DuPont Dow Elastomers LLC has commercialized six new grades of its Engage-brand polyolefin elastomers since late 2003, and may have a seventh in place by the end of 2004.
The Wilmington, Del.-based joint venture between DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. fired up a 300 million-pound-per-year Engage expansion at its Plaquemine, La., site in July. The expansion already is running at nameplate capacity, according to Americas marketing manager Randy Stone.
One of the new Engage grades is moving the material into the blow molding realm, Stone said in a recent phone interview. The grade has 25 percent better melt strength than previous Engage materials, allowing it to be blended with polypropylene in blow molded parts for the automotive, marine and toy markets. In those applications, the Engage content can range from 10-30 percent.
Three other new Engage grades are extending the product's role in automotive bumpers and pillar posts, where it's being blended with thermoplastic olefin-based grades of PP in quantities of 20-30 percent. In those uses, Stone said, the new Engage offerings are competing with rubber-type materials by withstanding temperatures as low as minus 40° F.
One of the other new Engage grades can be blended in portions of 25-50 percent with styrenic block copolymers, to retain softness and provide cost savings of as much as 10 percent in soft-touch products such as grips and handles, Stone explained.
Moving forward, Stone said the seventh new grade - which has yet to be commercialized - could improve PP performance in automotive door trims and instrument panels.
All of the new materials are butene-based - as compared with DuPont Dow's traditional octene-based products - and are selling for 75-95 cents per pound.
DuPont Dow's volume in pounds grew by 20 percent in 2003. Stone said the firm expects to top that growth rate in 2004. Going back to late 2001, DuPont Dow's sales volumes will have grown 70-80 percent by the end of 2004, Stone said.
``We're still only 10 years into the product life cycle [with Engage],'' he added. ``We've got a good base in automotive, but we can still penetrate in footwear, toys and furniture.''