New polyols give good boardstock adhesion and uniform light colour Report by Liz White, editor
In October, Invista launched additions to its aromatic polyester polyol range which are a departure for the company. The company's Terate polyols have traditionally been made from by-products of other processes, specifically DMT (dimethyl terephthalate) bottoms.
Now it is using different raw materials for its new Terate HT polyols. One reason for this change is that the DMT business is not growing, while demand for insulation and hence polyols is rising.
Invista's HT polyols, initially aimed at rigid polyisocyanurate (PIR) and polyurethane board-stock uses, extend the Wilmington, North Carolina-based group's portfolio to meet evolving customer needs, the company said Bob Francois, president of Invista's speciality materials business, said in an exclusive 10 Oct interview during the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry/UTECH North America 2010 event in Houston, Texas, that part of the logic behind this move is that "the DMT business globally ... is not growing. But if you look at the expectations for the insulation business to grow globally then you need other resources to make polyols from."
While Francois is not keen to overdramatise this change, it is a significant step for Invista.
Francois. who has been in the speciality materials business at Invista for three years, focuses instead on Invista 's push for innovation.
In polyols, this means that "Bill Trowell's team and the R&D team looked at a very good DMT-based, by product-based polyols business - which will continue - and started to look at what other products we might need in the portfolio and what other ways could we serve spray foam and metalfaced panels are scheduled immediately, Francois said.
Francois declined to reveal further details of how the new polyols are made. But he noted that Invista's traditional DMT-based polyols start as a dark liquid, and the finished boardstock is a lighter colour. The HT polyols also start out a dark colour, but produce "a lighter, very uniform colour insulation boardstock," he said.
Francois added that this development builds on Invista's knowledge of formulations and markets, whether it's in boardstock or spray or metal panels or other outlets, where Invista asks "what are our customers telling us?"
Good fascia adhesion and colour
Terate HT polyols, Francois said, bring some interesting properties. Trials to manufacture boardstock have shown "very good fascia adhesion and very good light uniform colour," he explained, adding that certification testing is also showing positive results.
"Our plan is to try to get polyols in the hands of our customers in the fourth quarter this year give them a chance to do some testing and give us some feedback," he explained.
Initially, Terate HT polyols are aimed at use in boardstock. Trials in spray foam and metal-faced panels are scheduled immediately, Francois said.
Invista's new polyols required some new equipment, and modification of some existing kit, said the speciality materials executive. Once it has some customer feedback, "we can scale that up pretty rapidly... As we go into 2011, we will define full-scale manufacturing and which regions we will do it in," he added.
Invista makes its Terate polyols at plants in Vlissingen, the Netherlands, and at the Wilmington operation in the US. For the new HT polyols "we have those as options." Beyond that we haven't made any decisions yet, he said, adding that Invista also has plants for other chemistries in Asia.
"Our goal is to offer customers what they need," said Francois, noting that a lot of its customers' business are different and their requirements differ in blowing agents and processes. "We want to make sure we offer solutions for those many different needs."
In polyols, Invista is competing primarily with Stepan and Oxid in the US, and Stepan and COIM and smaller players in Europe.
Good future growth in insulation
"The industry our Terate business services, they've got to have a good future,' and be really buoyant, with the global focus on energy conservation and cutting greenhouse gas emissions," Francois said.
Invista's polyols people are active in PIMA (the US Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association) and generally in promoting energy conservation via insulation, he added.
Expansion of sales in Asia is likely, with Invista "trying to figure out ... how do we service [customer] needs globally."
In a diverse set of businesses in specialities, Francois said the teams "have truly built global businesses." servicing customers in the Americas, all across Europe and are also growing and developing business in Asia, in China, India, and the ASEAN region.
Asked if Invista is looking to increase sales in Asia to counteract slack demand elsewhere, Francois said, "No,it's growth. New opportunities.
"Look at India and its demand for refrigeration and infrastructure," he said.
So I think some of the emerging markets may for a time grow at faster rates, but from a smaller base," he said. But, the Invista executive stressed: "I think there's also still a lot of opportunity in North America."
Asked about sales figures, Francois said "Koch Industries [owner of Invista] is a private company. We don't share data with anyone."
Invista is an independently managed business within Koch. "We're a business that the company continues to invest in and continues to grow." Even in the downturn, where many companies completely retrenched, "we also continued investing," Francois said.
Asked if there is crossover between customers in the various PU businesses Invista serves, Francois said there is some, adding that each of the speciality materials units can collaborate if needed. The Lycra PU fibres business is "a good customer of ours," for Terathane, he said.
