Nylon 6/6 resin has become hard to get in markets around the world.
Tight supplies of adiponitrile (ADN) feedstock have caused supplies of nylon 6/6 resin to become tight as well, according to market sources contacted recently by Plastics News.
Resin market tightness in turn has led to higher prices for nylon 6/6, with some market sources citing increases of more than 50 percent — and as much as 80 cents per pound — in the last 18 months. Additional price increases were announced for July 1.
An executive with an Ohio-based injection molder summed up the nylon 6/6 situation.
"The market is tight all over and pricing is nuts," he said.
Rick Tizzard, sourcing director at distribution firm M. Holland Co. in Northbrook, Ill., added that the nylon 6/6 market "is balanced on the edge of a knife right now."
"Automotive companies will feel the [nylon 6/6] pinch the most, because there are so many applications there," he said, "but these materials are specified for those applications, and it takes time to get a replacement material specified."
In some cases, Tizzard added, nylon 6/6 users are trying to use nylon 6 instead. "Even if 5-10 percent [of nylon 6/6 users] did that, it would alleviate some pressure," he said.
"At this time, we are able to secure enough supply to cover our normal customer demand," added Shawn Williams, plastics senior vice president with distributor Nexeo Solutions in The Woodlands, Texas. "But we foresee the market continuing to get tighter before it gets better."
Distributors are even having difficulty sourcing wide-spec or reprocessed grades of nylon 6/6, according to Michael Bernich, producer sourcing vice president with distribution firm Jamplast Inc. in Ellisville, Mo. In some cases, Jamplast has offered customers biobased plastics as a replacement, he added.
Executives at nylon 6/6 makers Ascend Performance Materials and DowDuPont Co. said their firms are doing what they can in a tight market.
Phil McDivitt, CEO at Houston-based Ascend, said the tightness is being caused by several factors, including underlying growth in major end uses of nylon 6/6 such as automotive, industrial fiber and cable ties. Demand in these areas is growing more than 3 percent annually, with growth in a more specified product like airbags checking in at 6-8 percent.
McDivitt added in an interview with Plastics News that for several years, financial results in the ADN market weren't at a sufficient level to support investment. "If you look at the [ADN] industry, there was a lack of adequate returns for an extended period of time," he said. "As a result, there was a delay in making investments."
Several market sources also cited ADN production problems at the Butachemie joint venture between Invista and BASF SE in Ottmarsheim, Germany, as having an impact on the nylon 6/6 market. That site ranks as the world's largest ADN production unit.
In late 2017 and early 2018, Ascend added 110 million pounds of ADN capacity at its plant in Decatur, Ala. The firm plans to add almost 90 million pounds by the end of the year and almost 400 million more pounds by 2022.
"With a large site and our operational knowledge, we can add capacity in a modular fashion," McDivitt said. "Our strategy continues to be to expand in Decatur."