Feature

Value-driven growth

Additives suppliers are responding to the market's demand for greener, more cost-effective chemical packages to fine-tune the performance of polymers. Blends, special effects additives, non-halogenated flame retardants and wood fibre are in increasingly high demand.


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February 1, 2001 by Michael Legault




The global market for plastics additives was over $16 billion in 2000, representing some 18 billion lb. of material(1). All traditional plastics additives, with the exception of colorants and fillers, are included in these figures. Globally, the entire sector is growing at four to five percent annually. North America commands about 27 percent of the market, and is growing at about three percent per year. Highest growth is found in Asia/Pacific, which has about 35 percent of the market and a growth rate of six to eight percent annually.

Market-driven higher demand and growth, however, are expected for a number of additives sectors, including foaming agents, non-halogenated flame retardants and special effects additives, which impart unique color, appearance, fragrance, conductivity and other properties to plastic. As well, two other areas, nanocomposite fillers and wood fibre, are small, but fast growing markets, with prospects to develop into much larger volumes in the future.

FLAME RETARDANTS

The global market for all types of flame retardants is estimated at $2.2 billion. Recently, the biggest issue facing this segment has been concerns that certain brominated flame retardants release harmful chemicals, namely brominated dioxins and furans, when incinerated. Many manufacturers have responded by launching lines of non-halogenated products.

Albemarle Corporation’s NcendX P-30 is the company’s first non-halogenated product for electrical and electronic applications. Phosphorus-based P-30 was specifically developed for compounders and OEMs who prefer halogen-free protection. The product is a clear liquid, so it won’t interfere with colorants, and improves the melt flow of the resin, according to Albemarle.

Saytex HP-900 is a high-purity grade of hexabromocyclodecane used mainly in extruded polystyrene or expanded polystyrene foam. Albemarle says HP-900 can also be used with polypropylene and a stabilization package under proper processing conditions.

Flamestab NOR 116 from Ciba Specialty Chemicals is a non-halogenated product designed to improve flame retardant properties of polyolefins and polyolefin fibres. Based on N-alkoxy hindered amine chemistry, it also confers excellent UV light stability. NOR 116 attains the UL94 V-2 rating at concentrations well below levels typical of competing products. Auto fibre applications currently call for loadings in the range of 0.5 to 2 percent. As it is melt processable, it is less likely to interfere with the mechanical properties of polyolefin fibres.

PLASTICIZERS AND PROCESSING AIDS

Plasticizers are the largest segment of the additives market, accounting for over 10 billion lb. in 2000; valued at slightly above $5 billion.

Rohm and Haas offers a line of specialty lubricants and waxes for rigid and semi-rigid vinyl applications. In semi-rigid processes, variations of Advalube specialty lubricants provide internal and external lubrication for flexible extrusion, calendering and flexible calendering. Advalube lubricants and waxes for rigid vinyl are designed to achieve high output under broad processing conditions.

Tuftec L515 is a very soft styrenic elastomer engineered to reduce the rigidity of polypropylene. Produced by Asahi Chemical Industry, L515 has been shown to improve transparency, anti-scratch properties, weatherability and UV-resistance. The modifier is ideal for the PVC replacement market in applications such as clear cast film, extruded sheet, PP coatings and automotive interior and exterior parts.

Irrigation tubing is typically made of LDPE with ethylene propylene rubber (EPR) added for flexibility. Seeking to make tubing with a thinner wall, one leading manufacturer evaluated the use of LLDPE, but found it difficult to extrude. To improve processability of the LLDPE compound, DuPontDow Viton FreeFlow was added to the masterbatch supplied to the resin compounder. As a result, the tubing manufacturer was able to increase extrusion speed to the same rate as the original LDPE compound. Viton FreeFlow reduced friction, eliminated a major cause of die build-up, and allowed a reduction of wall thickness without sacrificing performance.

The C.P. Hall Company has introduced a new plasticizer development technique called the Paraplex Approach. The new technology is being used to develop custom plasticizers for various flexible PVC applications. The objective of the approach is to offer improved product characteristics and cost savings by targeting the exact level of performance required for a specific application. Customers can first research current products at the technical information database on the company’s Website (www.cphall.com), and then participate in a question and answer session on the Website’s Technical Forum to narrow down performance requirements.

Loxiol 2986 and Loxiol 2987 from Cognis Corporation are second generation costabilizing lubricant products for rigid extruded PVC applications. The products allow processors to eliminate paraffin wax from the formulation, permitting improved productivity due to decreased plateout, higher line speeds and a wider processing window.

STABILIZERS

Garden furniture and automotive applications, primarily in polypropylene, are pushing annual growth to the six to seven percent range in the small, but lucrative light stabilizer market. A global UV stabilizer market of about 70 million lb. accounted for over $540 million in sales in 2000.

Ciba Tinuvin NOR 371 is being hailed as the next generation of stabilizer for agricultural films. Based on NOR (N-alkoxyamine hindered amine) and HALS chemistry, it combines excellent light and thermal stability coupled with superior chemical resistance for PE and PE copolymer agricultural films exposed to extreme environmental conditions. Examples are rose greenhouse films exposed to extensive amounts of elemental sulphur and thin pigmented mulch films that undergo strong pesticide treatment.

