Thai Baroda

Success in Nylon-6

Thai Baroda Industries Ltd, a relatively new but highly successful producer of nylon-6 tire-cord fabrics, is looking to increase output and expand into new markets.

From Caprolactam to Dipped Tire-Cord Fabrics

Thai Baroda Industries Ltd. began production of high-tenacity nylon-6 yam and cord fabrics in January 1995 at its state-of-the-art US$130 million plant at the Map-Ta-Phut industrial estate, Amphur Muang, in Thailand’s Rayong province.

Using the latest technology and modern machinery, the facility is Thailand’s only tire-cord plant that is fully integrated from polymerization through to dipping stages.

A member of the Nylon-6 Promotional Group (NPG-6), Thai Baroda is a technology-based, marketdriven company with an annual capacity of 9,000 tons of dipped tirecord fabrics. Its strategy is to be the preferred supplier of tire-reinforcing material in South Asia, South East Asia and the Asia Pacific region.

In a comparatively short period since the plant came on-stream, the company’s products are now well accepted by virtually all the tire “majors” in both domestic and overseas markets.

Around 60% of production is exported at present. The main markets are India and Korea, with significant sales also to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.

President C.S. Mann pointed out that Thai Baroda entered the nylon-6 tire-cord fabric market behind two other local competitors (total annual production capacity, 20,000 tons). These firms were already established in the marketplace as converters but do not produce their own yarn.

“Over the last four years, Thai Baroda has moved from a rated capacity utilization of 25% to 120% with the production of higher denier products,” said Mann. “This is of special significance because, as a result of the recent economic downturn in South East Asia, the average industrial capacity utilization in Thailand is only 55-60%.”

Shareholders

Thai Baroda was established as an Indo-Thai joint venture company in the early 1990s. The initial investors included major Thai banks and financial institutions, such as Siam Commercial Bank, Krung Thai Bank, the Industrial Finance Corporation of Thailand, India’s Baroda Rayon Corporation and Thailand’s PB Group.

Special promotional privileges were obtained from Thailand’s Board of Investment as Thai Baroda planned on exporting at least 50% of its production. According to Sandip Sharma, vice president – finance, the company was, for example, granted a 100% tax exemption for seven years and a 50% exemption for a further five years. In addition, production machinery was imported duty free.

When the joint venture was created, lending Thai banks and financial institutions owned 51% of Thai Baroda. However, the devaluation of the baht in 1997 resulted in a capital restructuring in 1999, which has pushed this stake up to 85% at present. Other shareholders, principally Baroda Rayon, own the remaining 15%.

The company currently has a workforce of around 550, with support from experienced technical and commercial personnel. Intensive on-the-job, in-house training has provided Thai Baroda with a highly skilled workforce with resultant production efficiencies.

Polymerization and Spin-Draw Winding

Thai Baroda uses a continuous polymerization process for the manufacture of high-tenacity nylon6 with high quality caprolactam as the basic raw material. This is supplied both in flake form by Europe’s DSM Fibre Intermediates and in molten form from Thai Caprolactam, a local subsidiary of Japan’s Ube Industries.

After polymerization, nylon yam manufacture takes place using a direct spin-draw process. Both processes employ a fully-automated and computer-controlled system to ensure consistent quality. This is paramount for the smooth operation of subsequent manufacturing stages and the ultimate properties of the yam produced. It ensures consistency in quality, higher productivity and uniformity in the yarn’s physical and chemical properties.

The polymerization process involves melting of the caprolactam (if flakes are used), pre / final polymerization with modern two-step technology, granulation of the polymer melt using an underwater strand granulator, extraction of unreacted monomers with hot water, and drying and cooling of the nylon-6 chips.

A heat stabilizer is added to the dried chips before melting in extruders. The polymer melt is distributed to the spinning positions via a metering system for fiber formation and cooling of the spun filaments in a quench duct. A spin finish is applied prior to drawing and heatsetting, and the nylon-6 yarn is wound using high-speed winders.

Zimmer of Germany supplied the technology for polymerization and spin drawing. Zimmer also provided the polymerization equipment, while the extruder is from Barmag of Germany and the spindraw machine from Rieter of Switzerland.

The spin-draw process allows for the production of large yarn packages, which give longer runs and higher productivity in subsequent twisting operations. Yarns are produced in deniers of 840, 1260, 1680 and 1890.

Twisting and Weaving

Using either a single-step or two– step process, the yarns are twisted to form cable and tire cords using high– performance equipment from Saurer-Allma of Germany.

The twist level imparted determines the ultimate cord properties such as fatigue resistance, breaking strength and modulus, thermal shrinkage and adhesion levels, and the weight of the material.

Allma cable corders (one-step) and ring twisters (two-step) are in operation, producing cords in 840/2, 1260 / 2, 1680 / 2, 1890 / 2 and 1260 / 3. As each tire manufacturer has its own design specifications, this versatility enables Thai Baroda to meet diverse customer requirements.

