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By now I’m really tired of writing about the Corona pandemic, tired of lockdowns and restrictions and the rescheduling of rescheduled events. Like Utech Europe for example, which first moved from April 2021 to September 2021 and is now scheduled for 16 – 18 November 2021 (p. 9). As these were exactly the dates selected for Europur’s Annual Conference as announced end of January 2021, Europur has rescheduled this event to 3 – 4 November 2021, to save its members the dilemma of having to choose between the two events (p. 9). On the other hand, it’s heartening to see how conferences, instead of being cancelled, go virtual. Plastics Industry Association (Plastics), for example, has cancelled the in-person components of NPE2021, but the conference is taking place virtually from 17 – 21 May 2021 (p. 9). And Chinaplas 2021 definitely is to be held 13 – 16 April 2021 (p. 38).
At the beginning of 2020, almost all sectors of the economy were hit hard by the effects of the Corona pandemic. It caused the European flexible foam industry to grind to a halt, although the year started very well with strong sales, as our author Angela Austin states in her current market report (p. 16). The thermoplastic polyurethane market declined by 6.1 % in 2020 due to the effects of Covid-19 (p. 24). Some industry sectors have already been able to compensate for the losses, others are still struggling, as recent market reports show: CAM's latest Electromobility Report (p. 42), some key findings from AVK’s report on the European GRP market (p. 30), and results of the European Bioplastics’ (EUBP) annual market data update (p. 34).
Whatever the impacts of the current pandemic may be, all over the world people still conduct research and come up with new ideas. This is reflected in reports on innovative, carbon black-filled compounds and masterbatches (p. 26), a patented 3D veneer that enables joinery work for demanding shapes (p. 36) and an overview on how polyurethanes contribute to sustainability (p. 20).
Although the year 2020 started very well with strong sales, the Covid-19 pandemic caused the European flexible foam industry to grind to a halt. In 2019 total production of flexible polyurethane foam in the 28 EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland, Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey reached nearly 1.74 million t, according to data collated by Labyrinth Research & Markets Ltd and Belvedere and Partner Ltd, on behalf of Europur. Overall, 2019 was a reasonably successful year for the flexible foam industry in supplying the bedding and furniture sectors, however, demand from the automotive industry continued to decline in line with falling vehicle production.
Messe Düsseldorf and Corferias (the International Business and Exhibition Center of Bogota) signed an agreement with Acoplasticos (Asociación Colombiana de Industrias Plásticas) to purchase a share of and jointly organise Colombiaplast, one of the most important international trade fairs for the plastics, rubber, petrochemical and packaging industry in the LatAm region.
Polyurethanes are one of today’s most versatile materials. Polyurethane manufacturers produce innovative, life-enhancing products and technologies that play a unique role in making the world a more sustainable place and can help solve some of our world’s biggest challenges. By helping natural resources and materials last longer, polyurethanes play an important role in promoting sustainability, reducing waste, and achieving the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) . The industry is putting the power of polyurethanes to work in order to unlock solutions to society’s biggest challenges in a safe and sustainable way. Importantly, most polyurethane products and product components are durable and long-lasting – often lasting for the life of the product, without replacement. For example, rigid polyurethane used to insulate refrigerators last the lifetime of the refrigerator and flexible polyurethane in automotive seating lasts the life of the car. Here are just a few examples of how polyurethanes contribute to a sustainable economy.
Polymers are currently not included in the registration requirements under Regulation (EU) No. 1907/2006 – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). However, in terms of Article 138(2) of REACH, a possible further review is foreseen to extend the registration requirements to polymers. If the risk posed by certain polymers can be proven, and practical and cost-efficient ways of selecting polymers requiring registration (PRR) can be established, registration requirements under REACH will be extended to polymers. Feica, the Association of the European Adhesive & Sealant Industry, recently published the perspective of the adhesives and sealants industry in the position paper Registration of Polymers – Adhesives and Sealants Industry Perspective.
IAL Consultants has recently published the seventh edition of its report entitled “Global Overview of the Thermoplastic Polyurethane Market.” This new study examines the national, regional, and global markets for thermoplastic polyurethanes for 2020 and builds upon the research from previous editions of the publication. It explores the market trends driving TPU production and subsequent demand, provides an indication of raw material consumption, and also presents future growth opportunities in the TPU market. Five-year market forecasts to 2025 are also included.
The demand for extremely load-bearing elastomers for wheel treads and rollers is growing worldwide. The materials are used, for example, in the wheels of forklift vehicles, in guide rollers of high-rise and industrial elevators, and in rollers for agricultural machinery and high performance roller coasters. Lanxess has answered this trend by developing customized thermoset elastomer prepolymer systems and related hardeners. In addition, the specialty chemicals company supports customers with extensive services to optimize components made from these materials.
