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Thermoset Full System

Thermoset Full System Ahead: The Rise of Bio-Based Thermoset Bio-based resins have finally made it out of the lab and on to the factory floor, as technological improvements and changing macroeconomic dynamics are building a compelling business case. We live in a fast-changing world, where the pressures of a growing population, climate change and the exhaustion of natural resources are bringing a new urgency to the need to build sustainability criteria into business decisions. The result has been the emergence of a ‘bio-based economy’ – an economic model based on the use of feedstock that is grown on the land rather than extracted from under it, whether for fuel or materials. In the composites world this means replacing the petroleum-based resins that we have been using for decades with new formulations made from renewable, bio-based feedstock. These materials may not have caught the public’s imagination in the same way as biofuels, for example, but their development is no less significant for the long term future of the planet. And with industry value chains increasingly waking up to the need to take sustainability matters seriously, both from a regulatory and end user standpoint, their impact could be profound. Bio-based composite resins today Resins take many forms, but unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) are the most widely used in composites, making up more than of 80% of all thermoset resins (the rest being mainly epoxies, acrylics, imides, phenolics, and urethanes). While the UPR market was hit by the recession in 2008-2009, it is currently growing at almost 10% per year and expected to reach .5 billion by 2015. Today, the number of bio-based materials on the market still remains limited, however, with only a small number of industry innovation leaders pioneering the technology. Of these, DSM has made the biggest impact on the market to date, most notably at JEC 2010 when it launched Palapreg ® ECO P55-01, a bio-based resin targeted, and suitable for manufacturing automotive vehicle body parts, including exterior panels. For DSM, investing in bio-based resins is part of a wider corporate strategy of focusing on innovation that delivers environmental and social benefits as well as makes good business sense. Delivering on this promise, the company is also in the process of preparing a new bio-based LPA, or low profile additive, for use in SMC or BMC applications, which combined with Palapreg ECO will create the industry’s first full system bio-based resin, as well as the industry’s first, biobased artificial stone and is in the process of developing other bio-based resins with even higher bio-based compositions. It’s a business decision that looks likely to pay off; perhaps, even, sooner rather than later. With crude oil prices inching towards the all-time highs recorded in 2008 and carbon footprint reduction becoming increasingly important for OEMs, DSM’s Wilfrid Gambade (Business Director Composite Resins Europe) believes that it is only a matter of time before bio-based resins start to make a meaningful impact on the top line. “When we developed Palapreg ECO, it is fair to say we didn’t even have a bio-based strategy: it was just a great product that came from the R&D lab and which we believed in. We then started thinking about the marketing plan. We know our customers rank performance, functionality and security of supply incredibly importantly so we knew that any bio-based product we launched needed to deliver on these criteria as well if it was going to be taken seriously. I am proud to say Palapreg ECO does that, more than matching any conventionally-made resin in its market and customer feedback to date has been extremely encouraging as a result.” 24 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/11] Vol. 6

Thermoset www.dsm.com This positive feedback has already led to Palapreg ECO, which boasts an industry-leading 55% bio-renewable composition, being tested for applications outside the auto industry, in fields as diverse as construction, infrastructure and other vertical segments. The power of open innovation According to Gambade, DSM is a company that prides itself on its culture of open innovation to make sure that R&D investment is focused as much as possible on delivering value to customers. “Getting the maximum possible return out of our R&D investment is crucial if we are to deliver value for money to our customers. Customers rely on us to deliver the innovations that generate differentiation and value for them in the real world – not just resins that look great in the lab - and the best way for us to achieve this is to make sure we have as good a dialogue with the market; our customers, OEMs, even end users, as possible. In terms of bio-based materials, we’re ahead of the curve but only because we strongly believe that, as a result of regulation, consumer demand and technological improvement, this will become an important mainstream business for us. a supplier, we have struggled in the past to pass on price increases to our customers. The upshot of this is that, while we have taken every step at our end to make our operation run as efficiently as possible, we still find ourselves in the challenging position where we are struggling to make the case for reinvestment in R&D based on our current margins.” All of which again points to the importance of ensuring that investment in innovation is as market-focused as possible. “We would not be here today talking to our customers about our bio-based portfolio if it did not meet expectations in terms of performance and other criteria. The good thing is that our portfolio does deliver, and judging from the enthusiastic response we have received from our customers, we have every confidence that bio-based composite resins have a strong future: a future in which DSM will play a leading role.” - MT Wilfried Gamnbade (Photos: DSM) Innovation in a volatile market Gambade’s comments are increasingly pertinent when taken in the context of recent industry trends, which have been to focus on cost over innovation, a trend Gambade feels, has been exacerbated by the recent volatility in raw material costs. “The raw material price volatility we have experienced in recent years has made it extremely difficult to achieve a fair price for innovation. This is in large part due to the fact, as bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/11] Vol. 6 25

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