Mobile has made its manufacturing reputation in recent years with Airbus and Continental Aerospace Technologies, but a move by France-based Arkema Chemicals now launches the Port City into the futuristic realm of 3D printing.
The new material being manufactured north of Mobile is Kepstan PEKK, a Poly-Ether-Ketone-Ketone formulation becoming popular in aeronautics, oil and gas, electronics and automotive uses. It’s a resin that offers mechanical, chemical, fire and abrasion resistance and makes an attractive alternative to metal because of its light weight. Kepstan doesn’t generate toxic fumes when burned.
Arkema’s Kepstan resins can be extruded, 3D printed, powder coated, injection molded, rotational molded or incorporated into composite tape fibers. Since it can be used in 3D printing applications, thus eliminating lengthy tool changes for every design modification, Kepstan gives aeronautics and defense manufacturers a faster option to upgrade future generations of aircraft and autos.
Used in deep-water oil drilling, pipes made with Kepstan would withstand extreme temperatures, resist corrosion and be strong enough for use as heavy-duty risers, at half the weight of metal counterparts.
The new manufacturing upgrade at Arkema will result in 23 new hires, bringing its workforce to 110. The expansion qualified the company for 10-year ad valorem tax exemptions.
“This new capacity, which has been brought on line on schedule, will enable our customers and their customers to better meet the future demand for ever more efficient materials,” says Christophe André, Arkema’s executive vice president for advanced materials.
Company officials unveiled the new product at a March 25 event, noting that the Mobile plant will be the only Arkema plant producing Kepstan resin outside of France.
Arkema reported sales of $10.4 billion last year, employing 20,000 people worldwide and operating in about 55 countries.