FIVE SPECIALITY BUSINESSES
Invista's speciality materials unit has five divisions
- The polyols unit makes the Terate aromatic polyester polyols;
- A polyurethane intermediates unit making Terathane glycols (polytetramethylene ether glycol, PTMEG), butanediol,tetrahydrofuran,which also licences its technology, mainly in the Far East, to fibre producers;
- Speciality amines and nitriles made from by products - the Ditek unit;
- The Flexisolve solvent business, which has just launched microemulsion technology; and
- Diacids and ketones, primarily C-12 molecules.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND IN APPS
Demand has been exceeding supply for APPs, Francois indicated, noting that in 2010 there has been a good market recovery for everyone. "We've worked very hard to increase available materials and make sure that we can service the market as we come out of 2010," he said.
In polyols, Invista did not cut production during the crisis, Francois said, commenting that some customers came back very strongly and Invista was able to supply them.
Despite the significant recovery in 2010, when asked if production was back to normal, Francois said: "I don't know what normal is any more.
"For me, it's about trying to think what's changed, what are the economic drivers. What is it that's going to tell markets how to respond?”
COATINGS ADDITIVES ON SHOW
High performance coatings are the next outlet for DuPont Co.'s bio-sourced polyether diols, and it is currently selling small amounts of the new grades into the coatings sector, according to Hari Sunkara, principal innovator for these Cerenol bio-polyols.
CPI/UTECH was an opportunity to focus on these coatings uses where the concept is to "use small amounts, a couple of percent, in high-performance coatings, as an additive, to add qualities such as chip resistance, for elasticity, hardness maintenance," Sunkara explained.
One of the new coatings grades is a low molecular weight, water-soluble type, which has produced a lot of interest from customers, specifically for its chip resistance, and good adhesion, Sunkara said.
Cerenol grades are already being commercialised in the PU elastomer sector, where the diols compete with PTMEG (polytetramethylene ether glycol) in producing softer, tougher elastomer (see UTI Dec 2009/Jan 2010, p28).
DuPont says the Cerenol materials, made from corn-oil based 1,3-propanediol,are ideal ingredients for sustainable coatings products, offering improved performance, in an inherently biodegradable, 100- percent renewably sourced material.
Uses for the materials include that as a reactive diluent for PU resins and PU dispersions, or as a non-reactive material for plasticising or coalescing. They can also be exploited in all coating layers-top coat, primer, base coat, clear coat and colour coat, DuPont says.
Cerenolcan improves the toughness and elasticity of clear-coat films, for example a 2K solvent-based urethane.
Cerenol-based primers also raise chip resistance, giving a major impact on properties while maintaining the glass transition temperature of the system, Sunkara's CPI poster showed.
The polyol also improves adhesion to epoxy primer, according to the presentation. Another benefit is to raise the gloss of a coloured topcoat. Another use is in improving the matting effect of silica while enhancing the coating's elasticity. And it also raises flexibility and drying, while retaining high gloss (in water-borne systems) .
COATINGS FOR PU PARTS
Sunscreen and bug spray resistance is currently "the biggest push in North America" in terms of properties for internal automotive surfaces, according to Kyle Shane, business development & product manager for IMCs with Red Spot Paint & Varnish Co.
Water-based in-mould coatings (IMCs) for PU parts are a speciality of the Evansville, Indiana-based operation, Shane said, noting that these are used, "for automotive primarily right now but there is a push for wider use in non-automotive seating uses."
On its UTECH North America 2010 stand, the company was showing a seat for the Polaris Ranger ATV (all-terrain vehicle) which, "is black in production but we went ahead and made it flashier for the show," Shane said.
Along with wide automotive use, for example in the new Ford Taurus door and instrument panels, there is now a push for non-automotive uses for the IMCs, where "we need a good colour range, stitching, different feel," Shane added. The ability to produce a 'grained' finish for leather imitation is also in demand, and this is a characteristic, "which our coating is good for," he said.
Red Spot Paint uses coatings with 1K water based technology, some based on PU resins and some using PU blended with acrylic, he said.
In Europe, ever tightening emission requirements mean demand for more environmentally friendly coatings is high. In the US, a major wish from the automotive OEMs is for resistance to a combination of suntan lotion and insect repellent, Shane pointed out.
"They do a spot test and scratch right through where you test it looking for any signs of peeling and so on," Shane explained
Red Spot claims to have developed the first waterborne IMC to be approved at multiple OEMs for polyurethane foam and skin substrates. The coatings can accommodate intricate designs, and offer "crisp, well-defined grain definition, and providing incredible gloss and colour consistency," the company says.