Global PEI Shortage To Last Until Second Half Of 2015

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 8. December 2014

Since the global supply of Ultem PEI (polyetherimide) resin from SABIC has tightened in the last few months, molders and OEMs have had to manage risks such as long lead times and supply disruptions. RTP Company, for one, is aiming to address the issue by offering a number of thermoplastic compounds that serve as viable alternatives.  In fact, the company is hosting a webinar this Thursday, Dec. 11 at 10 a.m. CST to discuss these options and will make available a recorded version after the live session.


A SABIC spokesman, says the company anticipates the extended lead times to last until the second half of 2015, as a result of a significant increase in global demand for Ultem over the last years coupled with an upcoming scheduled maintenance at one of its Ultem resin facilities. “We are very sensitive to the impact this situation is having on our customers. We are honoring all previously submitted orders and are working with great urgency to increase capacity. The scheduled maintenance, while affecting supply in the short term, will allow for increased capacity in the future. We are confident that the actions we’re taking at SABIC will enable us to meet the needs of our customers longer term, and continue to deliver the unique value they have come to expect from our Ultem resin.”


This spokesman noted that across the engineering resins industry, the demand for higher heat materials is growing. Key drivers include trends such as thinner and more complex consumer electronics, uniquely branded automotive headlamps, and lightweighting within the aerospace industry. He notes that some customers have realized unforeseen double-digit growth, and that engineering resin suppliers are working hard to meet the short- and long-term volume needs of their customers.


RTP, meanwhile, is offering alternative compounds that include amorphous materials based on polysulfone or semicrystalline materials that have been modified, alloyed, and/or reinforced to achieve very similar physical properties to PEI, according to Matt Torosian, RTP’s product manager of high-temperature materials. “RTP has created a range of compounds with similar characteristics to PEI that are not depended on a single supplier of base resin. By doing so, our customers have benefited from a larger selection of material options, greater design flexibility, and far fewer interruptions in material supply.”


PEI is known for its excellent dimensional stability, chemical resistance, strength, stiffness, inherent flame retardancy and creep resistance. As such, selecting a replacement requires a thorough understanding of the application requirements. According to Torosian, once these requirements have been identified, RTP engineers can recommend compounds that fit the requirements, along with added benefits such as color. To support transition to a new material, the company provides on-site technical service and CAE support including mold-flow analysis, FEA and fiber orientation analysis. For more details, take a look at RTP’s website page entitled PEI Alternatives.


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials data base.


Fine-Particle-Sized Cellulosics Key To Patented Bio-Plastic Compounds

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 5. December 2014

Within the last two years, Eco Bio Plastics Midland, Inc., (EBPM), Midland, Mich., has been leading the way in the use of a novel new method in which cellulosic material and post-industrial waste paper can be used to create bio-plastic products.


The patented technology originated at the Tokyo-based Eco Research Institute (ERI), one of Asia’s biggest bio-plastics manufacturers. A subsequent joint venture with the Michigan Molecular Institute, a global leader in advancing polymer research, has allowed for the “earth-friendly” composite resin, called MAPKA, to be made available to North American’s processors, with EBPM and ERI  holding the exclusive technology.


MAPKA bio-plastic or bio-plastic content compounds can be based on such virgin or recycled materials as PP, LDPE, HDPE, ABS, EVA as well as PLA and PHA. They are created by dry-grinding various types of cellulose down to the mean particle size of 20 microns, and incorporating the filler into the plastics. According to the company, the cellulosic fillers can comprise up to 65% of the total weight of the product, enhancing the plastics physical and mechanical properties while remaining virtually undetectable to the naked eye.


While incorporation of cellulosic material into plastics in not new, EBPM’s patented pulverization technology reportedly allows for the production of significantly more enhanced compounds of this type. “When you compound plastic with organic material, you need that material to be a very fine powder. We are the only manufacturer in the world with the ability to do that on a large, commercially viable scale,” explains EBPM’s v.p. Fukuji Saotome.


EBPM serves a broad variety of industries looking to reduce their reliance on unsustainable materials. The company can customize the compounds to fit specific property requirements and applications, ranging from housewares and consumer goods to building products and automotive components. Moreover, EBPM enables “closed-loop recycling systems” for companies with their own scrap paper materials.  

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.




