Lucite International, the world’s largest producer of Methyl Methacrylate (MMA), will increase the price of Lucite, its leading brand of cast acrylic by a minimum of €400 per tonne from 1 January 2005 for its customers in the Europe, Africa and Middle East region. This increase is a direct result of the escalating cost of both energy and raw materials, which have risen sharply on the back of oil prices, and eroded margins to unsustainable levels.
Over the past five years, Lucite International has achieved considerable cost reductions through efficiency improvement, the benefits of which have been passed on to its customers in the sanitaryware industry and beyond. However, prevailing circumstances have forced the Company to review pricing levels in order to return margins to levels that justify the re-investment required to support its strategy to sustain the long-term growth of industries and markets requiring Methacrylate derived raw materials.
Paul Henderson, Vice President of Lucite International in Europe, Africa and the Middle East comments, “Lucite International now supplies Lucite® for more than 50% of the world’s acrylic baths and spas and has built its reputation on providing consistently high quality, innovative products that lead in the sanitaryware industry. This is an industry that is being driven by increasingly sophisticated consumers where the demand for ongoing quality improvements, flexibility of supply and constant innovation are high. Our price adjustment is a necessary move to underpin the further investment required to support our customers in satisfying these needs.”
The rising cost of oil is not the only factor affecting the bathroom industry today. Developing nations around the world are also fuelling the demand for steel and prices are rising sharply as a consequence. According to Global Insight, the economic and finance forecast company, China’s consumption of steel alone grew by 110% over the past six years and is continuing to rise. Given that steel baths accounted for around 44% of the market in Europe in 2003, this trend is also likely to have an impact on retail prices.
Leading acrylics brand Lucite® from Lucite International launches a new website for designers, specifiers and product developers who seek inspiration in acrylic.
Paul Henderson, Vice President EMEA (Europe, Africa, Middle East) says, “The launch of lucitesolutions.com coincides with an innovative restructuring of the Lucite® product range and brands. A host of well-known brands including Perspex® and Elvacite® and other trademarks such as Colacryl®, Diakon® and Elvakon® have now been brought under the wing of the globally recognised Lucite® brand to create an integrated solutions family”.
“The new structure now creates Perspex® from Lucite® and Elvacite® from Lucite®. Other less prominent, but highly valued, trademarks carry a simple Lucite® prefix; Lucite® Colacryl®, Lucite® Diakon®, Lucite® Elvakon® etc.”
With these developments, Lucite® now has over 200 solutions to its’ name, giving it one of the most extensive acrylic product ranges on the market. The good news for specifiers is that information on all of these brands and solutions is now readily available on a single database using a simple-to-use Solutions Finder tool at lucitesolutions.com.
lucitesolutions.com is perfect for inspiring ideas and quick, high-level specifications. Searches can be made across a host of different criteria. The more criteria specified, the more readily a short-list of candidate solutions is generated. Initial specifications now take just seconds – quite literally!
Search criteria range from the type of application, for example, point-of-purchase displays, automotive glazing, optical, adhesives, through performance requirements, such as fire retardancy and impact strength to finishes and colours, an area in which Lucite® has unrivalled technology. For the technically minded, searches can also be conducted by processes, such as extrusion, co-extrusion or fabrication and by material for example, polymers, composites, sheet.
Full solution profiles and supporting case studies on the site bring the possibilities of acrylic to life across a host of different sectors.
lucitesolutions.com will be a web favourite for designers, engineers and specifiers who crave round-the-clock inspiration and support in the acrylic arena. The website is also accessible on Blackberry handheld devices, XDAs and PDAs with suitable browser software.
To view the new Lucite Solutions website click here.
The Sunday Times has identified Lucite International as one of the top UK private companies. One theme of the articles is the increasing importance of private equity investors.
Lucite International is an excellent example of the way a high quality business can benefit as it moves from public to private equity ownership through focused investment.
Lucite International, forty-third in the Sunday Times Top Track 100 list, has established an enviable track record since being acquired from ICI at the end of 1999. Strong sales growth (40%) coupled with significant improvements in productivity and efficiency have raised operating profits from £8 million in 1999 to £69 million in 2003. At the same time the group has established the basis of future growth with China’s first world scale production facility under construction near Shanghai and the parallel creation of a revolutionary new technology, “Alpha”, for the production of acrylic products.
The group is already the established global leader in its field with a full suite of operations established around the world. Lucite International products are used in growth industries to create a diverse range of products including: spas, baths, paints, adhesives, signs, lighting systems and flat screen television and computer monitors.
