BASF Corp. is test marketing higher-performance grades of thermoplastic polyurethane for the North American automotive market.
The new grades of BASF's Elastollan-brand TPU offer higher temperature performance while retaining softness, according to product manager Stephane Morin. They also have higher compression-set resistance than previous products.
The materials were commercialized in Europe late last year and are being made at a BASF plant in LemfÃ¶rde, Germany.
In the film market, BASF plans to commercialize a low-tackiness TPU grade - without a lubricant package - in North America by the end of May. The grade is being produced in Wyandotte, Mich.
BASF and other TPU manufacturers continue to seek price hikes because of sharp price jumps in benzene feedstock.
Morin said the company was successful with ``more than half'' of a 15 cent-per-pound hike announced Aug. 1.
The company is seeking an additional 8 percent increase for May 1.
``We're dealing not only with raw materials, but with higher costs for transportation and energy,'' Morin said. ``We have no other way to cover these increases than to raise prices.''
In spite of the benzene challenge, Morin said the North American TPU market is on track for 6-8 percent growth in 2005.
That's after the market bounced back from a weak 2003 with 12 percent growth in 2004, thanks to gains in wire and cable and film. At BASF, the 2004 TPU growth rate was 14 percent.
BASF Corp., based in Florham Park, N.J., is the North American arm of chemicals giant BASF AG of Ludwigshafen, Germany.