AKRON, OHIO (April 27, 12:20 p.m. ET) — More material suppliers are lining up with alternatives in the face of the looming nylon 12 resin shortage.
Ticona Engineering Polymers' acetal and polyphenylene sulfide resins already are used in fuel applications and other automotive components, officials with the firm said.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook,” General Manager Michael Stubblefield said in an April 27 phone interview. “We already had been testing out materials in some applications [where nylon 12 is used]. We already thought our materials provided more value, and this situation [with nylon 12] might help some processors overcome the inertia of making a new material choice.”
The global nylon 12 market is expected to be in short supply after a fatal fire and explosion on March 31 knocked out a plant making nylon 12 feedstock cyclododecatriene (CDT) in Marl, Germany. Two workers were killed in the accident at the Evonik Industries AG plant.
Essen, Germany-based Evonik is the only one of four global nylon 12 makers that was back-integrated into CDT. The other three — Arkema Group, Ube Industries Ltd. and EMS-Grivory — each bought CDT from Evonik, Invista or BASF SE.
In substituting a Ticona acetal or PPS for nylon 12, a molder “might face some changes, depending on conditions,” Stubblefield said, but he pointed out that his firm already has extensive experience with fuel-related auto uses. Ticona also recently commercialized a new grade of acetal with improved flexibility, which would allow it to better compete with nylon 12 in fuel pump applications.
Acetal and PPS each also typically cost less than nylon 12, but Stubblefield said automotive customers don't just look at a material on a cost-per-pound basis, but consider total system cost. Ticona produces acetal at plants in Bishop, Texas, and in Frankfurt; and PPS at a site in Wilmington, N.C. Dallas-based Ticona is a unit of Celanese Corp.
Rhodia Engineering Plastics also is offering its Technyl eXten-brand nylon 6/10 resins as “an immediate drop-in solution” for replacing nylon 12, officials said April 27. They added in a news release that the material brings performance advantages and improved economics vs. nylon 12 and is available for use in tubing applications.
“For many existing nylon 12 applications, we bring a true drop-in solution that will do the job,” said Alan Dubin, business development and technical service manager for Rhodia's North American operations in Cranbury, N.J. “That's more important than ever as [nylon 12] supplies continue to tighten.”
Evansville, Ind.-based DSM Engineering Plastics Inc. — another global materials firm — “has a range of high-performance engineering plastics suitable for both short- and long-term replacement of nylon 12,” officials said.
DSM materials that can fill in for nylon 12 include Arnitel-brand copolyester and EcoPaxx-brand nylon 4/10. Arnitel “offers a proven, viable solution for tubes and hoses, with a performance that is actually superior” to nylon 12, according to DSM. EcoPaxx – which has some bio-based content – “can be considered as an alternative material” to nylon 12 in connectors for fuel lines, they added.
Officials with plastics and chemicals giant DuPont Co. also clarified the firm's position on nylon 12 replacements. A DuPont spokeswoman said that its Zytel-brand specialty nylons 6/10, 6/12 and 10/10 would better serve as nylon 12 replacements that their 6/6 nylon resins would.
DuPont's 6/10, 6/12 and 10/10 nylon grades all are based on long-chain technology and offer varying degrees of flexibility balanced with chemical resistance, which makes them potential replacements for nylon 12 in critical fuel- and brake-line applications, she said. A number of these products are based on renewable content from castor oil as well.
Many Zytel nylon specialty grades are commercial today in applications that typically rely on nylon 12. In the auto market, Fiat is using Zytel RS 10/10 nylon in biodiesel fuel lines. The material replaced nylon 12 in that application, she said.
“DuPont was aggressively developing nylon 12 alternatives prior to the shortage related to the fire at Evonik and plans to bring additional products to the market in the coming year,” she said. DuPont is based in Wilmington, Del.
At Autodesk Inc., an engineering and design software firm in San Rafael, Calif., that works with the auto market, the firm “has been flooded with phone calls” to get various nylon 6/10 and 6/11 blends fully tested and added to the firm's material library, said plastics labs project specialist Beth Dockstater, in a recent blog entry on the firm's website.
In the same entry, Moldflow technical expert Jeff Higgins described the nylon 12 situation as “a freak tsunami hitting every shore.”
“This doesn't just hurt the Tier 1 or Tier 3 suppliers,” Higgins said. “Every customer meeting I've had this week has been more of an emergency summit, than a typical meeting.”