Barcelona, Spain - Merquinsa launched a range of TPUs (thermoplastic polyurethanes) based on renewable polyols at the K2007 plastics exhibition, being held 24-31 Oct, in Dusseldorf.
"These are the first TPUs from a renewable source," claimed Jean-Marc Galvez, commercial manager with Montmeló, Barcelona-based Merquinsa, in a 19 Oct telephone interview: "We are very proud to launch the first TPU made from renewable materials."
Merquinsa, which sees itself as the fourth largest TPU producer globally, will have commercial quantities available within the next month or so, Galvez indicated.
The technology for the two lines -Pearlthane Eco for injection moulding and extrusion, and Pearlbond Eco for adhesives - is proprietary and is in the process of being patented, so no details are being made public yet, Galvez commented. He mentioned only the challenges of making TPUs, requiring linear polyols and linear chains, from renewable polyols, compared with the relative ease of producing natural oil-based polyols (NOPs) to make products such as polyurethane foam or elastomers.
Much of the impetus driving Merquinsa's development of these Eco TPU ranges comes from two key groups of OEMs - footwear and electronics, particularly Japanese electronics brands, said Galvez. These manufacturers are increasingly demanding materials made in a more environmentally responsible way, including, "a minimum of renewable resources," Galvez indicated. But he also emphasised that environmental responsibility is one of Merquinsa's major corporate aims.
The renewable polyol can form from 40 to 95 percent of the polyol in the TPU, Galvez said, adding that the company is using some commercially available NOPs, while other have been developed in-house.
Merquinsa has invested a lot in research and development for these products, and in installing 5000 tonnes capacity for the Eco TPU range at Montmeló, said Galvez, although he declined to put a figure on the total investment.
Currently the products are undergoing a life cycle assessment through a certified body so that Merquinsa will be able to provide this information to prospective customers.
Other new products being revealed by Merquinsa at the K2007 show include a new family of transparent TPUs, and aliphatic and soft TPUs for automotive interiors, sports and calendering applications.