AKRON, OHIO — Merquinsa Mercados Químicos SL (Booth S418) will be covering NPE 2006 with a brand-new Pearlcoat.
The Spanish maker of thermoplastic polyurethanes will debut the Activa line of its Pearlcoat-brand products at the event, June 19-23 in Chicago. The new resins are aimed at uses in fabric and textile coating, North American business manager Dennis Lauzon said during a recent interview at Plastics News' office in Akron.
The materials also are expected to be used in conveyor belts in airports and other locations. The new products' anti-static and flame-retardant qualities make them suitable for luggage handling, Lauzon said.
Activa's toughness also allows users to save by eliminating a metal layer or a second fabric layer. Its antimicrobial performance also lends itself to food processing and grain handling, as well as auto assembly.
“Food packaging is getting more intense all the time,” Lauzon said. “And Activa can help processors keep their plants clean.”
Other potential applications for the new material are in protective clothing, such as safety aprons, and in material for inflatable products, such as life jackets and rafts. In addition to pellets, the Activa grades soon may be available in flake, powder or micropellet form.
Barcelona, Spain-based Merquinsa also is launching its first-ever products aimed at the auto market. New aromatic TPU grades can find uses in gearshift knobs and spring insulators, Lauzon said. These products will be commercialized by the end of the year.
The company also plans to add about 14 million pounds of capacity in Barcelona — its only production site — by mid-2007. Merquinsa's U.S. sales grew at a double-digit rate in 2005 and are expected to do so again in 2006.
“Some of our competitors are run by large chemical companies that don't have the ability or mind-set to specialize like we do,” Lauzon said. “We can turn around lab-scale amounts of a new product in six weeks.”
Lauzon, who joined Merquinsa in 2004 after a 15-year career with Dow Chemical Co., added that suppliers of TPU and other specialty plastics “can still get paid for technology” in North America because of the region's emphasis on specialization. North America now accounts for about 30 percent of Merquinsa's elastomer TPU sales.
Moving beyond Spain, Lauzon said a possible location in Asia “is still on [Merquinsa's] radar screen,” but he added that a production site in North America is unlikely. However, he said there's still a possibility of Merquinsa expanding its research and development efforts in North America. The firm already operates a technical center in Seabrook, N.H.
Merquinsa also continues to work with compounder PolyOne Corp. of Avon Lake, Ohio, to develop and market halogen-free, flame-retardant TPUs. The first such products were commercialized last year.
Less than half of Merquinsa's annual sales are in elastomer TPUs. The remainder is in TPUs for the adhesives market. Annual sales at the 42-year-old firm are estimated at $50 million.