Anyone who's writing off the cellulosics market has not talked to James Potente at Eastman Chemical Co.
``Between 80 [million] and 100 million pounds of cellulosics goes into plastic applications every year,'' said Potente, business market manager for engineering and specialty plastics. ``It's a fairly mature market, but there's a lot of life left.''
That life is allowing the venerable material to continue to compete against ABS, acrylic and polycarbonate in applications ranging from screwdriver handles to playing-card coatings to frames for sunglasses and safety goggles.
In some applications, cellulosics function as a ``clear wood'' that can withstand lathes, nails and other intense processing. The organic-based material typically is made from cotton, but can be made from corn stalks or old newspapers, Potente said in an interview at Eastman's Kingsport headquarters.
In an unusual twist, the growing popularity of baking-soda-based toothpaste has created an opportunity to sell chemical-resistant cellulosics to toothbrush makers. Cellulosics' clarity and colorability also are allowing it to keep pace with the growing global popularity of clear toothbrushes, Potente said.
Colgate, which holds almost 25 percent of the world toothbrush market, and smaller player Mentadent each recently selected Eastman's Tenite-brand cellulosics for new toothbrush models because of its high gloss and clarity and its performance in chemical and physical testing.