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Hankook, Lanxess strengthen partnership with SR alliance

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COLOGNE, Germany—Lanxess A.G. and Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding to co-develop synthetic rubber technologies for high performance tires.

The companies agreed to jointly study the development of high-performance synthetic rubber grades and applications that increase tire performance.

Lanxess said it has maintained a close partnership with Hankook since 2008, when the tire company awarded Lanxess a long-term contract to supply solution SBR and neodymium performance butadiene rubber.

The firm expects the partnership to strengthen ties further between itself and Hankook, both in terms of technological development and supply of raw materials.

“Lanxess has a strong reputation for sophisticated and customized research and development efforts and for having innovation as its key driving force,” Joachim Grub, head of Lanxess' performance butadiene rubbers business unit, said in a statement.

Hankook plans to organize a number of activities for the firms to exchange knowledge, according to a company spokesman. It will conduct lab validations consisting of standardization of tire test results, which will lead to a more precise analysis of tire test results.

Continued Asia investment

Hankook's alliance with Lanxess is another step in its continued investment in research and development in South Korea.

The company has committed $240 million for a tire proving grounds and engineering center—the Hankook Tire Test Engineering Center—to be constructed at a 1,420-acre site over the next seven years.

The facility will have an 18-mile-long test track capable of simulating road conditions from around the world in a variety of weather conditions, Hankook said, allowing the company to test products designed for varying markets.

It also invested $133 million for the relocation and expansion of a research and development center in Daejeon, South Korea.

“Based on our proven technological excellence, Hankook Tire has been focusing on the high-performance sector and has made continuous research and development and investment efforts as part of our pathway toward becoming a global top-tier tire company,” Lee Sang Ju, senior vice president and head of global research and development at Hankook, said in a news release.

Labeling increasing demand

Lanxess said the market for high-performance tires is rising because of increased demand for premium tires and the introduction of tire labeling in South Korea, the European Union and Japan. The firm said South Korea introduced a tire labeling system in 2012, following the European Union's suit, and Japan introduced a voluntary program in 2010.

The rubber supplier said Brazil will follow with a labeling system in 2016, and China and the U.S. are developing implementation plans.

It said this alliance helps maintain its strategy to specialize in tailored solutions for four trends: mobility, urbanization, water and agriculture.

“Lanxess' advanced technologies and sound global production network in the high-performance synthetic rubber for the high-performance tire segment put us in an excellent position to meet the growing needs of sustainable mobility,” a Lanxess spokeswoman said.

She highlighted two easy-processing Nd-PBR rubber grades the firm just launched—Buna Nd 22 EZ and Buna Nd 24 EZ—that fit into its strategy. The company said the grades were aimed at the high-performance tire market, especially in Asia, where it said demand for mobility is increasing dramatically.

“The collaboration between Lanxess' synthetic rubber technology and Hankook's compounding technology will create a synergy effect and greatly contribute to the enhancement of rolling resistance and wet traction performance of Hankook's tires,” the Hankook spokesman said.