Bayer Corp. (Booth S154) is trumpeting material advances in the data storage, automotive and plastic colorant markets for NPE 2000. Pittsburgh-based Bayer, a unit of Bayer AG of Leverkeusen, Germany, ranks as one of the world's largest engineering resins makers. The firm also provides 37 percent of plastics to the global optical-media industry, the most of any supplier, according to optical memory industry manager Ramesh Pisipati.
Recently, Bayer has made improvements to the optical-grade polycarbonate it produces in Baytown, Texas. New PC grades for the digital versatile disc market offer higher viscosity and smaller pits when molded, allowing for easier flow and increased data storage. A $2 million DVD lab in Pittsburgh also is under development.
Bayer has adapted as the industry's memory demands have skyrocketed. Early discs introduced in the 1980s were 1.2 millimeters thick and offered only 680 megabytes of memory. By comparison, current DVD-5s feature two PC layers, each only 0.6mm thick and with 4.7 gigabytes of memory.
DVD-9s, under development, will offer two layers that can be read simultaenously, each with memory of 8.5 gigs.
While the CD market is maturing — and being threatened by such factors as copying of computer-based MP3 files — the CD-ROM market still is growing, and recordable CDs are experiencing very strong growth, said Pisipati. Even the MP3 issue could create an opportunity for Bayer, he added.
"MP3 may be cannibalizing pre-existing audio CDs, but you have to sell [recordable CDs] to store the MP3 files on, so you won't crash your hard drive," he said.
The auto market is using Bayer nylon resins in under-the-hood applications, including engine covers and air-intake systems, according to technology and technical services director Mark Witman. Most recently, a 50 percent glass-filled Bayer nylon was used in air-intake systems for the 2000 Mercedes A-class line.
Bayer's thermoplastic polyurethanes also are making inroads into instrument panel skins, where TPU is being looked at as a PVC replacement. Bayer TPUs are used in the panel skins for the 2000 DaimlerChrysler LH and have been in the Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde since 1998.
"OEMs want 10-year [ultraviolet-light] resistance, and PVC can crack," Witman said. "We can also eliminate the need for an air-bag door, since the bag can be deployed through the [TPU] skin."
Additionally, Bayer's Apec-brand high-heat PC is being used in fog lamps and headlamps on the 1999 Dodge Ram pickup truck, marking the first use of a headlamp with clear-lens reflector optics on a domestic light-duty truck, officials said.
In the color world, Bayer is installing equipment at its Charleston, S.C., plant to produce a proprietary line of low-dusting pigments in microgranule form. The microgranules are compatible with most commodity and engineering resins and can offer loadings as high as 50 percent in polypropylene.
The microgranules also offer better dispersibility and good flow, according to plastic colorants technical manager James Paul.
"We're not necessarily promoting higher loadings, we're looking for better process speeds," Paul said.
The new materials — available in magenta, violet, red, blue, yellow and maroon — primarily will be sold to compounders and resin makers needing pre-color. Bayer colorants end up in many toys made by Lego and Fisher-Price, as well as automotive, bottle and power-tool products.
Color consistency also should be improved through the new technology.
"Black & Decker wants the same color here as in Sao Paulo [Brazil] and Taiwan," Paul said.
Bayer AG's global sales were about $29.1 billion in 1999, including $8.9 billion from Bayer Corp. Globally, Bayer's plastics unit generated sales of about $3 billion, while its PU business brought in sales of $2.3 billion.