ORANGE, Texas—Despite its more than $300 million investment into a new EPDM facility in China, Lanxess A.G. is still pumping money into its Lanxess Corp. manufacturing complex in Orange and developing new products at the site.
The firm has developed four new EPDM grades that will be made at its plant in Orange. And while the company normally favors having local production to serve customers in each specific region, two of the products at least initially will be made exclusively in Orange and sold globally, according to Juergen Gunther, Lanxess Elastomers B.V. vice president of marketing and sales for Keltan elastomers.
Introduction of the new grades follows a recent $27 million investment to upgrade the facility and improve product quality. That project included implementing an improved catalyst activation technology at Orange, which the firm said brought its manufacturing operation in line with the technology used at its other Keltan-brand EPDM production sites.
“The plant is an integral part for us in our whole global structure,” said Michael Assaf, who took over late last year as regional NAFTA business head for its high performance elastomers unit. “Part of the global strategy is what we're doing in building the China plant, but we've had significant investments in the Orange plant as well.”
One of the new grades, Keltan 9565Q, is an ultra-high molecular weight EPDM that is being developed to match the strength and resilience of natural rubber but also to maintain its superior properties, even after exposure to high temperature, unlike NR.
Lanxess is aiming this grade at automotive applications such as mounts, bushings and dampers, along with some industrial uses, and as a polymer for production of thermoplastic vulcanizates. It will be particularly useful in under-the-hood applications where temperatures are increasing because engines are getting smaller, Gunther said.
“It is an opportunity because we are not a supplier of natural rubber,” he said. “Because of its dynamical properties, I think NR is usually used as the preferred material, but is at the edge of its temperature resistance. If the temperature goes a little higher, you have a problem.”
Keltan 9565Q is one of the two grades that will be produced in Orange and marketed not only to customers in North America but also around the world, Gunther said.
He and Assaf said the Orange factory is a good fit for this new EPDM because the plant's core Ziegler Natta catalyst system is still intact.
Among the company's other new products:
• Keltan 3250Q is for use in tires, inner tubes, conveyor belts and as a blend with butyl rubber for a variety of applications. It has low ethylidene norborene content and a low Mooney viscosity. It is the other grade that will be manufactured just in Orange.
• Keltan 5470Q was developed for use in such automotive components as hoses and solid seal systems. It also can find applications in industrial applications such as belts, low voltage cables and as cable fill mass. It has a medium ENB and Mooney viscosity that Lanxess said provides a robust polymer with good processing characteristics.
• Keltan 7470Q DE is a development grade targeted for numerous automotive applications, including hoses and seals. The firm said it provides improved strength, flexibility, heat resistance, durability and protection against moisture and weather effects.