"We feel like these two lines should get absorbed in about six months," Malhotra said. "Once these lines get absorbed, then we will take further expansions, specifically in the grades where we are seeing this demand."
GFL has invested heavily in this fluoroelastomer capacity, along with its other manufacturing. Malhotra estimated it spent roughly $50 million for the first FKM lines along with some backward integration.
The materials firm also unveiled a capital spending program where it will spend about $1 billion over the next four to five years. About 30 percent of the $250 million committed for the next year will be spent on FKMs and related supply chain investments.
Its integrated facilities in Dahej house FKM production, along with other fluoropolymers such as PTFE, PFA, FEP, PVDF and fluoropolymer additives.
With its background in fluorine chemistry, Malhotra said GFL tends to include backward integration so it can control the entire production of lines from raw material to finished grade when sensible. That includes adding production for refrigerant R142B, which is a key ingredient in FKMs. The material was in short supply as demand from plastics was taking much of the available volume from the market, so GFL invested in its own capability to ensure an adequate supply.
About 80-90 percent of its FKM business has come from new customers, while the remainder were previous customers GFL supplied other fluoropolymers. Most challenges with starting from scratch were worked out with the first line. The process has gone smoother from there as customers began to sample the elastomers and GFL worked to get evaluations and approvals.
Malhotra expects the 3M exit to give his firm even more opportunities for growth. The first stage will involve transitioning existing grades already approved by customers.
The second, more difficult stage is developing new grades for 3M lines. "Once (customers) evaluate and approve us, and once 3M starts exiting those grades, we will start getting markets for those as well," Malhotra said.