Already into its fiscal 2020 year, M. Holland (Northbrook, IL) is forging ahead with new investments and growing its global footprint. “Some of that is being driven by excess capacity and the need for responsible channels to market,” Dwight Morgan, Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, told PlasticsToday. “We’ve also added a vice president of international to drive that and develop our global strategy.”
|Chemical recycling or some form of depolymerization is the potential Holy Grail for sustainability, according to M. Holland's Dwight Morgan. Image courtesy M. Holland.|
On Dec. 10, the international distributor of thermoplastic resins announced that it had on-boarded as an authorized distributor of Loctite-branded 3D-printing products from Henkel, a global leader in adhesives, sealants and functional coatings. The new agreement will provide M. Holland’s industrial manufacturing clients access to a wider range of 3D-printing materials, including UV-curable silicone elastomers and ultra-clear, durable high impact, high temperature and general purpose resins.
The agreement marks M. Holland’s first expansion into thermoset materials. Henkel’s complementary product set will help serve M. Holland’s clients with rapidly evolving needs in additive manufacturing. Henkel’s portfolio includes several materials, including the Loctite 3D resin line designed to produce highly aesthetic parts with finely detailed print resolution. These functional photopolymer products provide an open materials platform that can be used to collaborate with manufacturers of 3D printers and system providers.
The Henkel deal follows on the heels of 3D-printing agreements with 3DXTech, Owens Corning and BASF that M. Holland signed in 2018. The company continues to invest in 3D-printing resources to support its Technical Innovation Center in Easton , PA, as well as its dedicated Additive Manufacturing Laboratory at its Northbrook headquarters.
A slowdown, but no recession in sight
While manufacturing is seeing a bit of a contraction, Morgan noted that he doesn’t see a recession on the horizon in the near term. “Our suppliers have seen a bit of a slowdown, as well, with some of that being attributed to the tariff wars. As we look ahead, we see continued growth in the plastics industry but at a slower rate. Anything this administration can do to provide for predictability and steady rules of the road, will be welcomed. If we can get China settled, things will be really good.”
Morgan commented that commodity markets currently are oversupplied, a result of new capacity coming on stream and weakness in manufacturing abroad, especially in Asia. “There’s a lot of material looking for a home, not only in the U.S. but in Latin America, as well,” said Morgan. “That situation will probably prevail for the next few years, as it will take a while for industry to grow into the new capacity.”
Being in the resins business, Morgan said the “sustainability pressures” are real. “I think in certain sectors and for certain products, it’s an existential issue,” he said. “We’ve seen environmental pressures since the 1990s, but this time it’s much more real and tangible, and we in the industry have to make sure it is not equated as a ‘sin’ industry. The public rhetoric is dangerous and not always truthful, so it’s incumbent on the industry to step forward and lead the charge through communication and education, and not just a PR effort.”
Morgan said he believes that the public has to understand that the industry is taking this very seriously and is engaged in finding solutions. “The problem is that plastics are often ‘villainized,’ he said. "That leads to misunderstandings about what’s possible and what’s practical. Bioplastic, for example, has fallacies connected to it—in the minds of many consumers, it will disappear quickly in the environment.”
Sixty percent of M. Holland’s sales force receives requests for sustainable solutions at least monthly. “We’re seeing demand growing higher than the solutions. There’s not a lot of reliable recyclable material available. We’re working to put together a sustainable portfolio and connect our suppliers with brand owners to provide what they need,” Morgan said.
While there seem to be a number of different solutions, or partial solutions, to the sustainability challenges, there is no single magic bullet, commented Morgan. “Chemical recycling or some form of depolymerization is the potential Holy Grail,” he noted. “We’ve had some strategic planning meetings with suppliers and many are making investments in startups for the chemical recycling process. If we figured out how to put [polymer chains] together, we can figure out how to get them apart.
“We can shape these solutions in a way that is supportive of the industry. If we don’t, it’s inevitable that solutions will be mandated by legislation. We’re monitoring this closely,” Morgan added.