By Liz White
Whether it’s a niche use or a more general elastomer or foam product, the formulation experts at BayOne Urethane Systems llc can probably offer a polyurethane system to meet it.
But the group’s skills go far beyond formulating: since its customers no longer employ chemists, “when they run into a glitch,” they call BayOne, so on-site processing support is crucial also, said Mark Vanover, marketing manager with BayOne Urethane Systems, based in St Louis, Missouri.
One recent gap the group filled was to provide lightweight soling formulations for military boots, with better abrasion than the rubber soles they replaced.
Another lies in novel low-density flexible moulded foam formulations for office furniture based on MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate — see story below). In this use, “In one production trial and customer mould after another, we have been able to consistently come in at a 15-20 percent reduction in density,” said Vanover.
BayOne, which operates only in the US and Canada, was formed in 2003 to combine a urethane cold-cure systems unit acquired by polymer group PolyOne with certain pieces of BMS’s US systems operation.
Globally, most of BMS’s commodity systems for flexible and rigid foam are supplied via its BaySystems operation, a 30-unit strong global network of systems houses.
BayOne in the US, meanwhile, focuses on seven key areas; footwear, filters, cold-cast elastomers, rigid foams, flexible moulded foams, integral skins and flooring.
And while BayOne is a separate unit, it falls under the BaySystems umbrella: “We have had several cases now where BaySystems is selling to a moulder in Europe and they want to come to the US and set up an operation,” for the same use, noted Vanover. BayOne has had some success in, “domesticating the formulation,” in such cases, Vanover said.
The BayOne unit has a very flat management structure. This is because the aim was to have “a very intense focus on customers and applications,” stressed Vanover.
More than half BayOne’s employees are directly involved with formulation and technical development, he noted, in a 5 Oct interview at the meeting of the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry in National Harbor, Maryland.
Customer focus is strong, “because it is central to the value that we bring. The customers we are supporting, nine out of ten times, don’t employ chemists, so we are there to optimise the balance ... between processing characteristics and performance properties and then cost of use.”
Diversity helps in tough markets
Despite the current global economic woes, BayOne, “fortunately, is really quite diversified, with minimal exposure to automotive,” largely only in systems for foam in instrument panels.
Overall, “I think we have seen a bottoming out,” depending on the market, Vanover said, noting that BayOne continues to find growth opportunities, with its diverse customers.
BayOne also has diverse competitors, ranging from the large system houses in flexible foams to specialists for an elastomer to make concrete form liners, Vanover said.
BayOne’s parent groups manufacture its systems: “We develop the formulas ... the quality control specifications, the technology.
And then we transfer that to the parents for production, packaging and shipping,” Vanover said. That “really frees us up,” to focus on customers needs, Vanover said.
He sees customers showing a growing interest in sustainability and green technology.
An example is a product BayOne developed for a construction use, under the ‘Bio-preferred Programme,’ where “you have the government behind it, rather than the market pull, and that gives them an advantage in selling products.”
NEW LOW-DENSITY, HR FOAM
With MDI-based flexible foam for office furniture, the challenge was, “How low can you go in density but still keep the properties?” Vanover noted.
This product is competing in a market where “everyone knows that TDI (toluene diisocyanate) offers low-density products,” he said.
“But unless you are already using TDI you have the whole industrial hygiene issue with handling TDI,” he noted. Existing MDI users were keen to see how low density could go, he said.
Customers have welcomed the 15-percent reduction BayFit 500 gave: “If traditionally you are coming in at 3-4 lb/ft3 for density, and now you can get to 2.7 lb/ft3, it can really help your business,” Vanover said. And he noted wider potential for these lighter foams: “Mass transit would have an interest in this.” BayOne says this high-resilience foam can be moulded over a range of hardnesses at low densities. Users can make products that need 15 - 20 percent less material, which in transport seating, reduces vehicle weight and boosts fuel efficiency, said BayOne.
The two-component foam is 100-percent water-blown, with properties comparable to standard MDI-based HR flexible foam products.
Bayfit 500 foam also meets California TB 117 fire code standards for flammability.
A BALANCE OF OUTLETS
Vanover said BayOne gets involved in synthetic turf for sports surfaces, in filtration — “everything from perhaps the air filter under the hood of your car to products used to construct bio-hazard hepa filters,” — and in flexible moulded foam for office furniture.
The range covers niches and broader markets: “a nice balance,” he said. In furniture uses, BayOne also supplies is a solid elastomer system to pour around the edges of tables.
In the filter sector, Vanover said, historically US manufacturers have used plastisols — vinyl dispersions containing adhesive — in assembly.
“We have developed a rigid-foam potting adhesive that is cost-competitive with use of plastisols,” which companies setting up new production lines are keen on. One customer with a European owner, ‘would like to export its filters to Europe — “but they don’t want PVC in the product.
So we have an alternative,” Vanover noted.
Footwear manufacturers are showing growing interest in alternatives to rubber soles, both in military uses and in run-of-the mill work-boots, said Vanover. BayOne has developed systems with better abrasion resistance, offering, “a lower density piece of footwear, lighter footwear,” the BayOne executive said.
In abrasion resistance, this material exceeded a rubber outsole by a factor of 2.5, with density 20 percent lower — a significant change, he noted.