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Solvay rolls out resins for mobile devices

By: Robert Grace

October 18, 2013

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY – The boom in smart mobile devices is driving materials development at Solvay Specialty Polymers USA LLC.

The Alpharetta, Ga.-based unit of Belgium's Solvay Group (Hall 6/C61) rolled out some new and revamped series of resins targeting different segments of that growing market at K 2013.

The Kalix 3000 high-performance polyamide (HPPA) series is based on an entirely new molecule, according to Tom Wood, senior vice president and head of crystalline polymers for the firm. It is Solvay SP's first line of bio-based, amorphous polyphthalamides (PPA). One of the key raw materials for the series is a renewably sourced material from sister company Solvay Novecare.

Wood referred to the new resin as "homegrown," noting it was developed in India, scaled up at the company's research and development site in Alpharetta, and is being compounded in Changshu, China. The 3000 base material is to be made in Augusta, Ga. The new line was born out of one the monomers that came to Solvay as part of its 2012 acquisition of France's Rhodia SA, he said.

"The launch of the industry's first bio-based amorphous PPA is a major breakthrough," Wood said, "because it extends the performance profile of bio-based polyamides."

The two new grades — Kalix 3850 and Kalix 3950 — are said to provide less warp, reduced shrinkage and low to no flash. This improved processability results in tighter dimensional tolerances and more cost-effective manufacturing due to fewer secondary operations such as deflashing.

The Kalix 2000 series is a family of bio-sourced, semi-crystalline grades that is based on existing polyamide 6.10 technology, but which offers improved impact resistance. The new grades of Kalix 2855 and Kalix 2955 provide strong mechanical properties, high impact, exceptional surface finish, and low moisture absorption, according to Solvay SP. These two compounded grades consist of 27 percent renewable content.

Meanwhile, the company also introduced the halogen-free, flame-retardant Kalix HPPA 5000 series. The first grade — Kalix 5950 HFFR — extends Solvay's HFFR nylon portfolio. The new material is said to be particularly suited for injection molding larger structural components used in laptops and tablets that require strength, rigidity and exceptional dimensional stability.

Simply put, Wood said in an Oct. 16 interview on his firm's K stand, the mobile electronics industry's goals for its resins are "stiff and pretty."

"In the past five years," Wood said, "there has been a bit of renaissance in the larger polyamide world," with Solvay and other firms developing new nylon materials to meet this high-growth sector of telecommunications and personal electronics. However, he noted, "more materials are created than are commercialized."

Additionally, just in the past few years, the smart-device makers are starting to demand renewable content for the high-visibility consumer products.

When asked about pricing, Wood said the new grades would likely cost between 8 and 15 euros per kilo.

"These are specialty polymers," he said; "we are not competing in the midrange."