Zeon Chemicals LP of Louisville, Ky., plans to add lower durometer grades to its thermoplastic vulcanizate lineup in 2004.
Zeon began commercial production in February of Zeotherm-brand TPVs based on technology that it licensed from Advanced Elastomer Systems LP last year. Those products already are in use on some injection molded auto parts, and are being tested in high-temperature under-hood auto parts such as shaft seals, blow molded exhaust air ducts and in-board CVJ (constant velocity joint) boots, said Zeotherm business manager Brian Cail.
The lower durometer grades will expand the presence of Zeotherm in seal applications, Cail said by telephone Nov. 18.
Zeotherm TPVs differ from standards TPVs in that they are based on polyacrylate elastomers and nylon 6, rather than on the combination of polypropylene and ethylene propylene diene monomer that most TPVs are constructed from. This chemical makeup allows Zeotherm to provide greater heat and oil resistance than standard TPVs, according to Cail.
The materials can retain physical properties after 1,500 hours of exposure at 150° C. They also have a per-pound selling price that's quite a bit higher than standard TPVs.
``We're not looking at wide-scale replacement of polypropylene/EPDM TPVs,'' Cail said. ``Our product is meant as a performance upgrade. We believe the growth will be in these high-end, high-performance applications.''
The multiyear AES license covers only heat- and oil-resistant TPVs. AES, in Akron, Ohio, is North America's largest TPV maker.
Zeon also expects to launch two additional TPV families - one based on epichlorohydrine and another based on hydrogenated nitrile - in the next two years. Each of those new lines will contain several individual grades, Cail said.
Zeon, a division of Zeon Corp. of Tokyo, does most of its business in thermoset rubber production. The firm operates plants in Louisville; Hattiesburg, Miss.; and Bayport, Texas. Cail declined to say which of these locations is being used to make TPVs.
To date, Zeotherm TPV production has been limited to the United States, but Cail said the company might consider adding production at sites in Europe and Asia as well.
Zeon Chemicals, which employs 400, posted sales of about $200 million last year. Worldwide, Zeon Corp. had sales of $1.5 billion in 2002 while employing 2,800.