SHANGHAI — On an overcast spring morning in Shanghai, Frank Laganier, Asia-Pacific Director for Solvay Engineering Plastics, asked his audience at the Chinaplas media day what they saw as China's biggest challenge at the moment.
The responses were unanimous: pollution.
Naturally, Solvay's Engineering Plastics and Specialty Polymers business units focused on what they call innovative solutions for sustainable growth, as well as continued investments behind them, at this year's Chinaplas.
Solvay introduced its latest products that can help fight against pollution emissions by improving powertrain efficiency, increase lightweight performance, and optimize vehicle electrification.
Solvay Engineering Plastics released a new 40 percent glass-filled grade of its Sinterline nylon 6 powders, designed for rapid prototyping and low-volume series applications, especially in automotive under-the-hood components.
Sinterline delivers structural prototyping parts with the same properties as injection molded nylon 6 or nylon 6/6 components, therefore minimizing the need for pre-production tooling and speeding the way from design to market.
Starting in July, Solvay will open source MMI Technyl Design for automotive OEMs, in partnership with MSC software firm e-Xstream engineering. With an encrypted database of more than 7,600 files, the simulation service can accurately predict the performance of injection-molded parts, reduce testing time, and speed up lightweighting through metal replacement.
In the area of clean energy, Solvay launched two new film grades of Halar ethylene chlorotrifluoroethylene (ECTFE) that are specifically designed for front sheet applications for photovoltaic modules. Solvay is already a key supplier of Solef PVDF and Halar ECTFE for PV back sheets.
The company also launched new, patented Halar UV technology to deliver long-lasting UV blocking performance to meet the solar industry's 25-year performance life for PV modules.
In addition to new products, Solvay also continues to invest in production and research capacity in China, said Luke Du, general manager of Greater China & Southeast Asia, Solvay Specialty Polymers.
Solvay Specialty Polymers plans to start Tecnoflon FKM production in Changshu at the end of 2014 and to start PVDF production in Changshu in 2006.
Solvay Engineering Plastics plans to increase its compounding capacity in Shanghai by 25 percent in 2015, as the plant is nearing saturation.
The company's new research and innovation building in Shanghai combines Specialty Polymers and Engineering Plastics resources. Solvay Specialty Polymers is also launching new laboratories for color development and FKM applications.
Solvay Specialty Polymers has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Shanghai 3F New Material Co. Ltd. for a PTFE joint venture in Changshu.
Solvay overall reports 8.5 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) in domestic sales in China, with 2,900 employees at 17 sites and four research centers. Out of its 16 global business units, 13 are active in China, according to Du.
Asia Pacific accounts for 31 percent of Solvay's group net sales, and 38 percent of Solvay Engineering Plastics sales. Laganier predicts the latter number will grow to more than 40 percent in 2014.
“Half of our global capacity is in Asia. We have been producing in China for more than 30 years and are continuously increasing our presence,” he said. “We expanded beyond China — in India, Korea, and now we are back to expand in China.”