Commenting on The Sunday Times article, Ian Lambert, CEO said, “Opportunities in the business are excellent. The new facility in Shanghai will increase our presence in this fast developing market and provide much needed additional supply in 2005. We are also selecting the site for the first full scale “Alpha” plant. This new technology enables us to grow faster with even lower production costs, achieving savings of over 40%. It is a very exciting time to be leading this business. We will continue to work with our employees, customers and suppliers on technology, innovation and productivity to assure our place at the forefront of the expanding world of acrylics.”
Home owners are now able to choose a far wider range of colours for their houses than ever before, due to the enhanced weathering performance capabilities of Lucite International’s acrylic-based capping material, Lucite® TufCoat®. In a market that has largely been based in the US, rich, dark colours have not been successfully used on home exteriors, fences, decking, window or door frames because they tend to fade over time when exposed to sunlight or adverse weather conditions. But this is set to change with new material advancements and as the market spreads globally.
Lucite TufCoat is now able to offer a much wider range in the colour palette to homebuilders with the assurance that the colours will not fade or change over time whatever the local climate. In the past, cladding and house trim manufacturers such as Owens Corning in the US were unable to offer colours with a light value (L) of 50 or less without the fear of yellowing or lightening. But Lucite TufCoat acrylic capping resin has been engineered for advanced performance against weathering and the environment, which results in exceptional durability and colour retention.
Lucite International has already been successful in using colour as a key differentiator for its products aimed at the home interiors market; Lucite Ice hand basins in contemporary shades and Perspex for furniture and lighting installations featuring state-of-the-art LEDs for complex colour combinations. Europe has been a strong influence for the use of acrylic in interiors. However, the US has led in the exteriors market and, with the increasingly global aspect of business, there are signs that the American trend for exterior cladding is spreading to Europe. Lucite has been at the front of bathroom design in Europe and is now well positioned to be able to deliver on the design wishes of architects and home builders outside the US.
One of the largest US housing development companies comments: “With Lucite TufCoat we can now provide homeowners with a greatly increased range of colour options. Today’s consumers want choice – rich tans and blues, dark greys, burgundy, and forest green – they want to express their taste and individuality through their homes. Until now the exteriors of houses in regions where weathering is most severe were unable to have the colours that people really want. TufCoat has changed all that and made bigger choice a possibility.”
Lucite TufCoat is an integral capping layer manufactured with the base substrate and eliminates any possibility of peeling or flaking. It has the added benefit to homeowners of being virtually maintenance free, when compared with the need to paint wood or fibre cement board to protect it.
The TufCoat capped siding replaces traditional wood or fibre cement sidings or trims on houses, which has a positive impact on the environment. A combination of the excellent aesthetic qualities of the acrylic-based material and the high performance in adverse weather conditions has led to greater flexibility in the appearance of homes.
Andy Clelland, from Lucite International, comments on what this means to the market: “More and more people are dictating how they want their home to look. The extensive choice of colours and texture that we can offer them through Lucite TufCoat fits their requirements as it has the added benefit of the most durable material available for siding, accessories and trim items.”
Lucite International, owner of the world-renowned Lucite® and Perspex® brands and a global leader in the innovation, design and manufacture of acrylic based products, today announces its results for the year ended 31 December 2003.
- Significant improvement in pre-tax profits due to strong demand for acrylic materials and resins, and record output, 15% up on 2002.
- Continued strong cash generation
- A strong performance despite challenging economic conditions and increased raw material prices
- The construction is underway of a 100 kte methyl methacrylate (MMA) plant in China, the world’s fastest growing market
- The development of Lucite International’s revolutionary new route to methyl methacrylate (Alpha) continues to progress to plan. An Alpha pilot plant has been in successful operation for over 18 months and a siting study is underway for a full scale plant
- New Board appointment – Annie Veerman Chief Financial Officer
Commenting on the results Ian Lambert, Chief Executive, said: “2003 was another year of significant progress for Lucite International and our results reflect the continued improvements in output and productivity achieved compared to 2002. These efficiency gains resulted in a much-improved financial performance, including a recovery in Ebitda and gross margins despite increased raw material costs. Our global presence, continued focus on cost efficiency and expansion into new product areas will ensure Lucite International achieves further progress in 2004.”
Lucite International, the world’s leading supplier of methyl methacrylate, and Sericol, the leading European manufacturer of textile inks, have joined forces to develop a new plastisol ink for customers that require products free from PVC and phthalates. The resulting partnership is an exclusive agreement to produce a specialised methacrylate polymer for use, by Sericol, in the production of PVC/phthalate-free plastisol inks for printing on textiles.
