Trinseo, the $3.7 billion-in-yearly-sales, Berwyn-based company that makes hard plastics — the kinds used in smartphone cases, Legos, car consoles, and refrigerator liners — says it has agreed to pay $82 million in cash for soft-plastics maker API Applicazioni Plastiche Industriali SpA and its factory and research lab in Mussolente, near Venice, Italy.

The API deal, Trinseo's first acquisition since the company was spun off by Dow Chemical Co. in 2010, will help its Performance Materials business division sell more to manufacturers around the world, Chris Pappas, Trinseo's president and CEO, said in a statement Thursday.

The sale is a "natural evolution," said API vice president Lorenzo Brunetti, whose father, Sergio Brunetti, founded the works 60 years ago to make thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs), which are used in plastic wraps. API general manager Sandro Gusi said his company had been looking for a deep-pocketed global partner such as Trinseo since it began expanding to international markets 10 years ago.

Brunetti called the deal "a fantastic example" of a "forward-thinking" American industrial group backing an Italian enterprise to jointly target global markets, while also securing a "future for the people we care for the most: our dedicated and talented employees."

Other examples of Pennsylvania investors who have backed family-owned manufacturers in northern Italy in recent years include John Leoni's Mount Union-based Bonney Forge, which has expanded the BFE metallurgical plant near Bergamo, and Republic Bank chairman Vernon Hill and his wife, Shirley, a designer, who have recapitalized and updated marketing and sales for the centuries-old, family-owned Venice artistic glassblower Seguso.

Trinseo and API products "are complementary," said Trinseo senior vice president Hayati Yarkadas, who heads the company's Performance Materials group.

While Trinseo sells its rigid plastics to auto, medical-materials, and consumer-products makers, API supplies softer plastics that are often inserted or attached to Trinseo items. "The potential for the combined product offering," Yarkadas added, makes the deal "an engine for growth in Trinseo."

API makes soft-touch polymers including TPEs, thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs), ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) used in plastic wraps, two-component polyurethane (2KPU) used in paints, and bioplastics. Customers include vehicle, footwear, appliance, furniture, clothing, packaging, medical, and other manufacturers.

Trinseo (formerly Styron) makes acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) plastics used in hard molded and shaped items such as Legos; polycarbonate, polypropylene, polystyrene, and other plastic polymers; synthetic rubber; latex binders; and other materials used by vehicle and tire, consumer-electronics, appliances, packaging, medical-device, construction-materials, and other manufacturers.

Trinseo's largest shareholders, at about 5 percent each, are AJO LLC, the Philadelphia-based quantitative investments firm headed by Theodore Aronson; and Vanguard Group, the Malvern-based mutual-funds company whose index funds are among the largest owners of most U.S. companies.