Ludwigshafen, Germany - Chemicals giant BASF is bouncing toward K 2013 with a host of new products, including the industry's first expanded thermoplastic polyurethane foam.
BASF officials unveiled Infinergy-brand TPU foam at a two-day press event that began June 25 at the firm's headquarters site in Ludwigshafen. The foam already is being used in Energy Boost running shoes launched earlier this year by sportswear leader Adidas.
Infinergy uses particle foam technology to create low bulk weight and good chemical resistance and elasticity, BASF TPU footwear sales leader Martin Vallo said at the event. The foam also has good "rebound performance" and outperforms expanded grades of polyethylene and polypropylene, he added, as well as ethylene vinyl acetate, which often is used as a layer in the soles of running shoes.
Adidas senior innovation director Gerd Manz said at the event that runners want good cushioning in an insole - one that "lands kinetic energy" when landing.
Since commercialized in February, Energy Boost shoes have sold 250,000 pairs, making them one of Adidas' most successful launches, according to Manz.
BASF Vice Chairman Martin Brudermüller also spoke at the event, saying that the firm has benefited from a recent reorganization of its plastics businesses. He added that BASF moving ahead plans to focus on increased applications for wind energy, more use of renewable feedstocks and "using innovation as a driver."
Wind energy use globally is expected to grow 7 percent per year through 2020. And biopolymer production should boom from less thaaan three billion pounds in 2012 to more than 13 billion in 2016.
When asked about the impact of shale gas on the plastics market, Brudermüller confirmed that BASF has considered building a propylene unit in North America, but he added the firm was being cautious.
"We want to take part in [shale gas] development, but you have to be smart," he said. "Just throwing additional volume at the market doesn't seem to make sense."
Brudermüller also highlighted some of BASF's recent growth initiatives, including increasing expanded polystyrene capacity in Ludwigshafen, as well as opening a new plant with almost 700 million pounds of capacity for PU feedstock TDI there in 2014.
By Frank Esposito.