Smart devices to home appliances: better thermoplastics for everyone
New opportunities for high performance polyamides
There are unprecedented growth opportunities for high performance polyamides on the global market right now. And Solvay’s specialty polymers are ideally positioned to help manufacturers take advantage of the situation.
Polyamides (better known under the name of their most successful trademark, Nylon) are thermoplastics that can be found just about everywhere: from clothing to cars, buildings, electronic devices and household appliances. Because of that, they come in a wide range of products for a variety of applications.
Solvay commercializes high performance polyamides (HPPAs), and the star of its portfolio is Ixef® PARA, a high performance material with metal-like strength and a very smooth surface finish, making it ideal for applications such as small appliances, medical instruments or automotive interior parts. In recent years, however, the Group’s specialty polymers business has been working on a secondary choice, Omnix® HPPA. “We developed a more cost-effective version of Ixef® PARA for customers who don’t need such a high performing polyamide, for example for consumer goods, smart devices or in automotive applications,” explains Thomas Kohnert, Product Manager for Omnix® HPPA.
Better performance, lighter weight, same value
Over the past year, a major change of context in the global polyamides market has opened new opportunities for Omnix® HPPA. Polyamide 66, also known as PA66 or Nylon 66, one of the most widely used thermoplastics, has experienced a steep price increase. The reason? “Serious shortage of key feedstocks,” says Thomas, who explains that there are only four plants in the world that produce one of the feedstocks required to manufacture the monomers for PA66, and all of them are at full capacity. Because of this, the price of PA66 has increased by over 40%.
As a result, Omnix® HPPA has become a cost-competitive option in a broader range of applications. “PA66 is a good polymer, but not a high performance material,” continues Thomas. “Because of the current situation, manufacturers are looking for alternative solutions. With Omnix® HPPA, OEMs can basically pay the same price and get better performance, while continuing to use the same injection molding tools.” Another benefit of switching to a higher performance polyamide is that parts can be manufactured with thinner walls, using less resin and diminishing weight, which leads to reduced costs.
“With Omnix® HPPA, manufacturers can get better performance for the same price, while continuing to use the same injection molding tools already in place.”
A rising star among polyamides
The feedstock shortage for Polyamide 66 is not expected to be a short-term glitch. The structural causes of this market shift mean the situation is set to last several years.
“We are not, however, targeting the entire PA66 market, which represents several hundreds of thousands of tons a year,” explains Thomas. ”We’re instead focusing on borderline applications such as structural elements that don’t require high heat resistance, for example water meter housings, appliance components and certain automotive applications.”
Produced at Solvay plants in Belgium and China, Omnix® HPPA also offers stability with regard to pricing and supply, which manufacturers certainly can appreciate. “And,” concludes Thomas, “we’re also developing new grades to enlarge our portfolio and address more polyamide needs in the market in the near future.”