CLEVELAND—Huber Engineered Materials is expanding to increase its capacity for fire retardant additives.
The firm will invest an undisclosed amount to add fine precipitated hydrate capacity at its manufacturing site in Martinswerk, Germany.
Most of the demand for halogen-free fire retardant products is driven by wire and cable applications serving global end markets such as automotive, construction and industrial, said Huber, which is a division of J.M. Huber Corp.
"We're one of the few manufacturers at this point who have expansion activities going on at this time," Don Mills, Huber's global sales director, said at the recent International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland. "The global market is growing and we needed to expand to meet that demand."
Mills added that the firm also is adding capacity at its manufacturing site in Bauxite, Ark., as the firm transfers technology from its Germany operations to produce its fire retardant additives in North America.
Both projects were on schedule to be complete by the end of 2019. Mills said that Huber's capacity in Germany is expanding by about 20 percent while the project in Arkansas will take its capacity total up by about 10 percent. The firm does not expect to add many jobs with the projects.
"Together, these are the most significant capacity expansions that we're aware of globally," Mills said.
He said that automotive is probably the biggest driver, but as companies expand into 5G systems, that is creating plenty of opportunities for wire and cable products, and in turn stronger fire retardant components. He said that regulations in Europe also added more layers to existing flame and smoke toxicity level regulations, which is leading to more demand for these kinds of products.
Lithium-ion battery development and semiconductor applications also are high growth areas for fire retardant components.
"Huber has made significant investments in this area of fire retardant and performance additives because we have a great deal of faith in the continuing growth and advancement of the technologies in these markets," Mills said.