Continental opens specialised production site for engineering polymers
CONTINENTAL Compounders, the largest PVC compounder in Sub Saharan Africa, has expanded its range and compound product offering to now also offer the South African market engineering polymers, opening a specialised production site in Marianhill, KwaZulu-Natal, to accommodate this.
Continental Compounders compound in excess of 40 000 metric tons a year, together with its engineering polymers division. The engineering division was established in 2016 on the back of the South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM) which has set ambitious targets for localisation. It’s aim is to raise local content within the sector to 60% by 2035.
Operations started in April of the same year when the first machine arrived from the USA.
Jaco Smith, Commercial Director, says that the PVC division has been doing well for an extended period, exporting material to several African countries, in co-operation with the global supply group, Snetor of France.
“Our shareholders realised that PVC was in a mature domestic market and needed some diversification. The closure of other domestic compounders also led to some opportunities and we decided to extend our abilities and expertise into the polyolefins and engineering polymers area.”
“It was envisioned that most technological advances are being made within the engineering compounding sectors, with some advanced and highly specified requirements becoming the norm in this sector. As the automotive sector also evolves into new fields, like electric/hybrid cars with huge safety requirements, there will be a continuous drive for ‘new’ types of compounds,” Smith adds.
The engineering polymers division – Continental Engineering Compounds – is 52% black-owned and is Level 2 BBBEE accredited.
The decision to relocate the engineering polymers plant from Pinetown to Marianhill was made when space became an issue. Smith says that the timing with the closure of a next-door facility was also a great opportunity to have both plants on one site. This has also made the sharing of resources possible with added cost savings.
Main capabilities within the engineering polymers business
The core focus is on the production of PP and PA-based engineering compounds, with expansion into others like Styrenics (ABS), PC and speciality masterbatches in the near future.
“We use twin-screw technology with a USA-based backing and pride ourselves on our quick turnaround times and customisation. There is continued investment and capacity will most certainly be increased within the short term. This puts us far ahead of imported competitors,” says Smith.
The expanded range of engineering polymers now offered, includes modified polypropylene (PP) and Nylon (PA66 and PA6). These will come in variations such as:
- Mineral-filled talc and Calcium Carbonate (20% to 50%)
- Glass-fibre reinforced (20% to 50%)
- Impact-modified compounds
- Flame retardants (Halogen and Halogen-free systems)
Combination grades of the above e.g. mineral and glass-fibre filled, with functional additives like flame retardant and impact modifier are also supplied.
Continental Engineering Compounds also intends to expand its engineering polymers into the global market.
“As with any SA-based operation, there is always a drive to earn the so-called ‘hard’ currencies, and as we have experience in export, we will most certainly expand with the CEC products into these markets,” says Smith.
The company has one of the most advanced laboratories in the compounding industry and is continually investing in the lab to be able to adapt to specific customer requirements to maintain the high standards it maintains.
Continental Engineering Compounds also invested in the services of a technical engineer from India with extensive experience in the development of engineering compounds for both industrial and automotive sectors.
“We are developing mostly proprietary IP at the moment but are looking at entering into JV/licensing/tolling agreements with some global players,” says Smith.