Wurzburg, Germany - "Next year is not going to be easy," and Europe will "feel the crunch as never before," commented Dr Hans W. Schloz, executive director of the FSK, the German association for foamed plastics producers. But he pointed out that an aspect of the polyurethanes sector that equips it to handle the current economic crisis well is its diversity, and the strength of technical uses for PU materials.
Speaking at the opening of the 21st meeting of the FSK in Wurzburg on 18 Nov, Schloz added that in polyurethanes, "innovation makes the difference … it is what makes it so successful."
Innovation featured high on the meeting's agenda, as it was the venue for awarding the FSK's polyurethanes innovation prize for 2008. The level of entries this year was high, and the student winner was a novel stackable stool for areas such as bars; the flat, wedge-shaped object, sitting on a stable flat base, is hinged at the top, allowing users to turn it into a perching seat by leaning against it.
This stool's design netted student Michael Thaller, of the Fachhochschule Salzburg, in Austria, the Euro 4000 prize, but the judges were also impressed with three other designs, for a laptop bag, foldaway soft foam furniture, and sandwich composites with a sprayed soft-touch cover over a thermoplastic core, which won their young designers a second place prize of Euro 1500 each.
Schloz said the FSK was very happy to see people attending the meeting, during a period when everyone is concerned about the economy, and travel expenses are being cut.
Looking at some market data for the German plastics foam sector for this year, Schloz said PU foam made up 49.6 percent of the 1.8 million tonnes plastic foam market in Germany in 2007, with crosslinked polystyrene (XPS) forming 26.5 percent and expanded polystyrene (EPS) making up another 18.4 percent. In Germany, the plastic foams business has a turnover of about Euro 12 000 million ($15 000 million), while in western Europe the value totals about Euro 37 000 million, with a volume of some 5.5 million tonnes.
In uses, building and insulation form the major outlet, at 52.8 percent, with 11.4 percent going into furniture and mattresses, 9.5 percent into automotive and transport uses and 9 percent in paints and coatings, said Schloz.
See more on the FSK meeting in the next issue of Urethanes Technology International.
PIC Prize winners: the stackable stool is the yellow device in the foreground.