A smarter future ahead

12 October 2012 09:38  [Source: ICB]

Doing more with less is today's refrain within the adhesives industry. It was the overriding theme at this year's World Adhesive and Sealant Conference held in Paris, France, last month.

Wine rack Rex Features

 Rex Features

Adhesives are a critical part of the packaging sector

Bruno Charriere, director of innovation at French adhesives and sealant solutions provider Bostik, says: "We need to innovate in order to design adhesives that do more with less material and less energy, allowing our customers and consumers to reduce their environmental footprint." Adhesives are a small but critical component of a diverse range of uses across many industrial sectors from construction and packaging to automotive and health. They are essential in bonding materials together, but can also provide additional functionality.

Adhesives can improve thermal efficiency in buildings and reduce packaging weight, leading to significant savings in transport and storage. Adhesives manufacturers and their raw material suppliers say that there is increasing demand for more sustainable and recyclable products. For pressure sensitive adhesives (PSAs), the biggest consumer-driven trend is in the label industry, according to Graeme Roan, business development manager for pressure sensitive adhesives at Henkel Adhesive Technologies. "A huge amount of work is going on around sustainability - materials that stay in place when required, but can be cleaned off or dissolved easily when needed," says Roan.

Companies are studying end-of-life options and recyclability - how to debond adhesives on command once their use is over, and how compounded material can be delaminated and then their parts recycled and used again.

BETTER PERFORMANCE

Customers are seeking improvements in performance - better efficiency, processing speed and reliability, as well as tailor-made functionality - self-healing, super-insulating, sensing/detection, fire retardancy and elasticity.

German specialty chemicals maker Wacker Chemie says rising building standards and modern construction are driving innovation. "Today, a sealant has to be able to bond glass as well as a mix of other materials," says Bernd Judas, head of Wacker's construction silicones business unit. Another trend is structural bonding, which requires high-strength, self-supporting adhesive bonds. New hybrid polymers are being developed to meet high technical requirements while also being eco- and user-friendly. Wacker's novel alpha-silane technology, GENIOSIL, which has been developed as an alternative to traditional binders, is free of isocyanates.

UK-based Synthomer has developed its acrylic technology to make very high performing PSAs. "Our Plextol pure acrylic technology has given us a very high level of adhesion for long-standing applications requiring high safety and security, for example tapes used in the construction sector," says Michael Karnop, director of Synthomer's functional polymers strategic business unit. Work is being done at Henkel on ultra-violet (UV) curing chemistry for industrial tapes. Roan says it has been difficult for the tape market to move away from solvent-based products because of performance issues surrounding water-based substitutes.

BREAKTHROUGH TECHNOLOGY

The adhesives industry is also seeing rising demand around the adhesion of difficult-to-bond substrates, driven by a move towards increasingly sophisticated packaging, says Wacker. The company says its novel vinyl acetate-ethylene copolymer dispersion, VINNAPAS EP 8010, is a breakthrough innovation. "With its ability to permanently bond challenging surfaces as well as making supplementary plasticizers unnecessary, this dispersion fulfils both demanding technical requirements and increasing environmental standards," says Peter Summo, head of Wacker's dispersions business.

Regulation remains a major driver of innovation, says Christophe Morel-Fourrier, global technical marketing manager at French Total's adhesives subsidiary Bostik's nonwovens division. "[Europe's environment legislation] has been a very good incentive for innovation, spurring companies to move away from more toxic chemicals such as isocyanate monomers in the polyurethane [PU] sector," he says.

In the future, adhesives and sealants will need to be smarter, multi-functional as well as energy- and material-efficient. Engaging all internal competencies and collaborating throughout the supply chain will be essential if breakthroughs in materials science are to be made.


By: Elaine Burridge
+44 20 8652 3214



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