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Sabic Innovative Plastics goes big at NPE2012; launches PC copolymer

Nearly five years after the Saudi industrial conglomerate SABIC acquired the former GE Plastics, the company used its outsized booth, numerous investments, and a new polycarbonate copolymer, among other developments, to stress its commitment to plastics. "Sabic is investing; we're a long-term player in the industry," Timothy O'Brien, VP engineering resins-America/Europe told PlasticsToday. "You don't put pipe in the ground if you you're not planning to have long-term relationship with your customers."

At NPE2012, Sabic invested in what it described as the largest booth by any resin supplier at the show, covering 8800 sq ft and greeting attendees entering the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) with several large displays including a hulking Volvo semi truck that utilized Cycoloy polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (PC/ABS) and Valox iQ polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) resin.

Those recent investments include capacity in polyurethane precursors, POM, MMA, PMMA, and carbon fibers, as well as the commissioning of the Saudi Kayan polycarbonate plant (260,000 tonnes/yr capacity), a Sabic/Sinopec joint production complex, which had a ground breaking ceremony during NPE2012 on April 3.

Those are in addition to a new engineering thermoplastics compounding facility in the Chongqing Xiyong Micro-electronics Industrial Park in China, and the establishment of two new Technology Centers in China and India, which are expected to be operational after the second quarter of 2013 and end of 2012, respectively.

Polycarbonate (PC) has taken some hits in public perspective of late, drawing scrutiny over concerns over its bisphenol A (BPA) content, but in spite of that negative publicity, its usage continues to grow in excess of GDP, according to O'Brien, particularly in the electrical/electronic and automotive markets. "One is about weight and one is about miniaturization," O'Brien explained of the auto and electronics concerns, respectively.

Thin to win; copolymer PC allows downgauging

In addition to new investments, the company touted new materials, including a new PC copolymer that offers clarity and flame retardance, hence the moniker, CFR. O'Brien said the new material is culmination of multiple years of research and investment, allowing for clear products that have a zero UL rating at 1 mm. The downgauging ultimately allows items like tablets and phones to become thinner. The stricter UL requirements reflect a new development within the last five years.

O'Brien couldn't disclose many details around the proprietary material, saying only that unlike physical compounding, Sabic's technology mixes the copolymer on a chemical level, building properties into the copolymer's chemical backbone. The material will be produced in Mt. Vernon, IN, with Sabic having to boost capacity.

Sabic also highlighted some new Lexan LUX grades of PC for LED lighting. This expanded product line features three new transparent grades for covers of LED bulbs and tubes. The company says these offer improved initial color, color stability and light transmission during heat aging vs. standard PC.

O'Brien noted that as temperatures and brightness increases, aging can be accelerated, with Lux allowing 98% of the original light to remain at 5000 hours. "[The covers] won't be glass, they'll be plastic," O'Brien said, "and they won't be acrylic, they'll be PC."

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