1941 Orlon

The development of Orlon acrylic fiber stemmed from DuPont’s work on rayon. In 1941 a DuPont scientist seeking to improve rayon discovered a means of spinning acrylic polymer–which unlike nylon, decomposes rather than melts – through a solution. DuPont began developing the substance dubbed "Fiber A." Initially the material was targeted as a replacement for wool, but difficulties in spinning and dyeing soon cropped up. In 1950 the May Plant in Camden, S.C., went into production of the material renamed Orlon.Show more



Development of Orlon was difficult, and finding a market was equally problematic. DuPont initially offered it as a filament yarn, but sales were disappointing until Orlon staple, a bulky yarn composed of short fibers, was introduced. By the mid-1950s a boom in women’s sweaters was underway and Orlon was there to meet the demand. By 1960 sales reached 1 million pounds a year, and Orlon had become a 19-year-old overnight sensation. During the 1960s, DuPont developed new varieties of Orlon to meet specific needs in combination fabrics, blankets and carpet fibers. These efforts, coupled with expansion into European markets, kept demand high until the late 1970s, when European production was discontinued. DuPont continued to offer Orlon acrylic carpet fibers until 1990.

 

The Dordrecht, Netherlands, plant is the oldest and principal plant of Du Pont de Nemours (Nederland) N.V., a wholly owned subsidiary established in 1959. It was DuPont’s second plant on the continent, beginning production of Orlon in December 1961. At first DuPont Nederland supplemented its Orlon sales by distributing DuPont products shipped in from across the Atlantic, but rapid expansion aimed at reducing dependence on imports followed. During the 1960s and 1970s, Orlon production was stepped up, with the company introducing new and superior varieties. Nevertheless, DuPont was forced to close the Dordrecht Orlon facilities in 1978 after the world market for acrylics had become saturated.

 

By then Dordrecht’s manufacturing capacity had been dedicated to newer products and markets. A finishing and coloring plant for Delrin® acetal resin opened in early 1963, followed a year later by a Lycra elastane plant. Teflon® production began in 1966 and a fluorocarbon resin unit opened in 1967. With the opening of a HCFC-0124 and HFC-134 plant in 1992, Dordrecht helped lead the switch from production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to alternative hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The opening of Dordrecht’s Orlon and Lycra plants were well-timed to capitalize on a rapidly growing European textile fiber market. But the diversity of its production has kept it a leader in DuPont’s European operations. Today the plant manufactures products including Delrin resins, Viton high-performance elastomers, and Terathane glycols.

 

The Lycra and Terathane trademarks and their products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.

 

The May plant in Camden, S.C., produces polymers. Originally constructed in 1948-1949 on an 800-acre site near the Wateree River, the plant opened on July 3, 1950, to produce continuous filament yarn of Orlon acrylic, a new fiber developed by DuPont in the 1940s. Named after Benjamin M. May, former general manager of the Rayon Department, the plant had an annual production capacity of 6.5 million pounds. However, it never reached that goal. Orlon filament yarn was not easily dyed, and markets for its natural color – a yellowish gray – were limited to window awnings and curtains. In 1957 DuPont discontinued all production of Orlon filament yarn.
 
In May 1952 the May plant began production of Orlon staple fiber, similar in texture to wool, which proved successful when the "sweater look" became popular in the 1950s. DuPont nylon markets also expanded, and the company opened its fifth nylon plant in April 1968 at Camden to manufacture bulked continuous filament (BCF) for carpet fiber. Seven months later the Camden facility also began production of nylon textile yarn, and in May 1971 added Dacron polyester textile filament to its products. Fourteen years later, DuPont discontinued polyester filament production at Camden, but in 1986 and 1987 the company expanded the site's carpet fibers capacity. In 1988 the May plant started production of nylon hosiery yarn and expanded it the next year. In 1998 DuPont undertook a $200 million expansion at Camden, including three new plants.

 

The Dacron trademark and Dacron products were divested as part of the INVISTA separation in April 2004.