DuPont Dow Elastomers has 300 million reasons to be optimistic about NPE 2003.
That's the capacity in pounds of a new plant in Plaquemine, La., that began making Engage-brand polyolefin elastomers in late May. At NPE, DuPont Dow - a Wilmington, Del.-based joint venture between DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. - will debut seven new grades of Engage.
All of the new grades are butene-based, compared to the octene-based grades DuPont Dow has put out since its formation in 1994.
``No one else in the market is making these [butene-based] products,'' DuPont Dow Americas marketing manager Randy Stone said in a recent telephone interview. ``These new grades will allow us to branch out into other applications. We needed the new capacity to expand in that way.''
The new grades are targeted at soft-grip consumer applications such as tool handles, and at automotive uses such as instrument panels, where replacements for PVC are being sought, Stone said.
Beyond those areas - where elastomeric materials are battling for market share - Stone said he sees opportunities in the construction market, where Engage can challenge ethylene propylene diene monomer and reactor-grade thermoplastic olefins by offering better welding ability in sheet roofing.
``There's still a lot of development work being done in auto interiors,'' he said. ``Differentiation is becoming more important there. We're early on in exploring the other areas, but they've got major potential.''
Foams and footwear also are attractive markets for DuPont Dow because of the high resiliency that Engage can offer vs. competing materials, Stone added.
The new butene-based grades will be comparable in price with octene products, selling for 75 to 95 cents per pound, he said.
DuPont Dow already operates 200 million pounds of Engage capacity in Freeport, Texas. The joint venture posted sales of about $1 billion last year.