters) Saint-Gobain has struck a deal to sell its North American glass container operation to Ireland’s Ardagh Group for $1.7 billion, beginning its planned exit from the low-margin business. While the French group looks to focus on higher-margin building materials operations, Ardagh’s worldwide glass business will increase by 60 percent, Chairman Paul Coulson says in a statement, with about 40 percent of sales generated in the United States. Plans by Saint-Gobain to spin off the whole of Verallia, which makes jars for Nutella spread and bottles for Dom Perignon champagne, had to be shelved in 2011 because of the deepening euro zone crisis.

RT Vanderbilt announces new structure, major expansion

The RT Vanderbilt Co. announced several business changes for 2013, including the completion of an expansion project and the development of new business-focused subsidiaries, and the reorganization of its North American operations around three new wholly owned subsidiaries. The reorganized NA structure will introduce vertically integrated businesses better equipped to meet customer needs and position the company for market growth—both through mergers and acquisitions and organically. “RT Vanderbilt’s new organizational structure will allow us to concentrate and grow our businesses in our traditional areas of strength, including chemicals and minerals,” says President & COO Roger Price. The reorganization will result in the creation of Vanderbilt Chemicals LLC, for operations of the company’s manufactured and resale chemical business in NA; Vanderbilt Minerals LLC, the company’s industrial and specialty minerals business in NA serving the life sciences, coatings, ceramics, and agricultural markets; and Vanderbilt Global Services LLC, to provide support to the operating businesses. Additionally, RT Vanderbilt’s previously announced $30 million expansion project at a Murray, Ky., chemical facility will be completed by the summer of 2013. The company additionally operates mines in various locations throughout the U.S. to provide kaolin clay, bentonite, pyrophyllite, wollastonite, and other processing aids.

Studies have shown that natural light in hospital operating rooms helps medical staff maintain alertness, while relieving stress and enhancing their mood. These key reasons are why Children’s Hospital Colorado installed dynamic glass from sage in the cardiac operating rooms of its newly built East Tower project. As part of the new 10-story, $230 million East Tower facility that opened in October, Children’s Hospital Colorado installed SageGlass to enhance the working environment and energy efficiency in a unit that performs more than 800 heart catheter procedures and more than 500 heart surgeries annually. SageGlass is electronically tintable dynamic glass that maximizes daylight and outdoor views in buildings while controlling glare and heat gain. The glass can darken or clear on demand or automatically to save energy and help keep building occupants continuously comfortable throughout the day.

Clarvista glass recognized among ‘Products of the Year’

Clarvista glass, a shower glass product made by PPG Industries, was named among 2012 “Products of the Year” by editors of USGlass, Metal and Glazing magazine. Clarvista glass is made with a proprietary coating that is fused on the glass, sealing the surface and making it resistant to corrosion caused by heat, humidity, soap, and chemicals in household cleaning products. As a result, with regular maintenance, Clarvista glass can maintain its showroom looks longer than competing shower glass products. Clarvista shower glass is available with conventional clear glass or Starphire ultraclear glass by PPG. When combined with Starphire glass, Clarvista glass produces a highly transparent shower glass.

China consumes 33% of global photovoltaic panel shipments in Q4’12

The Chinese end-market dominated shipments of solar photovoltaic panels during the final quarter of 2012 with 33 percent of global end-market demand, according to new research released in the NPD Solarbuzz Quarterly report. “Just two years ago, the Chinese end-market was less than 10 percent of global PV demand,” states Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “This is the start of a new chapter for the solar industry, with China potentially taking center stage in both the upstream and downstream channels.” Several factors are contributing to China’s rise, including slowing growth in Europe with declining PV incentives and strong domestic policies within China that were designed to assist domestic Chinese manufacturers. Chinese demand continues to be heavily back-end weighted. In 2012, Q4’12 demand in China accounted for almost 60 percent of annual demand. However, this demand phasing provides a significant dilemma for suppliers as they struggle to balance the rewards of year-end shipments with the risks from rising inventories and potential write-downs earlier in the year.

PyroMax proppant facility slated to open in March

PyraMax Ceramics LLC a domestic US proppant manufacturing facility with distribution outlets strategically located near the major oil and gas fields supporting the multi-billion pound proppant needs of the fracture stimulation high pressure pumping market. After breaking ground in May 2012, the company believes a new $140 million manufacturing facility located in Wrens, Ga., will be completed in March 2013. PyraMax’s objective is to supply a superior clay-based (high alumina content kaolin) ceramic proppant that will routinely exceed the industry’s expectation for light weight ceramics. PyraMax Ceramics, understanding that quality begins with the right building blocks, turned to the kaolin rich southeast US and secured the rights to minerals and mining operations in Georgia and South Carolina. This allows the company to have total control over quality and ensure multiple decades of an uninterrupted supply from some of the best ore in the world. PyraMax’s corporate headquarters are in Houston, Texas. The company will have about 65 full-time employees at the Wrens facility and the mining company will add up to an additional 20 to 30 for their operations.