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DuPont, which has just brought on stream a major capacity expansion in Tedlar polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) film, wants to win back applications lost when Tedlar supplies were tight.

May 7, 2012

4 Min Read
New capacity, PV slowdown reverse Tedlar film crunch

DuPont, which has just brought on stream a major capacity expansion in Tedlar polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) film, wants to win back applications lost when Tedlar supplies were tight.

"Where Tedlar has established performance and value versus alternatives, we are anxious to supply material and take advantage of the investment we have made," John E. Odom, DuPont's global business manager for Tedlar films, told PlasticsToday in an interview. "This includes not only photovoltaic, but aerospace, architectural fabrics, and industrial applications, including automotive, where the advantages and unique properties of Tedlar make it a good choice."

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John Odom is directing Tedlar film strategy at DuPont.

Lack of adequate supplies
Until recently, DuPont had allocated supplies with priority going to the then-rapidly growing photovoltaic industry, according to market sources. In some smaller, niche applications there was little, if any, Tedlar available.

In the interview, Odom acknowledged that there had been supply problems.

"There have been shortages," Odom said. "We have worked hard to manage that to the best of our ability. The rapid growth we have seen in Tedlar in the past several years and the amount of time that it takes to make these large-scale investments has put us in situations where we have been tight."

DuPont late last year brought on stream new film capacity in Circleville, OH, as the last phase of a multi-year $295 million expansion that doubles Tedlar film production capacity. Significant expansions had been made earlier in monomer and resin capacities.

The boost in capacity has coincided with a dramatic slowdown in the photovoltaic industry, whose rapid growth forecast was a primary reason for the expansion. Odom estimated that growth in the PV business had been better than 120% in 2010 and better than 50% in 2011. DuPont is projecting growth of around 10% this year for the PV industry.

Aircraft competition intensifies
As a result, DuPont is moving quickly to mend fences with former customers, particularly in the aircraft industry where growth is strong and competition is intensifying. Late last year, Solvay Specialty Polymers, through its Ajedium Films unit, announced qualification with Boeing of a fluroropolymer alternate to Tedlar in thermal acoustic insulation blanket (TAIB) covers.

In a press release issued in March, Victrex announced a strategic partnership with Umeco Process Materials to market polyetheretherketone (PEEK) as a release film for production of carbon composite aircraft parts.

The development "demonstrates our long-term commitment to the aerospace industry by providing a replacement for the increasingly unavailable release materials such as Tedlar PVF (polyvinyl fluoride) film," said Tim Herr, APTIV Global Business Leader at Victrex.

Characterization of Tedlar as being unavailable is inaccurate, Odom told PlasticsToday.

There are three major applications for Tedlar film in aircraft: TAIB covers, release films, and laminations used for interior decorative purposes.

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Supply uncertainty created a market opening for competitors in the rapidly growing aircraft market.

It's no surprise that aircraft emerged as a focal point of efforts to replace Tedlar. Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is the most commercially successful airplane ever developed.  

Dreamliner ramps up
Extensive use of lightweight carbon composites reduces the weight of the plane so significantly that flight ranges are dramatically expanded. The first Dreamliner was delivered last September to All Nippon Airways, which has announced the first-ever nonstop service from Boston to Tokyo. There are 854 firm orders for the Dreamliner, and monthly production is ramping up to 10 by the end of next year. Airbus is also actively developing and selling carbon composite aircraft.

"DuPont has a long-standing commitment to the aerospace industry," Odom said in the interview. "It is a strategic segment to the company, and this goes across a broad range of products. The (Tedlar) investment allows us to renew and sustain that commitment to the aerospace industry. We will be a reliable and long-term supplier of Tedlar to the aerospace industry."

Tedlar is also used as an architectural covering and in various industrial applications, including automotive, that require protective surfaces.

DuPont invented polyvinyl fluoride polymer in the 1940s, and by the 1950s began developing products based on the material, recognizing its potential as a film that is inherently weatherable, chemically resistant and lightweight, yet physically strong. DuPont commercialized PVF film under the Tedlar brand in 1961 and the film was used in protecting residential and commercial buildings and aircraft interiors.

The photovoltaic market adopted Tedlar as the industry standard for backsheets in the late 1970s. In recent years, PV backsheets became the primary application for Tedlar.

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