CHICAGO (July 24, 3:30 p.m. EDT) — North American polystyrene leader Nova Chemicals Corp. is taking action to revive research and innovation in the PS field.
Calgary, Alberta-based Nova is expanding its PS labs in Calgary and Monaca, Pa. The firm also has installed a tandem foam line in Beaver Valley to develop new foam applications for its PS products.
Staffwise, new hires and technical personnel gained from Nova´s acquisitions of the styrenics business of Huntsman Corp. and the European PS business of Royal Dutch/Shell Group will double the size of Nova´s PS research staff by 2002.
"We need to inject the right level of research," Paul Boulier, vice president of technology for Nova´s styrenics division, said during an interview at NPE 2000 in Chicago.
Several industry analysts have criticized PS makers in recent years for a lack of technological advancements for the material, which ranked fourth among North American commodity plastics in 1999 with more than 6.2 billion pounds of material produced.
"The lack of polystyrene research has been a consequence of suppliers seeing their margins being compressed and scaling back on R&D funding when they´re not making money," Boulier said. "It´s time to stop that.
"At Nova, we´ve got an opportunity to reinvest in styrenics and tap the expertise of our olefins and polyolefins group."
Recent Nova efforts in new PS-related products include improved versions of its Zylar-brand styrenic copolymer and new applications for its Arcel-brand interpolymer.
Technology acquired from Huntsman has allowed Nova to color and customize the Zylar line in ways that previously couldn´t be done in the product´s five-year commercial history. New grades of Zylar, a PS/methylmethacrylate blend, can achieve densities 30 percent lower than polycarbonate, Boulier said.
The Arcel product line, acquired from Arco Chemical Co. in 1996, is a PS/polyethylene hybrid that is finding uses in packaging for high-end electronics for Internet applications. Packaging made with Arcel is stronger and more difficult to break, Boulier said.
"It looks a lot better if you open a box and the packaging is still in one piece," he added.
Zylar is produced in Indian Orchard, Mass., and compounded in Chesapeake, Va., while Arcel is produced in Monaca.