06/10/2014

www.gupta-verlag.de/polyurethanes

The global PU industry needs to take its value to the next level

"The chemistry is not the limiting factor here. It's not about what the polyurethane molecule can or can't do - we know it can do practically anything. The limiting factor is us. We can only achieve that innovation by working together in the right ways on the right things,” Bassett pointed out. He also suggested that the industry had become stuck in its ways and not been focused on extracting a greater value from such a "superuseful” molecule. "We need to know how to extract more value from our equity, value chains and people,” he suggested. He made an analogy of market development in the PU industry with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In this hierarchy PU has already helped society to meet many basic needs of energy efficiency, improved health and food supply. At the start of his speech Bassett posed the question, from which has society benefited most, social media or polyurethane?  This interesting question was hinting at the way in which the PU industry needs to adapt and the use of social media is another element of Dow's strategy to add value to its products is to engage with its customer and end users. The polyurethanes business unit, along with others in Dow, is committed to use this communication medium to increase consumer's awareness of the value of PU. "This more sustainable world everyone's after, where economic and social progress are in harmony with the planet's resources, is something our industry and (polyurethanes) are already helping to deliver,” said Bassett during his address. "We've proven it's a material that enables higher quality of life more efficiently than most others.”  In a later interview however, Bassett and Chris Chrisafides, Senior Commercial Director, North America, admitted that the jury was still out on the use of bio-based materials as part of a sustainable business model for the PU industry. Dow own bio-based technology but it remains on the shelf at present. "We look to increase sustainability through innovation and deliver solutions,” he explained, echoing Dow's tag line of its 2012 campaign "Solutionism: The New Optimism.” As part of the company's drive to deliver greater value, the polyurethanes business has become more customer focused, delivered cost savings and speeded up the commercialisation of R & D pipeline products. Recent launches from the polyurethanes business include PASCAL, a PU system used in combination with theestablished technology of vacuum injection, Teraforce, for use in enhanced oil recovery and Betamate structural adhesive and automotive sound attenuation. Bassett's speech was strongly in line with strategic plans announced by Dow CEO Andrew Liveris, emphasising the need to release hidden value from its business units and joint ventures. Dow has been under attack from Third Point fund manager Dan Loeb, for failing to create value. Earlier this year Loeb called for Liveris to consider a spin off its petrochemicals business in order to generate greater value for shareholders by creating a specialty chemicals company, a strategy also under consideration by other chemical majors with interests in the polyurethane industry.Over the past 18 months the polyurethanes business has completed a schedule of asset closure and increased emphasis on higher value applications in the industrial and construction sectors to increase profitability. The planned divesture of the epoxy business will reduce falls in price and volume but will reduce the company's direct participation in the fast growing, high value composites market; an area that is creating substantial energy savings in the transport sector. Dow has been one of the few suppliers of both epoxy and PU resins to this high value market. Dow shares ended the first week in June, trading at a 5 year high of USD 53.15. As for where innovation in the industry should focus for the future, Bassett said that the industry needed to identify how PU can benefit from fast moving developments such as 3-D printing, the need for greater sustainability in all areas of life and commerce and try to identify how PU can create higher value products to meet as yet unknown needs.Dow also put its innovation on display at the exhibition portion of the two-day event and presented technical papers, including: "Enhancing the Formulators' Toolbox with a Novel High Performance Polyether Polyol.” To support formulators in CASE and TPU applications, Dow developed Voranol 223-060LM polyol that is liquid at room temperature, has low unsaturation and optimized microphase separation for high performance PU objects. "Recent Developments in Polyisocyanate Polyaddition (PIPA) Copolymer Allow Foamers More Versatility in Formulations.” Polyisocyanate polyaddition (PIPA) copolymer polyols play an important role in imparting load bearing properties to high resilience (HR) foams. With stringent flammability tests in place for furniture, PIPA polyols allow for reduced flame retardant use vs. other polymer polyols. Recent advances by Dow have doubled the solids content of these polyols, allowing foamers more versatility in formulations. "New Range of Hydrophobic Polyols Designed for Applications Requiring Mechanically Robust Materials with Lasting Durability to Environmental, Water, Chemical and UV Exposure.” A new range of hydrophobic polyols has been developed for the coatings and elastomers markets which are designed for applications requiring mechanically robust materials with lasting durability to environmental exposure, viz., water, chemical and UV exposure. These hydrophobic polyols offer processing flexibility over other hydrophobic polyol technologies, due to their inherently low viscosity. "A Comparison of Polyurethane Thermal Insulation Technologies for Appliances and Panels show PASCAL and PASCAL PRO as the Most Sustainable and High Performance Solutions.” Dow launched its PASCAL and PASCAL PRO polyurethane technologies for insulating household appliance and discontinuous panels' producers which can be used with any type of blowing agent, offering the possibility to maximize the foam performance and environmental sustainability of the solution chosen. "Polyisocyanurate Fire Rated Solutions for Insulated Metal Panels.” Dow has developed a new family of Voratherm polyisocyanurate foam systems that do not contain any halogenated flame retardants. The novel Voratherm family allows panels' manufacturers to combine the compliance with US and European fire safety and quality standards, with the growing sustainability requirements.

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