WILMINGTON, DEL. - Double-digit growth in demand for liquid crystal polymers has led producers to beef up capacity and form different relationships to keep the market supplied with resins. DuPont Engineering Polymers began commercial LCP resin production in September, re-entering a market it left in the 1980s.
In January, Hoechst Celanese Corp. and Amoco Polymers signed a worldwide marketing agreement that has Hoechst distributing Amoco's LCP resins and using them for new-product development.
While LCPs traditionally have been used in injection molding applications, Hoechst is eying the Amoco resins for extrusion.
DuPont's entry to the field provided a third source of LCPs and, although Hoechst and Amoco say they will remain competitors, industry analysts have speculated that Amoco may decide to take a back seat in the competition.
Clive K. Robertson, marketing planning manager for DuPont's LCP resin line, said in a June 6 interview at his company's headquarters in Wilmington that Du-Pont got back into the LCP market to broaden its engineering polymers portfolio.
DuPont is increasing LCP capacity incrementally throughout the world, while Hoechst debottlenecked its Shelby, N.C., production facility in 1992 and recently expanded its production facility in Fuji City, Japan.
Ray Dugas, sales and marketing manager for Hoechst's Vectra LCP resins, believes the strong de-mand and good outlook may attract other producers.
DuPont expects the market to grow nearly 20 percent a year for the next five years, Robertson said. Dugas also expects double-digit growth, but he was reluctant to be specific.
The growth is driven by high demand for connectors for electrical and electronic devices, especially surface-mount connectors, Robertson said. End products that incorporate the material include home and office computers, computer peripherals and consumer electronic products such as cellular telephones and electronic organizers.
LCPs are used in such devices because they have high strength in thin-wall applications, are heat-resistant and are easy to mold, Dugas said. Robertson added that new applications in automotive lighting and encapsulation of electronic parts also are expected to promote use of the resins.