Like many other polyurethane locations in the area, the site was once a cotton mill and has been extensively modernised and altered. It passed through a number of hands before being sold by British Vita to Dow in 2007. It is the second incarnation at the site, according to Paul Fitzgerald, marketing manager, engineering elastomers, who works for Dow’s Hyperlast division. Hyperlon came here in 1979, but that business closed in 2005, he said.
The Birch Vale site has always been a systems house, Fitzgerald explained. It complements the other Hyperlast production sites in Germany and Italy, he added, adnd technical centres in Ireland, Egypt and Turkey.
‘This site is an elastomers technical service centre for Dow Europe and commercial centre of the EMEA region,’ Fitzgerald said. ‘By having open days here, we can bring customers in without breaking into their production runs. We have a number of machines which are like our customers’[machines],’ he added.
This was the seventh of these workshops the company has held, and Fitzgerald said that customers find it to get their hands on new materials and different products. A total of 45 industrial engineers from 30 companies spread across 10 European countries attended the two-day workshop.
The Birch Vale site demonstrations at this particular open day were carried out on machinery from AutoRIM, Graco and Polytec EMC. Both AutoRIM and Polytec EMC staff were present at the event.
Based in nearby Whaley Bridge, AutoRIM is a Hennecke agency, and produces low pressure foaming and elastomer machines that feature dynamic mixing. Polytec EMC, meanwhile, offers a range of dispensing equipment to process polyurethane systems from two-component to multi-component formulations.
Delegates were taken through Dow’s 2018 REACH compliant polyurethane elastomers, including rigid, semi-rigid and flexible foams and composites, via classroom sessions and live demonstrations.
Dow Polyurethanes has been investigating renewables in this sector for 10 years. Fitzgerald’s team used the event to outline polyether-based Hyperlast 153 series elastomer systems, which are MbOCA free. These were launched in April and the company said they can produce durable elastomers with a hardness ranging between 55 Shore A and 75 Shore D with four components. This is in addition to the firm’s Hyperlast 152 material which Fitzgerald says is being used by customers who are keeping an eye on the MbOCA situation.
The replacements for MbOCA ‘do 98% of what we need as users’, he added.
The company’s latest cool-cure technology, Hyperlast LU 1078, was discussed, as was its LU 1059 hand-applied repair material. Also on the agenda was a ‘novel direct to metal spray elastomer system’, Hyperlast SG700, which can act as a corrosion-resistant coating for a number of applications.
The UK operation has three marketing people who look after different customers in different market segments. ‘We develop systems for a customer who could be taking a range of products from different suppliers. This event is a chance to open their eyes to our portfolio,’ Fitzgerald said.
There was genuine interest in what Dow had to offer at the event, possibly because of the very niche nature of the products being discussed. ‘Polyurethane elastomers are a niche in the CASE segment,’ said Fitzgerald.