'Green' Alternative To EPS Underway At Findland's VTT Tech Research Center

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 2. December 2014

With an aim to develop both an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective alternative to expandable polystyrene (EPS) for light packaging and insulation is Findland’s VTT Technical Research Center. VTT cites that the annual production volume of EPS is now around 12-million lbs, with most of the material ending up in either landfills or being burned which results in the release of hazardous compounds.


VTT has developed an alternative based on PLA, a bioplastic made from renewable materials with the help of lactic acid. Researchers have been investigating methods of foaming bioplastics to make beads that are further refined into products such as insulation sheets using typical EPS manufacturing processes.


According to research team leader Antti Ojala, the expansion of the bioplastic by foaming is carried out with consideration for the environment using CO2. The density and heat insulation properties of the new biomaterial have been demonstrated to be similar to those of polystyrene.

VTT is now planning to bring its developmental work closer to industrial processing—moving from laboratory work to factory testing. As such, VTT is actively looking to partner in furthering this development with companies operating in the field. According to Ojala, PLA products similar to PS already exist, but are too high in cost. In that vain,VTT will be looking for new and more efficient production methods to enable the manufacturing of ‘affordable’ products.


VTT is also developing a process for PLA based on extrusion foaming with the aim of replacing PS in traffic and packaging applications.


Interested parties can contact research team leader Ojala at:


Do note that at NatureWorks' Innovation Takes Root conference in April of this year, a PLA bead foam called Zealofoam was displayed by its developer, New Zealand's The Biopolymer Network and one of its sharedolders Scion.  


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.





PE Spot Prices Down; More Contract Price Reductions Likely To Surface

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. November 2014

Though not directly confirmed, industry sources indicate that at least one other PE supplier, Westlake Chemicals, Houston, is offering a 3ȼ/lb November contract price reduction, joining Nova Chemicals, Calgary, Alberta (U.S. office in Moon Township, Penn.), in putting into effect the first price reduction in two years.


As previously reported, since the Nov. 2012, 2ȼ/lb decrease, PE prices have moved up 21ȼ/lb—a period during which PE suppliers have enjoyed hefty profit margins. Industry sources, such as Mike Burns, v.p. for PE at purchasing consultants Resin Technology, Inc., has stressed that North American PE suppliers will need to address the global price that is set by the price of oil and make downward adjustments, citing the quickly changed PE market dynamics that surfaced from the unexpected drop in oil and naphtha prices,


Meanwhile, Michael Greenberg, CEO of The Plastics Exchange, reports that the spot PE market has been pressured as availability for most grades swelled. “Asking prices in the Houston market continue to fall as suppliers chase the elusive export order. While much of this surplus material will move offshore, noting such a large delta between Houston and domestic prices, some resin will surely stick around the U.S.” Greenberg, for one, thinks that other PE suppliers will come through with domestic contract price reductions before long, in view of changing market fundamentals and the very strong likelihood of continued weakness.


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.










Bayer Exploring Use of CO2 to Make Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. November 2014

As part of its Dream Polymers research project launched in 2009, Bayer MaterialScience researchers have been exploring the use of CO2 as a new raw material for making plastics, among other uses.  More recently they have succeeded in significantly reducing the need for petroleum in a polyurethane foam application.


Moreover, researchers have demonstrated that the new process also extends the range of plastics that CO2 can be used to produce, according to project manager Christoph Gurtler. “For example, it is now possible to manufacture thermoplastic polyurethanes, films and casting elastomers in this way…for applications such as automotive interiors, cable sheathing and sporting goods such as ski boots,” he says.


The use of CO2 in this process is twofold. First, the greenhouse gas in incorporated directly into a new kind of precursor (polyoxymethylene polycarbonate polyol), replacing 20% of the petroleum. Second, it is used indirectly, producing a chemical that is incorporated into the precursor for a further 20% savings in petroleum. According to Gurtler, the technology has been used to produce a key component (the polyol) for high-quality polyurethane foam for mattresses which is near commercialization. “The proportion of petroleum in this chemical is 80%. We have now succeeded in reducing the petroleum content for making plastics to just 60%,” he says. 


This long-range Dream Polymers research project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education & Research, as well as the CAT Catalytic Center, Leibniz Institute for Catalysis, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology. 


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.


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