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3M continues investing in Lille Region

29 Dec 2014 | Investment, Advanced Materials

3M group inaugurates new grinding unit to manufacture glass microspheres, creating around ten new jobs and strengthening the plant’s position in a high-value-added market.

3M factory - Lille Region

The only grinder of its kind in France

3M’s Tilloy-lez-Cambrai plant, originally built in 1975, employs a workforce of 221 and specializes in hollow glass microspheres. In October the group inaugurated a new building, which now houses a unit—the only one of its kind in France—that grinds raw materials, producing the semi-finished material needed to make the microspheres. The first stone of the €12.46 million structure was laid on July 4, 2013. “Our Tilloy site incorporates all of 3M’s latest technological innovations,” commented Koen Wilms, the company’s Managing Director in France. “It's a big investment,” said Site Manager Philippe Duprat, noting that 3M has a presence in 70 countries. “We chose Tilloy because we recognized the skill and value of our employees and the advantages of the site. The decision also reflects 3M’s commitment to research, development and innovation in France.”

Next steps

Inauguration of the new building also marked the beginning of the second phase of investment in the Tilloy project, representing a €10.6 million budget. It will involve the construction of a forming oven to transform semi-finished grinder output into glass microspheres. The company also plans to add a compactor and a packaging unit, and in the final phase will build a sixth forming oven and a fine grinding unit.

How microspheres work

Glass microspheres—also called glass bubbles—are tiny, hollow spheres of glass measuring just 0.02 mm, or 20 microns, used to reduce weight, provide insulation and increase resistance. Output from 3M’s Tilloy-lez-Cambrai plant—90% of which is sold outside France—targets four key markets: mines and quarries, construction, oil extraction, and automobiles and aeronautics. In construction, microspheres are used in civilian explosives, sealers, paint, mastic and coatings, while the oil industry uses them to make floats, insulate pipelines and seal wells. In the automotive industry, glass bubbles reduce weight in a variety of composite and plastic parts and are a key ingredient in the coatings and sealants needed for auto repair. Finally, they are a component of the reinforcing resin used for the honeycomb panels used in the aerospace industry

Promising market

But what does the future hold, amid the economic woes affecting the construction, automotive and aerospace industries? ““We’re making these investments in response to real demand from the market,” says Ivan Donzelot, Industrial Director for 3M France. “And that’s what gives us confidence in the future!”

Source: La Voix du Nord, October 12, 2014, Bruno Demeulenaere

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