Bayer MaterialScience LLC had a ball at NPE 2006.
To be precise, they had an Adidas Teamgeist-brand soccer ball, the one that's being used in this year's World Cup and one that uses polyurethane and other plastics made by Bayer.
The ball is covered with swooping shapes described as propellers and turbines, a departure from the pentagon and hexagon shapes that cover most traditional soccer balls.
The shapes ``make the ball go a lot truer and faster,'' said Robert Kumpf, vice president of future business for Pittsburgh-based Bayer. Both Bayer and its Bayer MaterialScience AG parent firm are units of global chemical giant Bayer AG of Leverkusen, Germany.
The ball was a source of early controversy, as goalkeepers believed its slick surface and unpredictability would lead to easy scoring chances. But a Bayer official pointed out that many of this year's matches have been low-scoring, in spite of being played with the new ball.
At NPE 2006, Bayer also showcased the zaZen, a concept car produced by design firm Rinspeed Inc. of Zumikon, Switzerland. The vehicle features a contoured single-section roof dome made of polycarbonate. The dome is illuminated by a third brake to create a holographic effect.
The zaZen's PC dome design ``would be difficult, if not impossible, to do in glass,'' Kumpf said.
The zaZen at NPE also featured seats made of PC and filled with a PU-based gel. The vehicle has a top speed of almost 300 mph and can accelerate from zero to 100 mph in less than five seconds.
Elsewhere at Bayer, officials are expecting sales growth of 6-10 percent this year, both in North America and worldwide, for its Makrolon-brand PC. The firm is seeing strong growth in the automotive and food-storage container markets, said North American PC business head Rainer Schorr. The optical-media market also has shown surprising durability.
``When we saw the iPod, we thought that was the end of the [CD] industry,'' he said. ``But it hasn't been. People who use iPods say they're buying more CDs than ever.''
In North America, Bayer has total capacity of almost 5 billion pounds and major plastic products here include PC, polyurethane and thermoplastic PU. In mid-2004, Bayer spun off its ABS unit and other specialty chemical businesses into a separate company, Lanxess AG.
Global sales grew 24 percent in 2005 to 10.7 billion euros ($12.9 billion) while pretax profit mushroomed 110 percent to 1.4 billion euros ($1.7 billion). The firm got off to a good start in 2006, with first-quarter sales and pretax profit each up 11 percent and sales volume in pounds up 8 percent.
``In this global market, we need to be the low-cost producer in order to be competitive,'' said Bayer MaterialScience AG management board member Ian Paterson.
The firm spent $400 million on research and development in 2005, employing 1,700 on those projects. Products less than 5 years old make up 20 percent of sales for Bayer MaterialScience, and its R&D staff averages one patent filing per workday.
Other new products BMS spotlighted at NPE were:
* Baytron conductive polymer for electronic/electrical uses.
* Baytube-brand multiwall carbon nanotubes for electrical and thermal conductivity and tensile strength. Sample quantities are in production. Blended with plastics in uses such as hockey sticks, they can increase flexibility and puck speed, the firm said.
* Makrofol PC film, which can provide color stability in medical equipment during sterilization.
* A new medical grade of Texin polyether-based TPU, offering moderate stiffness and, according to Bayer, superior toughness.
* A new biocompatible grade of Makrolon PC for medical uses.
* Fantasia color special effects for food containers, furniture, CDs and other products.
* Artwalk PU floor coatings for functional and design applications.