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Q&A with Orion Engineered Carbons

By Kerry Pianoforte, Editor | January 15, 2014

Coatings World:  How did the carbon blacks market perform in 2013?

Orion Engineered Carbons: In 2013 the market for Specialty Carbon Blacks for Pigments showed a steady and healthy development absent the volatility which has been typical for this business over many years. Carbon Black is a very interesting material which is currently also used in many new applications. OEC has developed a number of new Carbon Blacks which can fulfill many of these new requirements which will help to support the upcoming further growth of our business.

CW: Has your company seen any improvement in the economy? Do you think
there will be improvements in the coming year?

Orion: We are seeing improvement in the global economy, with strong growth in the automotive and industrial sectors. Recovery continues in the U.S. while South America keeps growing. Even EMEA markets contributed to the market recovery with slight growth. The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing significant growth rates not only in China. We believe in steady growth next year as the world economies continue to improve.

CW: What are the major trends and challenges influencing the global pigments market today?

Orion: Consumers of Specialty Carbon Blacks in Pigments continue to optimize the number of products needed to cover their desired color space and want more universally compatible pigments.
Local sourcing, logistics, consistent quality and product availability are always concerns. 

CW:    How are you responding to the demand for "greener" more environmentally friendly coatings?

Orion: Environmental sustainability is considered a key aspects of Orion Engineered Carbons daily operations and our product development. In early 2012 we launched Printex Nature, a Specialty Carbon Black produced from renewable sources that received very positive feedback from the polymer, printing inks and coatings industries. With Printex Nature the sustainability of coatings formulations can be increased to more than 90 percent when combined with naturally based binders and bio-solvents. One further highlight is our high jet universal Specialty Carbon Black XPB 255 for Pigments that enables our customers to reduce the solvent content in their formulations through strongly improved viscosity. Orion also supplies Colour Black FW 171; a high performance Carbon Black with superior color performance in waterborne applications.

CW: What specific performance attributes are your customers looking for?

Orion: Growing areas are environment friendly systems, water borne, High Solid, Powder Coating and UV Curing systems. Improved cost/performance ratio and better system compatibility are becoming more important. We are increasing our investments in innovation and product development to offer the most attractive and performing solutions for current and new formulations and application fields.

Conductive Systems are a major example for which we are offering new solutions.

CW: Are there any specific technologies that R&D is focusing on?

Orion: Orion Engineered Carbons has the widest product portfolio in Specialty Carbon Black and further invests into new technologies and production lines.

Our new developments focus on universally usable high jet Specialty Carbon Blacks for Pigments (water, high solid and solvent) and grades which improve the cost/performance ratio and handling. Furthermore, we are focused on developing materials that can be used in conductive applications and exploring new surface treatment technologies

CW: Briefly provide a description of the latest products launched by your company.

Orionl: We are proud to announce the installation of a new line for Specialty Carbon Blacks for Pigments in our plant in Kalscheuren, Germany. A several million Euro investment in new production technology was made to start up this new operation at the beginning of 2014. This investment will enable Orion Engineered Carbons to serve the global market for Specialty Carbon Blacks for Pigments on a larger scale.

An additional investment into Specialty Carbon Blacks for Pigments will come on stream in 2015, producing conductive grades for Polymers, Printing Inks, Coatings and Special Applications.  We will also add capacity in the US to supply the Polymers market by 2015.

One of the first products to be brought to the market from this new production line will be COLOUR BLACK FW 255. This Specialty Carbon Black is a highly specialized grade and follows the trend of the Coatings industry to use pigments which can be utilized in both water- and solvent-based systems. Colour Black FW 255 offers very high jetness with a pronounced bluish undertone highly recommended for use in automotive OEM and refinish formulations. Expanding on this new technology, Orion has additional grades in our pipeline like XPB 412; a universally usable grade for medium color coatings applications which we recently launched.

To address customer demand for improved handling and dispersion properties we have introduced XPB 430. This self-dispersing high jet Specialty Carbon Black for water based coatings systems offers easy dispersability and dust free handling while being high jet and very blue in undertone.

For conductive applications we introduced the experimental Carbon Black XPB 545 and we are close to introducing one further innovation for coating systems.

We are also working on Specialty Carbon Blacks which will provide ultra-high jet and easy to disperse medium color.  Current offerings include:
• Colour Black FW 171 is a small particle size high color Furnace Carbon Black. It is particularly suited for waterborne and powder coating systems that require high jetness with a bluish undertone.
• Colour Black FW 182 - A fine particle size oxidized carbon black with excellent performance is solvent based systems.
• Printex Nature - A Specialty Carbon Black made from renewable resources.

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