COVID-19 then brought uncertainty for silicone in some markets as demand for both automotive and commercial aviation dropped, but remained strong for defense, aerospace and construction early on. Medical and health care silicone applications, meanwhile, rose significantly, as did the need for more disposable gloves.
General Silicones, which makes products for a variety of applications, including automotive, packaging and information technology, saw demand skyrocket in the medical market as COVID-19 spread around the globe.
Medical glove demand
Difficulty early on securing enough PPE for medical workers in the U.S. spurred moves to expand domestic manufacturing efforts, including separate glove projects in Kentucky and New Hampshire.
Renco Corp., through its American Performance Polymers L.L.C. unit, plans to expand and install two new high-speed glove lines. The company wants to increase production by 20-fold to about 500 million gloves per year through this initial work that will include improvements to existing machines.
Newly formed U.S. Medical Glove Co. also revealed plans to open a glove facility in Kentucky. It's a project that will create 192 jobs and produce more than 1 billion gloves annually.
COVID-19 also convinced glove maker Showa Group to double production at its Fayette, Ala., facility through a $20 million project. Two new lines each will produce about 200 million gloves per year, a doubling of previous capacity, the company said in October.
Extra space has been constructed and the new equipment was arriving for the expansion that's expected to start producing additional gloves in April, the company said.
AirBoss of America Corp., meanwhile, has been awarded several rounds of governmental contracts for its respirator systems and personal protective equipment.
Space at the company's Auburn Hills, Mich., factory was converted to make protective products as the demand sharply increased during the year. That facility primarily had been focused on automotive parts but saw demand in that sector drop as the pandemic tightened its grip.