"The biggest challenge is balancing the different forces of the resin market," said Scott Ravech, business director Radcure-Americas, Cytec. "On the one hand, you have the demand for new technologies, technical support, cost economies and when applicable, a true global presence. On the other hand, you have the challenges of feedstock, raw material and energy costs."
"Continued volatility in energy and transportation costs and key raw materials, such as ethyleneamines with TETA remaining one of the tightest cuts," said Michael Hoppe, NAFTA market manager-coatings, construction and packaging, Cognis. "This situation combined with a continued trend towards globalization remains the biggest challenge we are facing today."
According to Hoppe, the globalization trend should be considered from two aspects. "Existing customers from the industrialized countries are expanding/shifting production into high growth emerging regions and new resins suppliers from emerging markets entering the industrialized-mature markets," he said.
Rising prices continue
In the wake of continually rising raw material prices, resin suppliers are constantly looking for ways to deliver products that will help their customers keep their costs down.
"The biggest challenge facing the resin market is helping customers to contain costs during a period of increasing raw material costs and market slow-down, while still providing the most innovative solutions to their needs," said Wilson Nesom, business manager-coatings, BASF Resins. "BASF Resins continually seeks ways to control internal costs and provide relevant raw material information to our customers."
According to Bruce Farina, vice president Photocure, Sartomer Company, price pressure on raw materials continues to be a challenge. "This is a supply/demand-based pressure, not feed stock pricing," he added. "This is keeping our costs up. We are looking for alternate raw materials that are not under such pricing tension."
On the raw material side, Cognis is leveraging its long-term worldwide relationship with key suppliers to assure that the impact to its customers from global tightness and volatility is kept to a minimum. "Our continued drive for productivity improvements enables us in managing our cost position and to stay competitive versus new emerging suppliers," said Hoppe. "At the same time, we are utilizing our global production network to optimize our cost position and following our customers, as they are expanding into the high growth emerging markets."
"As everyone is painfully aware, the rising cost of raw materials and feedstocks have boosted the cost of resins over the past 18 months," said Holly Seese of Celanese Emulsions. "Celanese is working to optimize its manufacturing processes to keep resin costs under control."
"We leverage our global footprint of manufacturing, R&D, sourcing and technology to give our customers the best products and service at the most reasonable prices," said Ravech.
VOC regulations drive R&D
Increasingly strict VOC environmental regulations are another challenge facing resins suppliers. Customers are seeking environmentally friendly technologies that not only meet these regulations but also deliver superior performance.
"Regulatory mandates limiting the amount of VOC in architectural coatings has resin makers designing new environmentally-friendly emulsions that can help paint manufacturers to meet these stringent codes and at the same time fulfill consumer's requirements for premium performance," said Seese.
"To help our customers meet the lower VOC requirements in North America and Europe and to support the consumer push toward environmentally-friendly products, we continue to innovate, especially with vinyl acetate/ethylene (VAE) emulsions," Seese added. "VAE emulsions can be formulated in paint without the addition of plasticizers or other coalescing solvents. Coatings made with VAE emulsions provide consumers with improved air quality while maintaining excellent performance in terms of scrub resistance, workability and block resistance."
In response to these challenges Cytec is streamlining its internal processes to speed up innovation, and has introduced more new products that deliver better performance benefits based on market growth and needs.
"Our technical support is stronger than ever," said Jon Shaw, TD&D manager, industrial coatings, Radcure-Americas, Cytec. "We're collaborating closer with our customers, increasing our technical expertise through Cytec's global R&D network and we've expanded our lab and development facilities."
"We're optimizing the reliability and consistency of our supply chain by taking new initiatives with our suppliers, and improving each step in the process," added Jeff Rodrigues, market manager-industrial coatings, Radcure-Americas, Cytec.
Delivering value-added products
Despite these challenging conditions, resins suppliers are working hard to deliver the value-added products that their customer's demand.
"There are three key demands in this segment," said Hoppe. "The first involves the need to meet new upcoming VOC regulations, which drives reformulation need for lower VOC formulations or switching to more environmentally friendly resins systems. The second demand is for increased performance, for example, better scratch or chemical resistance. The third demand is the need to overall lower the cost of resins formulations."
"We see customers looking for new products with improved performance and system cost productivity, and asking for more collaborative technical support," Ravech said.
Not only must these new resins meet VOC regulations, they are also expected to perform as well, if not better than the ones they are replacing. "As environmental regulations tighten, customers are migrating to newer and greener, energy curable technologies that perform equal to, or better than, their current technologies," Rodrigues said.
"Paint manufacturers want to meet low VOC mandates without any compromises in performance, such as stain resistance, scrub resistance and durability-the kind of performance properties found in traditional premium quality paint," said Seese.
Finding out exactly what customers expect from their resin is important in maintaining good relationships. Many times resins suppliers and coatings manufacturers collaborate to come up with the best solution for their own particular need.
"If a customer has a specific application, we can offer a broad and diverse portfolio of commercial resins and specialty additives, or we can develop a customized solution," Shaw said.
"While price control is important to our customers, they also demand that we continue to provide the best possible solutions to their needs," said Nesom. "BASF Resins is dedicated to providing value added services and support to customers while keeping internal costs as low as possible to offset the rising cost of raw materials."
Cognis has addressed this issue through a continued drive for productivity improvements and by utilizing its global production network in emerging countries for the production of commoditized resins. "At the same time, we are developing new value-added resins systems that allow our customers to improve their productivity. Our Versamine S series, which enables our customers to cure faster saving them application time and results in reduced man hours needed to complete the coating jobs or lower temperature curing, which allows our customer to expand their operation window," said Hoppe.
Cognis is offering two new resins. Versamine S "speed" series are fast curing modified amine epoxy curing agents that enable the development of high solid epoxy coatings. These new environmentally friendly resins can be easily applied, provide fast curing even at low temperatures and are suitable for marine, protective coatings and civil engineering projects.
Cognis' Waterpoxy 751 is an amine based curing agent in water solution. It is particularly suitable to cure both epoxy resin emulsions and standard liquid epoxy resins with excellent mechanical performance and fast curing speed, according to the company.
In North America, Celanese recently introduced Celvolit 1774, a new VAE emulsion that addresses both environmental standards and the consumer performance standards of durability and low odor.
"In Europe, we recently introduced Mowilith LDM 1852, a solvent-free, plasticizer-free and APEO-free VAE emulsion specifically developed for the formulation of semi-gloss paints without coalescing agents," Seese said. "As one of the major suppliers of VAE technology, Celanese has a number of environmentally-friendly product offerings designed to serve the needs of the Americas, Europe and Asia."
Cytec has launched Ucecoat 7631 waterborne UV curable resin. Designed for topcoats on outdoor wood joinery, Ucecoat 7631 offers superior weathering resistance and chemical and mechanical resistance for a wide range of outdoor applications. The translucent dispersion is non-irritant, low VOC and has good colloidal stability. It can be easily formulated and applied by either spray or curtain coating in safe conditions. Other features include high flexibility and tack-free properties after water evaporation.