PITTSBURGH - Bayer Corp. announced the opening of its $1.5 million Powder Coatings Global Research and Development Competency Center, located at the company's Pittsburgh campus. The 1,600-square-foot application and testing facility will be used for customer support, evaluation of new products and development of new applications and technologies, the company said.

The center houses three separate application lines that can operate simultaneously and equipment that includes laboratory-scale extruders, grinders, particle-size classification instruments, and standard spray and oven-bake systems. Operations at the center also receive technical support from Bayer facilities in Columbus, GA, and Levekusen, Germany, the company said.

Bayer said the opening of the center reflects an aggressive expansion strategy in the market for powder-coatings raw materials. The company last March announced the launch of a U.S.-based Global Powder Coatings Intermediates and Colorants Business Group and stated a goal to become "the most comprehensive raw-materials supplier to the global powder-coatings industry." A key move in that expansion program was Bayer's 2000 acquisition of Sybron Chemicals Inc. and its RUCO Polymers Inc. subsidiary, a deal that Bayer said made it the world's biggest supplier of polyester powder-coatings resins.

Randy Dearth, head of Bayer's Global Powder Coatings Intermediates and Colorants Business Group, said key areas of interest for powder-coatings development activities include automotive finishes, wood coatings and radiation-cure powder coatings.