In automotive seating, major changes continue, but not all of those are foam innovations. Specifically, consumers continue to want greater support and temperature regulation which can be solved through a combination of technologies.
In the automotive sector, light weighting has given rise to a greater need for adhesives and sealants to solve many problems of automotive design. Urethane sealants are used in increasingly to reduce noise and vibration and harshness and also to bond dissimilar materials.
Primary areas where adhesives are used in automotive in the floor, dash panel, roof, doors, and, even breaks. The introduction of lighter, thinner materials and dissimilar materials such as composites and metals require more noise and vibration dampening and are more demanding adhesive applications. Foam and other barriers are replacing traditional approaches such as fibre.
In addition, structural adhesives are enabling light weighting and dissimilar material bonding. They are used because they strength and rigidity at elevated temperatures. They also have increased the static and dynamic stiffness which allows for improved safety, crashworthiness and performance.
The case for CASE
Flooring, running tracks, playgrounds, and protective coating are CASE applications for polyurethane. Myriads of niche applications help polyurethanes grow into more and more innovative subsectors.
Case products account for approximately 30 percent of polyurethane consumed in Europe, but only 20 percent in North America. There is plenty of growth for us to see here as we continue to invent and innovate and learn from the European users. In the European case market, chemical suppliers such as Dow, BASF, Covestro, and Huntsman have been involved in a number of systems house acquisitions. These have spurred further growth and investment in technology.
Specific drivers within the case market are ongoing preference for environmentally sustainable products. Additionally, increased regulations present opportunities in some applications.
Spray foam insulation is a very strong in the North American market. It is increasingly replacing traditional insulation in construction and now accounts in the US for over 40% of the market.
The industry drivers which have created this fast-growing business for us are: new residential construction; residential remodeling; and, replacing other insulating materials like fiberglass and cellulose.
In addition, the materials have advantageous cost-in-use performance especially, the water-blown polyurethane spray foam. This has better cost-in-performance than almost any other material and means it will keep growing in the insulation market.
One of the largest challenges we have as an industry is the shortage of toluene diisocyanate.
A tale of mishaps
Through a series of mishaps in our industry, and because the newer plants are of very high scale, production has been disrupted. This had a big effect in terms of availability and pricing. Shortages which were supposed to last 2-3 months have lasted 18 months. To some degree, these shortages have dampened growth in some segments.
Major operating issues, and the delayed start-up of both Sadara and the BASF plant in Germany have really created the shortages. We do feel that new capacity will come on stream and that this will gradually correct itself, barring other unforeseen surprises.
For MDI the trend is similar to TDI. With new capacity coming on stream in 2019 and the demand growth for MDI-based polyurethanes far exceeding that of TDI. There is a constant need for new capacity. The suppliers understand this, and building bigger, better plants, more efficient plants that will help our industry as we have the feedstock to continue to grow around the world.