“The next scale up we were able to offer was 5 tonnes, which understandably some of our potential customers considered to be a bit of a high a jump,” said Sohlberg.
She said the pilot reactor was installed to bridge the availability gap between lab-scale and full-plant reactor quantities. The pilot reactor can also be filled with specific customer-focused polymer grades.
“With the new pilot reactor we are able to produce batches up to 800kg. It’s a manual and flexible and almost all grades can be produced in it,” she added.
“Going forward, the pilot reactor is geared up for thermoplastics. We are not only providing manufacturing prototypes in that material but we also have a pilot plant innovation centre,” she added.
According to Sohlberg, Perstorp has well-developed capabilities to put renewable content into the Capa portfolio. The R&D is there and in place, she said. “Sustainability is very close to our hearts.”
One challenge, she noted, is that, “There are currently no incentives for product makers to go in the sustainability direction, it is more expensive and not the something that a business would necessarily choose.” Still, Perstorp has “high hopes” for the future of its bioplastics business, she said.
Lewis agreed, adding: “Bioplastics is growing all the time – that is one of our growth platforms.”
According to Lewis, “Each industry has its own requirements that’s where the specialisation comes in to formulate downstream.
Perstorp’s Capa business is part of the Specialties and Solutions portfolio. Lewis describes Capa as a “multitalented performance enhancer”. He said the company is able to “fine tune the product to make it do something specific”.
In key sectors such as elastomers, polyols made with caprolactones can produce polyurethanes with extreme resistance to wear and tear,” Lewis added.
Capa, Lewis said, provides an “integral strength that [other types of] polyesters and polyethers do not have. What this means is that in seals and gaskets, for example, Capa will keep its form where other materials fail.”
“The market for industrial coatings is an example where the continuing drive to reduce use of organic solvents has seen a wider adoption for our Capa based Polyols,” he said.
“We also sell Capa monomers on open market into resin modification and pigment dispersion applications. We take that monomer and turn it into polyol and thermoplastic production where we make specific solutions, to our formulations and to our customer’s requirements too.
“All of that is supported through our innovation centre and pilot plant,” added Lewis.
Capa molecules are found in products as diverse as adhesives, automotive, resins, paints and footwear, as well as being a key material for polyurethane and thermoplastic polyurethane-based manufacturers. End uses include skateboard wheels, shoes soles and industrial rollers.
In addition to resin modification, caprolactones can be used for resin, waterborne PUD coatings, cast elastomers, hot-melt adhesives, in-shoe support material and orthopaedic brace supports are among the uses for caprolactones, said the firm.
Finally, Lewis noted that Perstorp is making digital as well as brick-and-mortar investments. The company updated its website in 2015, a move that he says now allows users to drill down into its diverse product portfolios and find relevant information more quickly.
The site provides “step-by-step guidance into the right product, which is important when you are selling so many grades. Lewis said, “Generally company websites are all chemistry focused, but our system fast-tracks the selection process and avoids potential customers going through hundreds of data sheets.”