CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Mark Bassett, Dow Chemical Co.'s global vice president, polyurethanes, urged delegates and visitors to UTECH's North American exhibition and conference to collaborate more.
Bassett opened the exhibition and conference with his presentation “A World of Change, A World of Opportunity” by honoring the industry's forefather, Otto Bayer, and his random chemical mixing that gave birth to the industry.
“He may not have been sure what this serendipity would bring to the world,” Bassett said.
Bassett charted polyurethane from its early use as a protective coatings ingredient, through the discovery of its flexible foaming capabilities in the 1950s to its position as the new millennium's most efficient insulation material—a substance that also can be used to replace damaged human tissue, he said.
“Polyurethane has helped the world adapt to change, and that is why it has replaced so many other materials,” he said.
In the last 20 years, global consumption has nearly doubled with the emergence of new and innovative applications, he said, with polyurethane helping to create a more sustainable world.
Bassett said there is a need to “connect the original chemistry with the next hierarchy of human needs. “Polyurethane is,” he said “a super-useful molecular material.”
Outlining the industry's need for structural soundness, he added: “The chain is now so fragmented, no one really sees the big pie anymore. We see only smaller pieces.”
He said industry players needed to work on “making the pie bigger” but with focus on “innovation and collaboration.”
He said, “The chemistry is not a limiting factor. We know it can do practically anything. The limiting factor is us.
“We can only make the pie bigger by working together in the right ways on the right things.”
He posed a key question to his audience: “Where can we replace conventional materials with more advanced materials? Where is the next opportunity?”
Bassett added: “Back in 1937, Otto Bayer stumbled on something that brought us all here today. How can we continue to put this amazing material to work to benefit society?”
Crain Communications Ltd., which publishes Rubber & Plastics News, is UTECH North America's organizer.