U.S. automotive OEMs, suppliers meet on PA-12 shortage

On April 17, U.S. automotive OEMs and suppliers met in Detroit to discuss their response to the block on the production of cyclododecatriene or CDT, a vital ingredient in the manufacture of PA-12, an essential resin used in automotive components, according to information from IHS Global Insight Perspective posted on the web site of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA). The short fall comes following an explosion at the Evonik plant in Marl, Germany, that makes the chemical.

According to IHS Global Insight Perspective, “the implications of the shortfall in global production of CDT are still being digested but the major meeting in Detroit on April 17 between the OEMs and the suppliers showed that the industry is doing its best to respond to the problem and is taking a cohesive approach to the issue.”  

While the OEMs and suppliers may be taking a “co-operative approach to dealing with the crisis, the statement released after the meeting would indicate that their options in tackling the crisis may be somewhat limited,” said the IHS report on the meeting. “As such, the potential for significant disruption to the global automotive production network cannot be ruled out at this stage.”

According to the OESA, the group met under the umbrella of the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), which then released the following statement:

“It is now clear that a significant portion of the global production capacity of PA-12 (nylon 12) has bee compromised. In the automotive industry, PA-12 is used pervasively in coatings and connector applications for fuel handling and braking systems. These are highly engineered products produced via very complex manufacturing processes.

“Our objectives at today’s summit were threefold: 1) Help the industry understand  and quantify the current state of global PA-12 inventories and production capacities. 2) Collaboratively brainstorm options to strategically extend current PA-12 capacities and/or identify alternative materials or designs to offset projected capacity shortfall. 3) Identify/recruit the necessary industry resources required to technically vet, test and approve such options."

The AIAG said it will host follow-up meetings over the next few weeks to further discuss limited PA-12 availability in order to mitigate the impact of shortfalls on both component and vehicle production. It appears, noted the IHS Global Insight Perspective report, that this is a developing situation with the full implications of this CDT shortfall “yet to be understood.” There is little doubt however, that the situation is “serious and has no easy or quick fix.”

Michael Robinet of IHS Automotive commented at the meeting that if “alternative suitable materials already existed, they would already be in widespread use and there would be no discussion of a crisis. How easy it will be to find an alternative resin that does not use CDT is open to some conjecture. Given the component testing and approval processes employed by the OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, it is unlikely to be the work of a moment to find or develop a substitutable alternative material.”

DuPont spokesperson Carole Davies told PlasticsToday that the automotive industry could consider Polyphthalamide (PPA) products as a potential replacement. Davies said, “We’re working very closely with our customers to understand the issue and where we have materials that can help. While we don’t manufacture or use PA-12 polymers, we understand there is a potential for shortages in critical automotive components. There are a number of solutions that automakers are looking at. We are working with industry associations and with customers to determine the magnitude of the shortage and whether there are alternative materials that can be used to help manufacture these components.”

According the IHS report, the mood at the AIAG meeting “was extremely serious and there was significant concern over the potential for production disruptions in the component industry, with obvious knock-on effects for the OEMs. One issue faced by the industry is that the material is not just used exclusively by the automotive sector," which means that sector will be in competition with other industries for the material.

DuPont’s Davies added, “The magnitude of the reported shortage will require us to collaborate closely throughout the supply chain to quickly qualify alternative materials to manufacture these components—there likely won’t be a ‘one-answer-fits-all’ solution. DuPont Performance Polymers has been working with several customers on alternatives for PA-12, including specialty resins, in fuel and brake systems. Materials such as these may help alleviate some of the pressure due to the PA-12 shortage. These materials include—but aren’t limited to Zytel nylon, Hytrel TPC-ET, Zytel HTN PPA and ‘specialty nylons’ including 612, 610, 1010.”

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