In plastisol inks, the binder polymer is predominantly Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and the carrier liquid is often a phthalate plasticizer. These inks are typically used for printing on items such as sports shoes, T-shirts and other textiles. The new product, which is a result of over four years research and development, enables the fundamental reformulation of plastisol inks to render them completely free of PVC and phthalates.
Lucite International has strengths in the innovation and production of methacrylate polymers, whilst Sericol are leading ink formulators. The combined expertise of both companies has led to the creation of a system that has the performance of a traditional plastisol ink, but without the need to use either PVC or phthalates.
A key part of the project has involved the Lucite team establishing a means to manufacture the specialised methyl Methacrylate-based polymer at its plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. The work has culminated in the recent launch by Sericol of its new ink, named Texopaque Pioneer OK, the first PVC/phthalate-free plastisol ink for textile printing.
Mike Chisholm, R&D Manager at Lucite International, comments on the agreement, “The successful development of the new PVC/phthalate-free plastisol ink is a tremendous achievement by the technical teams of both companies. It is an excellent example of the strong innovation that can result from the partnership of two leading companies in their respective fields.”
Joe Mueller, Marketing Manager at Sericol’s graphic and textiles business, adds, “Our extensive development work alongside the team at Lucite has already produced a new ink, for which we are experiencing huge demand in the market. We are delighted that we have reached this milestone, from which we will continue to grow our market share in the textile printing industry.”
After extensive pilots and tests over the last 2 years, Lucite International has reached the commercialisation stage of its proprietary technology for the production of Methyl Methacrylate (MMA), known as Alpha. Both cash cost and total cost of MMA production will be reduced by 40% with this revolutionary and simple two-stage patented process.
Alpha will liberate the MMA industry from its historical dependence on the raw materials acetone, HCN and isobutylene, which are by products from other “primary” processes. Alpha uses ethylene, methanol and carbon monoxide, which are all readily available and will not limit Alpha’s unique scale potential – MMA plants of 200 kte plus are on the horizon with Alpha technology!
Lucite International is evaluating a number of locations and will announce its decision in the summer of 2004 for the first plant to be on-stream by 2008. The choice of location will not only be founded on the economics of plant 1 but also the longer term needs of an aggressive exploitation strategy for Alpha technology.
Ian Lambert, CEO of Lucite International, sees this as the next step in growing, supporting and capturing the acrylics market with increased output, rapidly rising productivity and efficiency “Global demand for acrylics is growing rapidly. We are already building our MMA plant in China, which will be fully operational in the summer of 2005. This will be followed by the first world-scale Alpha plant.”
Alpha produces benign waste products – water, which is readily bio treatable and heavy esters, which are fuelled to raise steam – so it is non-hazardous and significantly more environmentally friendly than traditional manufacturing processes.
It operates at mild conditions, involves no toxic or corrosive chemicals giving high process yields and very low maintenance costs in comparison with existing technologies. Alpha is not exclusively for MMA manufacture, but has potential for being used in the manufacture of other major chemical products.
As part of a large-scale expansion programme, The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority has selected Lucite International materials for directional signage in its underground transport system. The contract was awarded in July 2003 to Lucite International and our signage partner and installation began in December 2003. The newly extended Bangkok underground system is due to open in April 2004.
The Bangkok underground system serves a population of more than 10 million people. It was vital for the project managers, who selected Lucite International, that people were able to locate themselves and get directions in the quickest, most visible way possible while meeting the visual design criteria of the stations. Lucite International’s acrylic materials were selected because they meet both design standards for fire requirements and light management capabilities – both key for in directory signage.
Lucite International has had valuable experience in similar projects around the world, such as the Hong Kong and Bilbao Metro systems. There are very stringent engineering standards for equipment used in underground systems in the world following the King’s Cross fire in 1987. The devastating effect of the fire in the London Underground resulted in strict regulations governing the use of plastic products below ground level because of the potential smoke problems a fire may cause. Lucite® Perspex® acrylic sheet meets these standards, which was a crucial factor in its selection for Bangkok Metro’s signage contract.
Lucite® Light Management Solutions (LMS) technology is being used in the signage in Bangkok’s underground system. Panels made from an advanced acrylic are used to create ultra slim structures that provide cool even illumination. This results in increased clarity of the signs and improves visibility in polluted atmospheres, such as smoke.
Lucite LMS are being specified by some of the most influential architects and designers around the world, from directional signage in the Hong Kong Metro to advertising campaigns running on London and New York City transit systems. Because the light source is positioned at the edge of the panel rather than behind, it is possible to reduce display profiles dramatically to create lighter, slimmer constructions that are suitable for many more applications. LMS units are more energy efficient and therefore more cost effective.
