DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Nov. 5, 4:20 p.m. EST) — Crompton Corp.'s OSi Specialties unit revealed at the K show that earlier this year it quietly terminated patent litigation with Constab GmbH, and that the two rivals signed a global licensing technology pact to promote development of dry silane cross-linkers for polyolefins.
The moves should help accelerate the adoption of that cross-linking method in pipe applications, according to Martin Storb, global business manager of thermoplastics for OSi, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
In an interview at K 2001 in Dusseldorf, Storb said the legal quarrel with Constab pre-dated his joining OSi's thermoplastics group a couple of years ago. Both firms separately had been working on silane cross-linking technology. He said OSi — the former Union Carbide organosilicones group — sought to convert liquid silanes into a dry, pellet form to make the material easier for processors to use. Ruthen, Germany-based Constab, meanwhile, was pursuing technology that would allow for in-line mixing of the silanes, he said.
“We felt that Constab's work was covered by our prior-art patent,” Storb said. “They disagreed.”
The matter was exacerbated when some OSi employees left to join Constab, and the case ended up in court last April, he said.
“We sat down a year or so ago to try to work it out,” Storb said, and the two sides agreed this summer to bury the hatchet. The agreement covers Crompton's XL-PEarl product range and Constab's Spherisil range.
By cross-licensing their two technologies, the companies “will speed up the global market introduction of dry silane masterbatches in hot-water and gas pipes,” according to a statement released by Crompton. It added that the firms, working jointly, will build on the market presence that Constab has developed with silane-containing polymers and masterbatches, while also exploiting Crompton's novel process for making organofunctional silanes.
The cross-linking of PEs, or PEX, also can be achieved by using peroxides or irradiation, but Storb maintains that dry silanes offer greater processing flexibility and higher line output than those competitive methods. Applications exist in wire and cable coatings, but pipe offers the biggest growth potential.
“We see China and the U.S. as big markets [for silane cross-linked PE pipe]. This settlement should open the door to growing this technology,” he said.
China is experiencing double-digit growth in PE pipe each year, driven by its increasing use in under-floor heating pipes, district heating systems and gas-distribution systems.