By Liz White, editor
Wuerzburg, Germany --- Despite the obvious difficulties of doing business over the last year, the German polyurethanes sector is in a positive mood and has seen encouraging developments in sales and turnover recently, as highlighted by Dr Albrecht Manderscheid, chairman of the FZK eV (Germany's Specialist Association for Foamed Plastics and Polyurethanes), during the opening of the FSK's seventh international polyurethanes conference.
More than 160 participants at the 10-11 Nov meeting, held in Wuerzburg, Germany, heard Dr W. Alexander Strietholt of Dow Deutschland GmbH & Co. OHG, who is chairman of the FSK's polyurethane group, reinforce this optimism: "We must think positively," he said, adding, "Now in November, sales are starting to rise," after a period earlier this year when sales dipped by 20 or 30 percent.
Some polyurethane companies have been bankrupted by the crisis, Strietholt pointed out, but despite this, the experts involved have generally stayed within the sector. He stressed that it is this expertise the sector needs to continue with its innovative developments.
"I feel very positive we can grow faster than the rest of the market," Strietholt commented, adding that good networking and efficient use of resources is vital here to find new solutions to new problems. And the polyurethanes expert stressed that this has become more crucial now, as companies become ever leaner, and so rely on fewer experts than before.
While the most difficult period -- from Q4 08 to Q1 09 -- is now past, the FSK estimates that 2009's figures may show a 25 -30 percent drop in German polyurethane production for the whole year, pointed out Dr Hans-W. Schloz, managing director of the association, in his annual round up of data for the year.
In a European plastics market of 60 million tonnes, polyurethane forms about 5.6 percent at 3.5 million tonnes, but in Germany, the PU focus is stronger so that polyurethane represents about 7.5 percent of the German plastics market, with 929 kilotonnes of material out of a total of 12 million tonnes of plastics for 2008, Schloz pointed out.
• See more reporting on the FSK meeting, covering novel uses of polyurethane in solar panels, wind farms, medical therapy, for lightweight sports cars and more in the next issue. This report will also look at German car maker BMW's use of the plasma coating process of Acmos for moulds for automotive polyurethane parts, and include insights into developments in the Russian automotive sector from Dow Automotive.
PIC: Dr Hans-W. Schloz, FSK managing director, discusses the German PU sector in Wuerzburg.