Khun Suchitr, Managing Director of Thai Poly Acrylic, Lucite International’s Thai operation, comments on the success of the contract: “This is an excellent endorsement of Lucite International’s materials expertise. The unique combination of light management and fire retardant properties and our proven track record were critical for us to secure the contract. No other company has these combined strengths. We will be providing the highest quality materials available for the safest most visible directional signage in the industry.”
The world’s leading manufacturers of laptops and desktop monitors, including Samsung, Dell, Fujitsu, IBM and Toshiba, are constantly developing their products to suit end users. The demand from consumers for thinner, flatter and clearer displays has led these manufacturers to turn to the best LCD module manufacturer in the world, Chi Mei, based in Taiwan.
Chi Mei relies on Lucite International’s Methyl Methacrylate to make acrylic sheet with outstanding light transmission properties and ultra low levels of contamination for use in its backlit screens. LCD desktop monitors made by Chi Mei are lightweight, have small desktop footprints and minimise the impact on the environment through their low power requirements.
Ian Lambert, CEO of Lucite International, comments on this endorsement by the displays industry: “Chi Mei is renowned in the industry for its expertise in acrylic sheet used in the world’s leading laptop and desktop monitor displays. They have chosen the best material available for their customers’ needs. Sheet made from Lucite’s MMA has excellent weather-resistance and heat-resistant characteristics and has the best light transmission qualities available in marketplace.”
AquaDom, the world’s largest cylinder aquarium in now open. Located in the heart of Berlin, the AquaDom forms a striking centrepiece for a new multi-purpose development, which includes the designer DomAquaree Hotel, retail, recreational, work and living spaces. Water is the architectural theme of the complex and AquaDom, at an impressive 16m deep and 11m in diameter, is the highlight of this experience. Lucite International provided the high performance materials used by Reynolds Polymer Technology (RPT) to manufacture the 150 tons of acrylic panels, which were needed to complete the aquarium.
The aquarium has 26 acrylic panels bonded together seamlessly for the outer cylinder and 15 panels for the inner cylinder. RPT designed and created these monolithic viewing panels using Lucite Specialty Monomers and Resins to ensure consistent and optimum optical clarity for anyone viewing the fish held in the AquaDom. And visitors have the unique experience of ascending through a column of water as they ride a split-level glass lift as they move through the centre of the aquarium.
Holding 264,000 gallons of saltwater, it is stocked with 100 different species and a total of 2,500 fish, including Golden Puffer, Porcupine Fish, Moray Eels, Angel Fish and Butterfly Fish. The variety of fish has been specifically chosen due to the different depths at which each will swim within the aquarium, which is raised 8m above the ground for visitors to admire.
The water inside the aquarium circulates completely once an hour. Commercially certified divers are used for the cleaning operation and as they ascend from the bottom must decompress at ‘safety stop intervals’ due to the sheer depth of water.
Ian Lambert, CEO of Lucite International, is looking forward to visiting the new hotel; “The AquaDom has been made possible by a very unique partnership. It is the strength, transparency and optical clarity of our high performing materials combined with the advanced acrylic technology from RPT that has made it all possible. This was a very ambitious project, which many people said could never be done. Thanks to our customer’s designers and their technical ability and the outstanding performance characteristics of our materials, we have been able to bring the wonders of the deep to everyone who visits the AquaDom. It is the largest cylinder aquarium ever built in the world and I am sure that its sheer size and the wonderful deep water fish contained within will draw visitors to this new leisure destination in Berlin.”
The project was successfully completed on time due to the close working collaboration between Lucite and RPT that has existed for nearly a decade. Lucite provided the acrylic expertise and quality control in terms of consistency of materials, whilst RPT designed, built and project managed the installation.
Roger Reynolds, CEO of Reynolds Polymer Technology, commented on this latest success in the long-standing partnership with Lucite International: “The combined expertise between our two organisations has been extremely successful in the marketplace for aquaria. With more than 50% of the world’s largest aquaria to our name, it is a tribute to our hard work and close collaboration. We hope that accomplishment of the AquaDom is just the beginning of a whole new area of opportunity for us and certainly prepares us well for the next challenge.”
The multi-purpose development is by Deutsche Immobilien Fonds AG, the second largest investment company for open-ended property investment in Germany. International Concept Management, based in Colorado, US partnered RPT from the outset for the design, build and installation of Aquadom. The original concept design was provided by nps tchoban voss architects in Berlin.