Materials maker Styron LLC pulled back the curtain on eight new products at K 2010, with officials describing the new offerings as game-changing technologies and new grades.
The new products included:
* A customizable grade of Calibre-brand polycarbonate for light-emitting-diode lighting. The new grade is available in opalescent and tinted versions, and ultraviolet protection can be provided depending on the requirements of the end application. The material combines high light transmission comparable to acrylics with high melt flow, making it an ideal solution for LED lighting applications, officials said.
* CO2RE foaming technology for polystyrene packaging. The patented technology is aimed at helping the dairy packaging and food-service industries reduce raw material consumption in packaging.
The technology allows processors to produce PS sheet with a foamed core layer using physical blowing agents. Officials said that internal tests have shown significant total density reductions of as much as 20 percent, with the potential to reduce density even further. As a result, processors can use less raw material and energy to produce the packaging, while brand owners can benefit from a lower packaging waste disposable tax.
* A high-heat/high-flow PC/ABS blend, a high-flow/high-module PC/PET/ABS blend and a high-flow transparent PC, all for the TV enclosure market.
* Inspire-brand at-press thermoplastic olefin system for auto parts.
* Next-generation environmental stress-crack-resistant grade of high-impact PS for refrigerator liners.
* Branched Calibre grade for clear sheet.
To do innovation well, you have to be attached to the market, so you can match it up with your technical ability, Styron President and CEO Chris Pappas said in an interview at K 2010, held Oct. 27 to Nov. 3 in Dusseldorf. It's only through intimate relationships that you can drive technology quickly.
Styron was formed earlier this year when Dow Chemical Co. sold its styrenics business to Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital LLC for $1.6 billion. Styron had sales of $3.7 billion in 2009, with $2.2 billion coming from plastics.
The firm ranks as the world's largest PS maker with a 14 percent market share, and is in the process of establishing a world headquarters in Berwyn, Pa. It also owns a 50 percent stake in North American PS leader Americas Styrenics LLC, based in The Woodlands, Texas.
Bain purchased Styron because they felt the asset base and technology base and people were world class, Pappas said in the interview. The firm's immediate plans with Styron are to innovate and grow through organic growth or acquisition.
At a K 2010 press event he mentioned a possible return to the public arena for Styron but later he declined to offer specifics or identify any kind of timetable.
We're going to work on new products and grow organically and see what form and fashion the company takes, Pappas said. There are a number of factors that will affect that [public] decision.
The global PS market has gone through significant changes in the last half dozen years, he said. [Joint ventures] were formed and assets were taken out that weren't competitive. We're very comfortable with our position.
Current operating rates for PS production are in the low 90s in Europe, with Americas' operating rates in the mid to high 80s and Asian operating rates lower than that, Pappas said. He estimated that future North American PS growth rates will be at gross domestic product at best, with Asian rates checking in at 6-7 percent annually and Latin America somewhere in between the two.
The business is getting healthier with continued demand growth, he added. And the market is still very competitive. There's no lack of competitive intensity.
Although Pappas declined to offer specifics, he said Styron's operating results will be improved in 2010 and look like they will improve in 2011 as well.
Bain and Styron have come together with franchise capability, and we have the financial capability to go forward, he said. We're driven by strategic fit and value.