Weaving of the tire-cord fabrics is undertaken on high-speed automatic air-jet looms from Draper, the U.S., using Holtex creels. The weaving process utilizes a cotton weft to hold the nylon-6 cord together within a loose fabric construction.

Dipping and Packing

Good adhesion between the textile reinforcement and the rubber matrix is essential to the optimum functioning of tires. Thai Baroda uses a state-of-the-art dipping and heat-setting process on a fully computer-controlled machine supplied by Littler, the U.S.

Here, the woven tire-cord fabric is treated with an aqueous solution of resorcinol formaldehyde latex (RFL). This is followed by stretching, heat setting and normalizing to further improve the dimensional stability, impact and fatigue resistance and other properties of the material.

Throughout the process, Thai Baroda exercises strict control of optimum temperature, retention time and tension parameters which are essential for the final quality of the dipped fabric.

After dipping and stretching, the treated fabric is wound onto a metal shell, with silica bags placed on both sides to prevent moisture entering. The rolls are then wrapped with two layers of black stretch polyethylene film, followed by further coverings of two-ply corrugated sheets and cardboard sheeting.

End discs, metal strapping and identification tags complete the preshipment packaging. This “cocoon wrapper” protects the dipped fabric from moisture, degradants such as ozone and ultraviolet light, and impact during storage and handling.

Quality Control

Thai Baroda follows a strict quality assurance system and the company’s laboratories are equipped with the latest testing instruments. Measurements are made on all incoming raw materials and intermediate products as well as finished goods.

Thai Baroda became certified to ISO 9002 in June 1999 and to QS 9000 in October 2000. The company also hopes to be accredited to the ISO 14001 environmental standard before the end of 2001.

The QS-9000 requirements address the automotive industry and customer-specific demands. It represents the harmonization of the individual DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors quality systems and aligns many of these industry needs with ISO 9000:1994. The major US-based truck manufacturers have also adopted QS-9000.

Mann noted that the quality standard was not mandatory as Thai Baroda is a second-tier supplier to the automotive industry (tires being first tier). “Nevertheless, we achieved certification, which has increased the confidence of our customers in our product.”

Extensivo Testing

As polyamide yarn is the preferred reinforcement for biasbelted tires, nylon-6 tire-cord fabrics are used principally for trucks and buses, off-road vehicles and agricultural vehicles.

Unlike many other industrial products, tire-cord fabrics undergo extensive testing and re-testing by customers (tire companies) before approval is received to begin supplies.

This process can take up to two years so entrants into this competifive market for nylon-6 yarn face extremely long “waiting” periods before any revenue is generated.

Tire-cord fabrics are of vital importance in providing the strength and structural stability to automotive tires. The only contact a vehicle has with the road or ground is the tire – the safety and security of the passengers hinges heavily on the quality of the tire-cord fabric used by the tire manufacturers.

“As a result, testing involves not only laboratory assessment for various parameters but also road endurance tests over long periods of usage,” Mann explained.

He continued: “Obtaining the approval of major tire producers, such as Michelin, Bridgestone, General Tyres, Continental, Hankook, Kumho, Apollo and CEAT for our nylon-6 tire-cord fabrics was a difficult task but one which we successfully achieved.”

Dr Ramesh Ravi, Thai Baroda’s vice president – technical, added that over the past two years the company had sold only dipped tirecord fabrics, and no longer supplied nylon-6 yarn/cord or gray fabric.

He noted that, despite the inroads of polyester fiber in radial tires, nylon-6 and the costlier nylon-6.6 together account for 40-45% of the total tire-cord market. The use of rayon is declining while and is only being used for high-performance tires, said Dr Ravi.

Marketing Expertise

As an Asian nylon-6 tire-cord fabric manufacturer, Thai Baroda is small compared with producers in Korea and Taiwan, some of whom have capacities of up to 40,000 tons.

“However, in addition to our expertise in production, we do a great job in marketing ourselves and our products,” said Mann. “We created an early presence in the market and from the outset estabfished the required quality standards by working in close partnerships with customers.

“The market is very competitive, and supply exceeds demand. At the same time, margins are very slim and we have to fight for every customer.”

Future Growth

Thai Baroda’s experience demonstrates that nylon-6 has an excellent position and strong future as a reinforcement material for the tire industry. “In these tough times it is very difficult for a new man-made fiber plant to succeed,” said Mann. “The key is to provide high quality fabric at competitive prices and with a consistently high standard of service.”

The company is now drawing up plans to increase output and expand into new markets. Its future growth will be based on its success as a quality tire-cord producer and the faith of tire companies in nylon-6 as a vital component of automotive tires.

For details:

Thai Baroda Industries Ltd. 3 Map-Ta-Phut Industrial Estate, I-1 Road, Amphur Muang, Rayong 21150, Thailand

Phone: +66-38-683600

Fax: +66-38-683101

E-mail: tbil@thaibaroda.com

Intemet: www.thaibaroda.com

Copyright Osaka Senken Ltd. Jun 2001

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