The first industrial application for cellulose diacetate was for coating aircraft prior to and during World War I. The Swiss brothers Henri and Camille Dreyfus started producing cellulose diacetate products at the Cellonite Company in Basle in 1912. In 1914 they were invited to come to the UK to build a cellulose diacetate plant at Spondon for the purpose of coating aircraft skins. This plant was registered as the British Cellulose and Chemical Manufacturing Company 18th March 1916 and was later to become British Celanese in 1923.
After World War I the demand for applications such as coatings for aircraft dropped and new applications were required for cellulose diacetate. At Spondon the Dreyfus brothers successfully developed a spinning process to produce cellulose diacetate yarn. Also during the 1920s at Spondon, the Celastoid block process was developed which produced thick transparent sheets of cellulose diacetate.
Building on the technology for producing cellulose diacetate yarns and the idea of the Celastoid product, during the 1930s the British and American Celanese groups began collaboration on a continuously moving nickel plated band to produce solvent cast cellulose diacetate films. The first pilot plant was commissioned in 1937 and work began developing applications for this new high gloss, low haze, transparent film. Work was slowed during World War II, but in 1948 Clarifoil, cellulose diacetate film, full scale production began at Spondon, Derby.
During the 1950s and 1960s production grew, and at one point there were 7 companies in Europe and America producing solvent cast cellulose diacetate film. Over the following 30 years various mergers and closures left Clarifoil as the sole solvent cast cellulose diacetate film producer. In 1985 Clarifoil, by then owned by Courtaulds (who acquired British Celanese in 1957), purchased the former American Celanese cellulose diacetate films business based in Newark, NJ, which by then was part of Georgia Pacific, and in 1997 Clarifoil purchased the Lonza cellulose diacetate films business.
In September 1998 the Spondon site became part of Acordis formed from the merger of Courtaulds Fibres and Akzo Nobel Fibres. The Spondon site separated from the Acordis group in 2003 and operated as Acetate Products Ltd until it was purchased by the Celanese Corporation in February 2007.
Today, as part of the Celanese Corporation, Clarifoil is able to service world markets and is able to generate high investment to sustain future growth and compete effectively against other films and products in a highly competitive and fast moving market.