Dow Aims New Materials Lines At Non-traditional Markets

Last December, the Polyolefins & Elastomers Business Group of Dow Chemical Co. formed a specialties market management team to broaden penetration of non-traditional markets. The first fruits of that effort were announced on April 14, when the Polyolefins & Elastomers (PO&E) Group debuted Amplify Functional Polymers, three lines that expand Dow's presence in compounding, thermoplastic powder coatings, and adhesives and tielayers.

The products capitalize on Dow's expertise and materials depth in polyolefins and on its innovations in polymer design and molecular architecture, says Gloria Cotton, market development manager for the specialties market team, which is based in Houston, tx. Functional polymers, in this case, denote polyolefins engineered for specific end-uses. The products also utilize materials science and process technologies gained from the acquisition of Union Carbide several years ago. The Amplify line is targeted at value applications where their properties give end-users requisite performance, economy from their use of polyolefins, and thus a means of differentiating their products from competitors.

The three grades in the Amplify line include:

• EA 100 series ethylene-ethyl acrylate copolymers, for use in polymer modification, adhesives and tielayers, and as compatibilizers and textile binders. The copolymers are easy to process, combine a high degree of toughness and flexibility, and achieve functional adhesion with a range of substrates, notably polyolefins, polyesters, polycarbonate, polyvinylidene chloride, metal, glass, foil, and cellulose. The resins have inherent pigment retention and are thus claimed ideal for applications that are difficult to color or which demand colorfastness. They are also compatible with other polyolefins for blending.

• GR 200 series resins, comprising maleic anhydride-grafted polymers (added in a reactive extrusion process post-reactor), are for use as adhesives and tielayers in conventional food packaging and in pipe coatings. Grades can also be used in thermoplastic powder coatings, impact modification and modulus control, and with glass-filled composites. The grafted polymers are tough and flexible, and adhere to nylon, evoh, polyolefins, polyester, polycarbonate, metal, glass, foil, and cellulose.

• VA 400 series, made up of ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymers, also achieve a balance of toughness and flexibility, and outperform low-density polyethylene in low-temperature sealability, clarity, and flex. The grades can be used in polymer modification, laminating adhesives, tielayers, compatibilizers, and binders. They are also claimed to be easy to process, and are formulated to adhere to polyolefins, polyester, glass, foil, and cellulose.

The goal of the PO&E Group, Cotton says, is to become the preferred supplier of polyolefin-based polymers to compounders, coaters, fabricators, and molders. To achieve this, Dow is committing resources to provide the technical expertise and support necessary to qualify the Amplify grades for a range of applications. "We want to develop a deep portfolio of functional polymers that meets the needs of emerging applications," she says. The PO&E Group will be targeting trends in product development that suit the use of its resins as well as discussing with processors where they want to go with their fabrication capabilities and how the group can help them.

Cotton stresses the multiple-use nature of the materials. While most have established markets, like packaging with the VA 400 series resins, their properties can also be applied to new applications. Among uses of the VA 400 series, for example, is as an impact modifier in compounding. And the fact that all the resins are based on polyolefins increases the potential economic benefit vìs-a-vìs competitive materials. The GR 200 series graft copolymers can have a 1 to 10% ratio of maleic anhydride to polyolefin, which yields the requisite properties for an application while maximizing economy with the use of polyolefin, she notes.

The PO&E Group is using ldpe, high-density pe, and flexomers (very-low-density pe) in the Amplify lines. Cotton says more types of polyolefins will be formulated in future grades, including, perhaps, polypropylene.

Amplify resins are produced at two sites in Texas, and are available worldwide, though the initial marketing push is in North America. Cotton says that resin pricing will depend on applications. "It's a value-driven product and will be priced accordingly."

Dow is not exhibiting at NPE next month, but will likely have representatives there to meet with current and potential customers.

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