In August, the state-owned company shut down one of its two TDI units for maintenance, which interrupted supply. Now it is back to normal, with sales for Nocinco are good at present, Jiao said.
China has five TDI suppliers, with a total of 800 ktpa of installed capacity, and consumption within China currently at about 500 ktpa, according to Jiao. Nocinco itself has two TDI plants, with total capacity of 150 ktpa, and Jiao said it has no plans to expand, having added 20 ktpa two years ago.
Nocinco exports material to South America, Africa, the Middle East, and a small amount to India, he added. Oversupply means producers of TDI need to export more material in future, Jiao feels.
Tall and square
Norway's Laader Berg has had "nice growth every year for the last four years, with last year the best ever, and this year looking even better," Vaagen said.
It is now booking orders for next year. Generally, Europe is slower, but Vaagen said there are always opportunities. In particular, he sees increasing competition amongst foamers: "They need improve their operations ... to renew their technology, reduce waste, and raise efficiency," he said.
"Foamers have small margins, and the business is very competitive. So they really have to make competitive products and produce premium foam," Vaagen feels. He also said there is a huge difference in quality between Chinese- and western-made equipment.
"To make a high-quality foam, you need a high-quality machine, and for high-quality foam you get a better price in the market," he said. A higher price acts as a stimulus for those making foam to get the best out of their machines - and also western customers demand high quality foam, he added.
"Tall and square," is a company mantra, because the vital feature that Laader Berg says its machinery offers is a tall square block with consistent hardness and density all the way through. That gives the most cost-effective foam block, minimising trimming and waste. Laader Berg's customers, "make premium foam and get paid for it.
Foaming is complex, but we have made it easy to operate," he added. The Norwegian foam slabstock pioneer has sold 20 of its machines in China, and has been involved with the Chinese market for 35 or 40 years, Vaagen said.
Saving money with water-based glues
At PU China, Saba Dinxperlo, was aiming to make contact with potential customers among Asian foamers/converters for its environmentally friendly foam adhesives, said Paul Schouten, business development manager with the Dutch company.
"Our focus is really on bigger foam groups," Schouten said, since the smaller local foamers tend to use traditional latex adhesives for mattress and furniture production. Saba has just set up a sales office staffed by local people in Guangzhou, an ideal location, as it is a major furniture and mattress production region, Schouten said.
This year Saba successfully launched a new series of water-based adhesives for foam bonding, the 12.0 Hybrid Series, and says the market "is really enthusiastic about the performance of these products." Saba's message is that while this product may be more expensive than the solvent-based glues Chinese foam bonders are used to, they can save money overall, as less material is needed.
The bonding process can also be faster with the water-based material, Schouten added. Use of solvent-borne foam adhesives in Europe is declining, and is very small in the US, Schouten said, with Asia now the only major user of solvent-based adhesives.
Plea for stable prices in PU
Prices of polyurethane raw materials need to be stabilised, according to Erman Tan, ceo of Singapore systems house Asia Polyurethane Mfg Pte Ltd.
"What we would like as a member of the PU business community is healthy growth, but also a more stable pricing situation," Tan said. "We don't like huge price fluctuations." Tan also noted concerns about oversupply in PU raw materials, "which is a problem globally and is not healthy for the industry.
" He acknowledged that this oversupply is a result of the slowdown in worldwide markets But the APU chief feels there needs to be a better balance between supply and demand. Generally there is concern in China over the state of the world's economy, Tan said.
APU also hopes that a new government in China will institute some more stimulus packages for infrastructure development, to build roads, rail systems, hospitals and schools. Tan is also interested in the idea of a global PU association, to promote the common interests of all players in the sector, particularly in sustainable businesses and materials.