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AUG 2018

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AUGUST 2018 38 CompositesWorld FEATURE / US Styrene Reduction Update for increased styrene regulation became a real possibility, AOC developed styrene-free analogues for our entire product line using different reactive diluents and alternative raw materials ingredi- ents," Lindberg explains. "We did this for contingency purposes and because many customers wanted to test these alternative products for efficacy. In most cases, they found performance was comparable with current styrenated products, although they were more expensive." He adds that these alternative formulations are currently available for customers who wish to purchase them and could be produced in significant quantities should styrene regulations tighten in the future. Lindberg also notes that two consid- erations currently cause the most requests for lower-styrene products. "Many of our clients have permits for emissions, so if business is good and it looks like they'll exceed their production limits, which would put them out of compli- ance, then they'll often purchase products with less styrene," he adds. "Also, in the case of cured-in-place pipe for sewer rehabilita- tion, we've seen increases in the number of installations that use styrene-free resins, which is typically the result of specification preferences by some engineers at various municipalities and engi- neering firms." Thermoplastic technology changes Restricting or eliminating styrene monomer would not just affect thermosets, but also many thermoplastic resins and compounds, so what is that side of the industry doing about the situation? "I don't expect that styrenic resins will be phased out completely in the near future," states Patrick Muezers, managing director, Polyscope Polymers BV (Geleen, e Neth- erlands). "Concerns about styrene will most likely lead to require- ments for lower VOC levels in resins and compounds, which already is the case in the automotive industry. Products with lower VOCs are seen as higher-value products. At Polyscope, we've already introduced XIRAN IZ, a heat-boosting additive for ABS [acrylonitrile butadiene styrene] and ASA [acrylonitrile styrene acrylate] resins with lower VOC levels than alternatives and with similar or better performance. We will continuously support the industry by developing innovative solutions, such as products with lower VOCs." "We're putting more low-VOC materials into our product line, and new business is already coming from these grades — espe- cially in the EU automotive market," notes Brian Grosser, VP – North American Automotive for LOTTE Advanced Materials Inc. (Seoul, South Korea). He notes they've had to change some ingre- dients to comply with EU REACH requirements. He also says that most automakers already include lower VOCs in their specs for interior trim parts. "Of course, they want these improved materials at the same or lower cost than their predecessors," he quips. He too believes that styrenic resins won't be phased out as long as industry needs aesthetic surfaces achieved via secondary operations like painting and plating. "Also, in many cases the physical properties of styrenic polymers are superior to those of other [thermoplastic] resin families." He acknowledges that materials selection will change on an application-by-application basis and will follow technology improvements in the industry. "We will keep providing innovative materials solu- tions for the automotive industry," he adds. Reinforcement technology changes Interestingly, work by thermoset and thermoplastic resin suppliers to reduce or remove styrene from their polymers has impacted fiberglass suppliers, too. "Over the last decade, we've significantly reduced VOCs and styrene in our facilities and all our sizings have been styrene-free for the past seven years," reports Anne Berthereau, VP, innovations, Composite Solutions Business at Owens Corning Co. (Toledo, OH, US). She says the company has made significant investments to commercialize products that are formaldehyde-free as well as styrene-free. "As news of new domestic regulations continue to pulse, we've intensified our innovation efforts to deliver optimal efficiency and performance in low-VOC and styrene-free resins," she adds. "Creating solutions that grow our customers' business is always top-of-mind for Owens Corning and doing so in a way that posi- tively impacts the communities in which we live and the world around us is paramount." What's next? For now, it's a wait-and-see game. Will styrene regulations tighten or stay as they are? "At the end of the day," AOC's Lindberg sums up, "styrene is a pretty important component for making compos- ites work well. It's a relatively low-cost ingredient that is also a very effective reactive diluent. As a raw material ingredient, styrene does its job well and replacing it altogether will be very disruptive for the marketplace. Nonetheless, if regulations or customer pref- erences change, we'll comply with all requirements and make sure our products meet or exceed customer expectations." Read this article online | short.compositesworld.com/StyrGoNoGo The hazards of styrene are enumerated online by the US Occupational Safety and Health Admin. (OSHA) | osha.gov/SLTC/styrene/hazards.html Read more online about Public Health Goals (PHG) determinations by regulatory agencies | styrene.org/science/human-health/ Contributing writer Peggy Malnati covers the automotive and infrastructure beats for CW and provides communications services for plastics- and composites-industry clients. peggy@compositesworld.com The Irkut MS-21 is shaping up to be that first next- generation aircraft.

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