Kuraray Co., Ltd. announced that it has developed and begun construction of production facilities for a new, as-yet unnamed barrier resin possessing exceptional flexibility, elasticity, and orientation characteristics by keeping good barrier performance.

In 1972 Kuraray developed the ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) copolymer resin EVAL and brought it to market. EVAL has the most effective gas barrier performance among all plastics (with approximate as 10,000 times good barrier as the conventional polyethylene material), and is highly regarded as a superior barrier material for plastic food packaging to extend its shelf life.

EVAL also has a growing number of industrial applications. It is used as a raw material for automotive fuel tanks and pipes for floor heating systems, among other applications, the demand for this material is growing rapidly worldwide. However, due to the rigidity of EVAL material it has been difficult to meet required performance in areas that call for both flexibility and gas-barrier functionality.

There are very few polymer on the market that offers flexibility and elasticity together with high gas-barrier performance, although the need of the manufacturing sector for such a material is significant.

The barrier resin newly developed by Kuraray is based on EVAL. Using our proprietary polymer modification technology, we are now able to control the crystallization behavior to show significant flexibility and orientation characteristic with minimum sacrifice of the excellent barrier performance of EVAL.

This makes it possible to provide to the food packaging industry an effective gas barrier that is both flexible and orientable. The wide processing window allows great freedom of package design, and it can also be used as shrink film. With the advent of this material, a new market has emerged.

By combining this new resin with rubber or elastomers it will be possible to produce entirely new industrial materials that are both elastic and effective as gas barriers. We expect to develop a broad spectrum of applications for the new material in the automotive field and other areas.

Kuraray has been the leading company in the field of gas barrier resins since bringing EVAL to market, and has continued to develop this market. At present Kuraray's worldwide EVAL manufacturing organization has three loci, and demand in this market is growing at an annual rate of nearly 20%. We are moving forward with expansion of EVAL production capacity in Europe, and at the completion of this project in the autumn of 2004, the annual EVAL production capacity of the Kuraray Group will have risen from 45,000 tons per year to 57,000 tons per year.

The market-launch of this new barrier resin gives Kuraray's gas-barrier materials business new market opportunity, and is expected to spur further growth in this business. The Company is now working to develop a new high-performance gas barrier, employing a different approach, and is aiming to become the leader in this field.


Food Packaging
Used in shrink film, shrink bags, and other applications, this barrier packaging material can be fitted to the dimensions of the food to be packaged.
This application makes use of the material's flexibility.
(Estimated world market: 8,000 tons per year)
Polypropylene barrier films (substitute for the aluminum in polypropylene/aluminum foils)
This application makes use of the material's elasticity.
(Estimated world market: 8,000 tons per year)
PET barrier bottles
This application makes use of the material's resistance to delamination.
(Estimated world market: 5,000 tons per year)
Extra-deep-drawn formed cups and cups of complex design
This application makes use of the material's excellent workability.
(Estimated world market: 6,000 tons per year)
Industrial Material (Estimated world market: 8,000 tons per year)
Elastomer-related applications
gasket, cap liners, pharmaceutical seals, etc.
Automotive-peripheral applications
Peripheral parts for gas tanks, tubing, hoses, etc.
Other industrial applications
Coating materials, heat-seal materials, optical materials, etc.

2.Sales Forecasts

(1)Estimated world market : 35,000 tons (FY2003)
(This is compared with a world market for EVOH of 70,000 tons in FY2003.)
(2)Projected sales
FY2005 : 5,000 tons, ¥5.0 billion
FY2007 : 10,000 tons, ¥10.0 billion

3.Summary of Capital Investments

Location Kuraray's Okayama Plant (General Manager, Okayama Plant: Senior Executive Officer Seiji Wajiki)
Production capacity 5,000 tons per year
Startup September 2004
Investment Approximately ¥1.0 billion

Supplementary information: target applications for the new barrier resin (food packaging)

Shrink film (for meats)
Now used: PVDC, etc.

Shrink film (for meats)

PET and other barrier bottles
Now used: PET/MXD-6, etc

PET and other barrier bottles

Deep-drawn formed cups
Now used: EVOH
(Use of the new resin will make it possible to produce extra-deep-drawn formed cups)

Deep-drawn formed cups Deep-drawn formed cups