Daikin America, one of two suppliers of fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) for use in plenum-rated cable, recently announced it is undertaking a $60-million investment to expand capability in its Decatur, Alabama facility for the production of FEP and ethylene tetrafluoroethyelen (ETFE). Daikin says the capacity expansion will be completed in October 2012 and will increase the supply of both FEP and ETFE by more than 50 percent.
Donald Shaw, Daikin America's director of sales, said both fluoropolymers are experiencing increased use in areas including wire and cable, aerospace, automotive and photovoltaic applications. "With tight supply in both product lines, we are accelerating the installation of this capacity to meet our customers' needs," he said, noting the new capacity will be evenly split between the two materials.
Gary Stanitis, director of marketing for Daikin America, explained the expansion is not simply a reaction to very recent market demand or to the FEP crunch experienced since one of Daikin's FEP-producing plants in Japan had to be taken offline for a time after the earthquake and tsunami struck that country in March. Rather, he said, this expansion "was conceived and planned prior to the recession of 2008, and the strong recovery we have experienced has finally allowed for final approval of this plan." Stanitis added, "The bulk of the immediate demand growth is for FEP, driven by the strength of the plenum cable market," which he said continues to be North America's single largest application for fluoropolymers.
Photovoltaic and architectural-film markets are expected to drive increased demand for ETFE over the next two years, Stanitis said.