SABIC to make further significant investments in high heat ULTEM resin capacity

BERGEN OP ZOOM, THE NETHERLANDS, May 21, 2019 - SABIC has announced that the company is making significant investments in expanding the capacity of its ULTEM and EXTEM high heat resin production in order to meet growing demand. The new production plant in Singapore, is due to come online in the first half of 2021, making SABIC the only high heat resin producer with manufacturing capability in all regions. In addition to this, the company has also executed on investments in the US to increase short-term capacity. These investments have enabled and will continue to enable lead-time reductions, and are helping SABIC to deliver and support customers’ regional needs and service requirements. Further investments were made to expand local compounding at multiple sites in Asia Pacific, allowing for increased local support for this region. Rudy Miller, Director, High Heat Business, shares the company’s strategy for the ULTEM and EXTEM business.

What is ULTEM resin?

ULTEM resin is a family of amorphous thermoplastic polyetherimide (PEI) resins that offers outstanding elevated thermal resistance, high strength and stiffness, and broad chemical resistance. With a seamless balance between mechanical properties and processability, offering design engineers exceptional flexibility and freedom.

ULTEM resin can be extruded, thermoformed, extrusion blow molded and injection molded and key benefits include: long-term heat resistance up to 180°C; outstanding strength and stiffness up to 200°C; dimensional stability over a wide temperature range; strength retention and inherent flame resistance without additives.

SABIC’s EXTEM resin is able to meet even higher heat requirements than ULTEM resin, with enhanced creep and strength performance at elevated temperatures. With the capability to fill thin-wall, complex, miniaturized parts, its IR transparency and the benefit of offering potential lead free solderable solutions.

How is SABIC investing in ULTEM resin and to what extent?

In total, we are expanding our production capacity by (more than) 50%. We are currently progressing on the investment in a new ULTEM resin facility in Singapore which will come on-stream in 2021 and which will enable us to produce closer to our customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the meantime, we have implemented a number of stretches of our current production assets. This has allowed us to start reducing lead times by 2 weeks for our make-to-order products in 2018. In 2019 we have already further reduced lead times by another 5 weeks so far. Our ambition is to bring manufacturing lead times down to four weeks globally by or before the Singapore start-up and keep it there to support our customers.

Why are you making these investments in ULTEM resin?

Fundamentally, it is our ambition to support our customers and our customers’ growth. There is a growing demand for high heat polymers, driven by stringent requirements in an increasing number of applications that are exposed to challenging or tough environments. Our existing customers have been loyal to ULTEM while new applications and customers are also rapidly driving new demand and opportunities. We want to deliver global high quality products to local producers as responsively and reliably as possible. Markets and product life cycles are moving faster than ever before. That is why we believe we are making the right investments now. We want to be able to offer material solutions at the right time, with shorter lead times for short cycle customer development, while becoming - and remaining - a steady local partner for longer cycle markets and applications.

How important is customer service to you?

Our customer’s success is our success. We have to help our customers address their new application challenges and at the same time deliver the right day-to-day experience. Responsiveness is key and that our supply performance should support our customers’ planning, while our materials and services meet their challenges and designs.

We, within SABIC, believe that you should always listen to your customers. Our customers have been asking questions on our ability to supply. We have listened, so we have taken actions and improved. An ongoing dialogue with our customers and external partners helps us to continuously improve and prepare for future requirements. In our view, there is no room for rest or complacency.

You mentioned future requirements. What is up next?

Innovation is a major driver for ULTEM and EXTEM resin. In fact, more than half of our High Heat Thermoplastics organization is closely working with customers on new applications, and there are plenty in the pipeline. In electrical and electronics, everything needs to be smart, driven by real-time direct communication and connectivity. These days everything is packed with electronics, from aerospace in-flight systems to smart grids in solar and wind energy harvesting, and from sophisticated appliances with sensors and gesture or facial recognition to smart meters and connectors. The current trends, such as miniaturization, weight reduction, improved optics and connectivity, call for dimensionally stable materials, with tight tolerances, ease of processability and the possibility for mass production, all combined with minimization of waste and optimization of potential post-consumer recyclability.

Talking of the environment…….

We have to do more than make the best polymers in the world. SABIC has a strong commitment to sustainability - and our high heat resins are making their contribution. Firstly through their use in medical, automotive and aerospace applications already today. With multi-sterilizable materials enabling re-use of equipment in Healthcare, metal replacement solutions in Automotive offering weight reduction and less fuel consumption and recyclability of materials used in the Aerospace industry.

With the current expansion of our global capacity, the improvements in local compounding in Asia Pacific and even further expansion yet to come, we feel confident to tell our customers that ULTEMTM resin supply is back today and here to stay. Manufacturing lead times have been reduced and will be reduced even further. We are here to support customers and address exciting new challenges together. It is our job to deliver the right solutions to our customers to help them grow when they need it and where they need it. We are fully committed to doing just that.

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Notes for editors

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SABIC is a global leader in diversified chemicals headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We manufacture on a global scale in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific, making distinctly different kinds of products:  chemicals, commodity and high performance plastics, agri-nutrients and metals.

We support our customers by identifying and developing opportunities in key end markets such as construction, medical devices, packaging, agri-nutrients, electrical and electronics, transportation and clean energy.

SABIC recorded a net profit of US$ 5.7 billion in 2018. Sales revenues for 2018 totaled US$ 45 billion while total assets stood at US$ 85 billion. Production in 2018 was 75.3 million metric tons.

SABIC has more than 33,000 employees worldwide and operates in around 50 countries. Fostering innovation and a spirit of ingenuity, we have 11,738 global patent filings, and have significant research resources with innovation hubs in five key geographies – USA, Europe, Middle East, South Asia and North Asia.

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