The AVK – Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe has published its annual market report for glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP). In 2020, the European GRP market experienced the sharpest slump since the economic and financial crisis of 2008/2009 due to the corona pandemic. Production volume has fallen by 12.7 % to 996,000 t. The greatest losses are in the transport sector. Germany remains the largest manufacturer of GRP with 207,000 t. This article is a summary of the full market report, which can be downloaded free of charge from the AVK website.
The results of the European Bioplastics’ (EUBP) annual market data update, presented on 2 December 2020 at the 15th EUBP Conference, confirm the continued dynamic growth of the global bioplastics industry. Bioplastics represent about 1 % of the more than 368 million t of plastic produced annually. But as demand is rising, and with more sophisticated applications and products emerging, the market for bioplastics is continuously growing and diversifying. Global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from around 2.11 million t in 2020 to approximately 2.87 million t in 2025. Innovative biopolymers, such as bio-based PP (polypropylene) and especially PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) continue to drive this growth.
Complex shapes for workpieces are usually a challenge for carpenters, because the uneven density of plywood or medium-density fibreboard (MDF) always requires careful milling. Otherwise, unevenness or even cracks can quickly form in the material. However, taking this into account slows down the entire production process. But there is an alternative: with the help of the patented 3D veneer from Danzer Deutschland GmbH in combination with the alternative material maridur from Obo-Werke GmbH, circles, waves and even organic shapes with a noble coating can be created quickly and easily. This means that workpieces can be produced, e.g., for fronts and side panels in interior fittings, or wall and ceiling cladding, even in wet room areas. Thanks to the closed cell structure and homogeneous density of maridur, the material can be easily processed and is also moisture-repellent. The material withstands even extreme weather conditions and is thus also suitable for demanding applications.
Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd. is inviting to Chinaplas 2021, Asia’s No. 1 plastics and rubber trade fair, to be held 13 – 16 April 2021 at the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center in Shenzhen, China. According to the organisers, in today’s unprecedented turbulent times, the global manufacturing industry is undergoing profound and complex changes, facing uncertainties and challenges, while opening up new opportunities under the “new normal.” Chinaplas 2021, themed “New Era – New Potential – Innovation for Sustainability”, has the aim not only to stimulate development in the industries, but also to keep the momentum going in the exploration of business opportunities in the new era.
In no other country has the importance of private transportation recently increased as significantly as in China. This is one of the key findings of the Continental Mobility Study 2020, in which representative groups of people in France, the USA, Japan, China and Germany were surveyed about their mobility habits in cooperation with social research institute infas. Against the background of the coronavirus pandemic, 46 % of respondents in China said that they use their cars more often than before. In Germany, this figure is half as high at 23 %.
The Center of Automotive Management (CAM) at the University of Applied Sciences for Business (Fachhochschule der Wirtschaft – FHDW) in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, regularly analyses the electromobility markets and the sales trends of automotive manufacturers. The focus is on the core markets China, the USA and the European Union. Taking into account key factors such as charging infrastructures, regulations, model ranges and the electromobility strategies of the OEMs, various market ramp-up scenarios for 2025/2030 are being projected. Some key findings from CAM's latest "Electromobility Report" are presented below.
Plastics behave dependent on temperature and strain rate. When designing components, it is therefore important to know the behaviour of the plastic used, not only under laboratory conditions, but also under the subsequent conditions of use. To this end, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF have expanded the dynamic possibilities at the institute's own modified high-speed testing machine with a device that enables plastics to be examined even at low temperatures – validated down to -40 °C – without a thermal chamber.
Dispersive and distributive mixing processes are a major element in the manufacture of thermoplastic masterbatches and compounds. Continuously working twin-screw extruders and kneader systems are mainly used for compounding. A crucial restriction of these mixing machines is the limited dwell time of the components to be mixed. Caparol Industrial Solutions GmbH is a company that has specialised in the manufacture of primarily liquid and paste-form pigment and additive concentrates. Discontinuously working mixing and dispersion machines, such as roller mills, butterfly mixers or dissolvers are used in particular in the production of these concentrates.
This is where the electrically conductive carbon black compounds and masterbatches of the NEFA MB EL product group come into play. The combination of discontinuous mixers and twin-screw extruders can manufacture very highly filled, conductive performance concentrates on the basis of SEBS copolymers.
Compounds in the NEFA MB EL product group are characterised by specific electrical resistances less than one ohm-cm (measured according to DIN EN ISO 3915) with hardnesses in the range of Shore A 80 to Shore D 60 and elongations at break of more than 400 %. Used as a masterbatch, electrostatically dispersive properties can be achieved with NEFA MB EL concentrations in TPVs, for example, from an adding concentration of just 25 %.