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February 15th, 2013

Ceramics and glass business news of the week

Published on February 15th, 2013 | By: Eileen De Guire

Here’s what we are hearing:

CeramTec expands Marktredwitz site; Ceramics Group to invest €80M in existing plant

The current business year for the CeramTec Group begins with a decision to start planning a major expansion of the Marktredwitz plant. An €80 million will flow into the Marktredwitz plant by 2015, creating around 120 new jobs. Investments will be made in new buildings and state-of-the-art production facilities for the advanced ceramics components of the three divisions based in Marktredwitz – Electronic Applications, Medical Products and Chemical Applications. The Electronic Applications Division manufactures various components for the electronics industry such as ceramic PCBs, substrates for passive components and heat-sinks for innovative LED lighting technology. The Chemical Applications Division produces catalyst carriers, components for foundry technology and a range of other products. The Medical Products Division has been producing components for hip and knee joint replacement systems at the two sites in Plochingen and Marktredwitz for the last 40 years. To date, CeramTec components have helped improve the quality of life of over eight million patients with hip joint problems. CeramTec now manufactures over a million components per year – on average, a ceramic component is implanted in a patient every 30 seconds worldwide. The planned investment in new buildings and production facilities will nearly double the division’s existing manufacturing capacities.

ClearEdge completes purchase of UTC Power

ClearEdge Power, a manufacturer of scalable, distributed power systems, has closed on its acquisition of UTC Power, marking a major milestone for the company and strengthening its position in the commercial fuel cell industry. UTC Power, formerly a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., has long been considered a leader in fuel cell systems with decades of experience. The infusion of talent and complementary products resulting from the UTC Power acquisition significantly advance ClearEdge Power’s leadership at a time when the fuel cell industry is poised for growth. “We are excited about the strategic combination of ClearEdge Power and UTC Power and the capability it provides us to address the demand for clean, continuous, distributed power solutions,” says David B. Wright, ClearEdge Power president and CEO. “This acquisition establishes our position as the most experienced innovator in the industry, having the broadest technology portfolio and an agile, passionate, visionary team that delivers dependable customer solutions.”

RAK Ceramics’ SAP system goes live

In the culmination of a year of hard work, RAK Ceramics – the largest ceramics manufacturer in the world-is proud to announce that its SAP system went live on the 1st of Feb. 1, 2013. The integrated software solutions incorporate key business functions of an organisation. Christened RAK-on SAP, the move sees RAK Ceramics improve transparency, efficiency and productivity with solutions rolled out across all its plants and administration offices in UAE as part of its 1st phase plan. With the complete implementation of Phase 1 of SAP ERP System, RAK Ceramics migrates away from a 13-year-old ERP System in order to strengthen its ability to improve customer satisfaction with enhanced processes, while it rationalizes production and procurement costs, improves working capital management and business integration. RAK-on SAP will improve the complete operational processes within RAK Ceramics and is expected to deliver positive results to all its stakeholders of the company.

Thermal Technology ships 14 K1 sapphire crystal growers to Europe

Thermal Technology, a leading manufacturer of crystal growth equipment and high temperature furnace systems, recently shipped 14 K1 High Brightness (HB) LED-grade sapphire crystal growers to a customer in Europe. The K1’s large 90 kg sapphire boule is optimized for 4- and 6-inch cores used in LED production, with 8-inch cores possible. As Thermal Technology completes sapphire growth protocol transfer at its customers’ facilities, K1 sapphire production has increased dramatically with customers producing large, high quality boules and reporting yields of 4200 millimeters “two-inch equivalents” (TIE). Refined LED technology has led to the development of high brightness LEDs used in electronic display backlighting and other high tech applications. Producing HB LED requires higher quality, single sapphire substrate and Thermal Technology’s K1 crystal grower is intended for production of this substrate. The company also has successfully tripled its Santa Rosa, Calif., manufacturing facility.

