Biomaterial suppliers have a sunny outlook

Bioplastics manufacturers are confident about their markets and economic futures, in both America and Europe.

Among European producers of polylactic acid (PLA) and other biologically based plastic resins, 47% reported sales growth in 2009 and 32% said they broke even, according to a survey by the European Bioplastics Association. Asked to look at the coming year, 80% were optimistic, saying they expected results ranging from “satisfactory” to “excellent.” About two-thirds of the respondents said they expected their investments to rise in fiscal 2010.

“This is a clear indication of the strength of green innovation and the companies driving it forward,” says Andy Sweetman, chairman of the European Bioplastics board.

In America, two of the major producers of biplastics, for packaging as well as other applications, report aggressive plans for growth.

Cereplast, El Segundo, Calif., which supplies bio-based resins for both flexible and rigid packaging, recently raised $7.5 million of direct financing through a stock offering to institutional investors.

“This round of financing will assist us in continuing to further the growth of our business by expanding our product lines based on commitments and sales we see from both existing and new customers for our biodegradable, environmentally-friendly resins,” Cereplast CEO Frederic Scheer said in a statement.

Meanwhile, DuPont executives told an investor conference recently that its biomaterials business is expected to increase to $1 billion in revenue and $250 million in profit in 2015. This would be a marked improvement over the current situation: DuPont’s Applied BioSciences, referred to in its last annual report as an “embryonic business,” lost $171 million in 2009.

Motoman, Yaskawa merge in automation marriage

In a merger of two prominent names in automation, Motoman Inc. is combining with Yaskawa Electric America Inc.

Motoman, the second-largest robotics company in America, will form the Motoman Robotics Division of the new company, to be called Yaskawa America. Yaskawa Electric America will be rechristened the new company’s Drives & Motion Division, and will continue to market drives, servomotors, motion controllers and other automation-related equipment.

The merger should be transparent to customers, as both divisions will continue to operate independently, retaining the same management structures, and operating in the same geographical regions that are currently in place.

“Using the name Yaskawa on a global basis will strengthen our corporate identity and emphasize the strong global connection between drives, motion control products and robotics,” says Gen Kudo, chairman/CEO of Yaskawa America.

Ball sells plastics business to Amcor

In an apparent move to focus its business on metal packaging, Ball Corp. has sold its plastics packaging business to Amcor Ltd. for $280 million.

The sale of Ball’s Plastics Packaging, Americas, unit involves plants in five states that produce polypropylene bottles and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and preforms.

For the 12 months ending in March, Ball’s plastics business amounted to $589 million in sales and $10 million in earnings. According to Ball’s most recent 10-K, plastics packaging represented 9% of the company’s net sales in 2009. The company estimates that the 5 billion PET bottles it shipped in 2009 represents 8% of the U.S. total.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2010, pending regulatory approval.

This is the biggest sale of plastic rigid packaging capacity since Owens-Illinois sold its plastics packaging business to Rexam PLC for $1.8 billion in 2007.

BRIEFS

Jim Wolfe has been promoted to director of operations at Industrial Dynamics/filtec, a supplier of inspection and other equipment. The company also promoted Christian Beck to product sales and marketing director for the Lasetec, Spectrovision, and Vision product lines.

O. Berk Co., a supplier of glass and plastic containers and other packaging components, is celebrating its 100th anniversary by revamping its logo and websites. The changes are part of a comprehensive plan to establish a new corporate visual identity across all its divisions, which include BottleStore.com, AQL Decorating and Kols Containers.

Multivac, Inc., a supplier of thermoform-fill-seal equipment and materials, has appointed Jay Brewer regional sales manager for its Food Division. Brewer will serve customers in a newly created Midwestern sales territory that includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

Scott Seehawer has been named president of Tri-Tronics Co., a supplier of photoelectric sensors and controls. Seehawer, who has been with Tri-Tronics since 1995, was promoted from senior VP of operations.

Totani America, a supplier of pouch and bag-making machinery, has named Jose De la Mora sales director for Latin American markets.

The Ball Resealable End (BRE) from Ball Corp. has received the 2009/2010 AmeriStar Award for beverage packaging from the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP). This aluminum can end with an integrated flat, plastic opening mechanism was launched in France in 2008. It is also now on products appearing on store shelves in the Netherlands, the U.K., Germany and the United States.

Film supplier Toray Plastics (America) has named Scott Van Winter vice president/general manager of the Lumirror Polyester Film Division.

Mark Giesen, president of Continental Packaging Solutions, has been named to a two-year term as president of the National Association of Container Distributors.

PolyPro, a division of Pro Mach, has hired George Allen as director of sales for packaging and converting solutions.

Emerson Bearing, a Boston-based bearing company, has recently announced a new Packaging and Food Processing division led by Lee Holt