Almost all heat stabilizers are used in either rigid or flexible PVC, so growth of this additives segment (about four percent) roughly tracks the PVC market. The three main types of heat stabilizers are lead, organotins and mixed metal (e.g. barium/zinc). Recently some companies have introduced organic heat stabilizers.

Akros Chemicals America has announced several reduced-VOC content organic stabilizers for use in a wide range of flexible PVC end-use applications. Akrostab BZ-4967 is recommended for high quality calendering of opaque formulas while Akrostab BZ-5043A LV is targeted for clear calendering. Both have been optimized to provide balanced processing traits while maintaining the low plate-out and optimum printability required for critical applications.

BLOWING AGENTS

Bergen International LLC has released two new products, Foamazol 90 and Foamazol X-118. Both are endothermic chemical foaming agent (CFA) powders intended for relatively low temperature applications. They are ideal for use with PVC, ABS and styrenics in the wood replacement and wood profile markets. A pelletized form of XO-118, Foamazol XO-187, is available for applications in which pellets are preferred. Bergen has also released a new line of non-powder chemical foaming agents for ABS foamed core pipe and PVC rigid pipe and profile markets.

Hydrocerol 1216, from Clariant Masterbatches, is a highly loaded endothermic CFA designed for use in polyolefin structural foam molding and extrusion applications. The CFA produces a gas yield of 90-95 cc/g, reducing letdown ratios with the resin and decreasing the individual part weight and density of the application. It can be processed at a temperature range of 360 to 425F. Clariant has also launched a number of new exothermic CFAs for PVC applications. The Hydrocerol CT line creates a very fine and uniform cell size in extruded profiles, thus enhancing the strength of finished profiles. The CT line may also be used for free foaming profile, sheet and pipe.

PIGMENTS

Using Clariant’s Splash formulations, a manufacturer can produce injection molded parts with no two e
ver being exactly alike. The masterbatch can imitate marble, wood, pearlescent, tortoise shell, granite and other special effects on a standard injection molding machine.

The masterbatch is suitable for use in polystyrene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and SAN.

Besides its use in premium cosmetic packaging or consumer goods, another development area for Splash technology is the simulated wood appearance desired for residential decking. The Splash masterbatches can achieve the look of cedar or rough wood: textured with dark background colors and contrasting colors for individual streaks and swirls.

Developed by Flex Products, Inc., ChromaFlair light interference pigments are unique, multi-layer flakes of pigment that create an array of colors that change depending on the angle from which they are viewed. Suitable for plastics, coatings and textiles, all ChromaFlair pigment colors are produced using the same three colorless materials. The ColorShift effect produced by the pigments is a result of a thin-film light interference phenomenon. The company is offering eight different pigment colors with various colors shifts. For example pigment 190 shifts from green through blue and red into orange. Nokia, Sony and other companies are current customers.

Meyers Colour Compounds Ltd. has recently launched a manufacturing process capable of producing superfine masterbatch pellets. Meyers reports that this feature will improve color distribution and allow higher pigment loading for let down ratios as high as 100:1.

Elementis Pigments has introduced Copperas Red R-1099, which enhances the opportunity for masterbatch manufacturers and processors to replace a portion of an expensive red organic pigment with a synthetic iron oxide. The pigment is made by converting highly purified ferrous sulfate heptahydrate (copperas) to a synthetic hematite crystal. The hematite crystal is stable to high temperatures and offers reduced pigment costs.

MISCELLANEOUS AND SPECIALTY

A new experimental grade of precipitated silica, developed by Degussa-Huls, is designed to solve the blocking problem of polyolefin thin films, while reducing the absorption of slip agent and other additives. The product, which is described in the company’s recently released T1 1206 technical bulletin, allows the formulator to specify a low loading level of silica and achieve antiblocking on the inside of rolled film, without sacrificing the quality or opacity of the outside portion of the film.

Polyvel Inc. offers a number of unique additive concentrates, including a line of fragrance concentrates that are reportedly as stable and as easy to use as color concentrates. The company has also introduced a new line of concentrates engineered specifically for use in metallocene films.

Ontario Power Generation and IRDI have finished a research project that studied the viability of using fly ash as a filler substitute for conventional mineral fillers in plastics. The results of this study showed that the addition of fly ash to polypropylene improved tensile properties, flexural modulii and heat deflection temperature without compromising the tensile elongation and strength.

Conoco’s carbon fibre technology is a mesophase pitch-based product designed to impart high-performance properties for a broad range of target applications in the telecommunications, electronics, entertainment and transportation sectors. Mesophase pitch is more crystalline with a higher cross-link density. When it is used to make carbon fibre it produces a product that is far stiffer than carbon fibre produced by either isotropic pitch or PAN precursors.CPL

(1) All figures in US dollars; provided by BRG Townsend, Mount Olive, NJ

ADDITIVES