The long road toward commercialization is starting to pay off for Atofina Petrochemicals Inc.'s line of syndiotactic polypropylene resins.
Houston-based Atofina launched production of the metallocene-based Finaplas-brand PP resin in February at its La Porte, Texas, plant. First-year production is expected to reach as high as 25 million pounds, according to PP market development manager David Anderson.
Four commercial grades of Finaplas currently are available, with four more in development and being sampled by customers. Atofina had been working on the project since the early 1990s, searching for a niche for the material's clarity, gloss and shrinkage performance, Anderson said March 22 in Houston.
The material's main commercial application for now is in shrink-film packaging, where its traits give bottle designers the ability to design unique shapes, knowing that syndiotactic PP film can contour itself to the finished product, he added.
Hot-melt adhesives could be next on the commercial horizon for Finaplas, in uses such as diaper tabs and tapes and closures. Beyond that, opportunities exist in injection molded durables such as car bumpers and components.
Although defined as a PP, the syndiotactic material ``is practically an engineering resin'' that can compete with polycarbonate, acrylic, ABS and polystyrene blends, Anderson said.
Priced in the neighborhood of $1.40 per pound, Anderson said Finaplas ``is going after areas where other [engineering resins] are overengineered for the application.''
Finaplas' decade-long journey is a sign of Atofina's commitment to research and development, even if a product does not supply immediate dividends, Anderson said.
``Making a commitment in R&D and marketing is the direction you need to go to continuously turn a profit,'' said Anderson. ``When you have some key customers interested in the project almost from day one, management listens.''