Tier 1 polysilicon producers rationalize supply to PV industry

Polysilicon suppliers to the solar photovoltaic industry have been significantly lowering plant use rates during the past six months, with average quarterly rates falling below 70 percent, as released in the latest NPD Solarbuzz Q4’12 Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly Report. This contrasts with historic plant use rates at above 90 percent typically provided by the leading polysilicon suppliers to the solar PV industry. Even when polysilicon spot prices declined 70 percent between Q1’11 and Q2’12, Tier 1 polysilicon suppliers maintained the high rates. But, when average spot prices fell below $20/Kg in Q3’12, and continued down to $16/Kg in Q4’12, even Tier 1 makers with best-of-class cost structures were forced to adjust production levels.

Analyst: Body armor procurement exhibit to be included in FY14 budget materials

On Feb. 7, 2012, Daniel G. Dupont at Inside Defense published an article titled the “DOD Sets Aggressive Time Line For FY-14 Budget Release.” In conjunction with that article was a posting of the entire 60-page memo (with attachments) that Deputy Controller John Roth, Office of the Undersecretary of Department of Defense, published on Feb. 5, 2013. Being the analyst that I am, I scanned the entire 60 pages for interesting material. And here’s what I found: Paragraph X. Paragraph X in the memo provides instructions to the Service Components to submit an exhibit on body armor procurement and the template for that information (referred to as Attachment 10 in the 60 page memo). Here’s a copy of Attachment 10 for you to look at.

HED works with GE, Rutgers engineers on new rotary furnaces for processing nanopowders

HED International, a leading designer of advanced thermal systems, is developing rotary furnaces with GE and Rutgers material science engineers for processing nanopowders. The goal is production of advanced submicron particle size material under precisely controlled thermal and atmosphere conditions to make stronger, lighter, energy efficient ceramics and metals. To develop more effective armor, the Army has enlisted the help of industry and several universities, including the Rutgers Ceramic Composite and Optical Materials Center. There, the Center Director Richard Haber, a professor of material science and engineering, selected HED to design a new continuous rotary furnace for the production of redesigned boron carbide crystals at the atomic level suitable for fabrication into large shapes. While boron carbide already in armor applications is very tough and lightweight, its current atomic structure is insufficient as armor to withstand the kind of high pressure impacts that many new powerful weapons can inflict. “The goal is to revolutionize armor” Haber says. “HED has the technical expertise and the rotary furnace designed to help us reach our objective.”

Mettler Toledo introduces new ‘Excellence’ dynamic mechanical analyzer

Mettler Toledo is pleased to announce the launch the latest Excellence dynamic mechanical analyzer, DMA 1. This highly flexible analyzer offers six different deformation modes to more accurately gauge materials performance. As a single piece of equipment able to handle multiple dynamic and static measurements to characterize viscoelasticity, glass transition, softening, crystallization, phase transformation, and more, the DMA 1 is ideal for both academic and manufacturing labs that handle many different types of materials under budget and time constraints. Researchers can set the sample arm and analysis head at multiple angles based on sample nature and geometry. Simple adjustment of the sample arm—without having to calibrate in between configurations—means samples of many shapes and sizes can be processed in quick succession. Rapid cooling to as low as -190ºC with minimal liquid nitrogen consumption also helps improve sample throughput, reduce costs, and improve operator safety. A high-end temperature range of 600ºC further increases the DMA 1 application range.

In conference with investors, analysts, O-I details strategy to reduce costs, raise innovation

Owens-Illinois Inc. laid out a corporate strategy that aims to reduce the company’s structural costs and increase innovation during a conference with investors Thursday. The Perrysburg glass-container company held an “investor day” in New York City. The seminar, which drew investors, financial analysts, and viewers on the Internet, gave executives a chance to highlight the company’s emphasis on expanding business in South America, China, and other parts of the world. Those operations would help offset slowed financial growth in the United States and Europe, they said. The company will grow its research and development unit, with a goal of increasing Owens-Illinois’ earnings by 10 percent each year, said Al Stroucken, the firm’s chief executive officer. A new research-and-development facility is scheduled to open in Perrysburg, Ohio, later in the year. “The glass packaging market has been growing at a modest rate and we are well-positioned to take advantage of that growth,” Mr. Stroucken said. The company is taking measures to tighten its belt and strengthen its balance sheet, Mr. Stroucken said.


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