DUESSELDORF, Germany—Finding success takes time. That's why materials maker Covestro A.G. is looking to the future at K 2016 while playing up the success of innovations introduced at previous K events.
“Pushing boundaries is how Covestro really works,” CEO Patrick Thomas said at an Oct. 18 press event. Board member Markus Steilemann added that innovation “is the real growth driver” for the firm, which is based in Leverkusen, Germany.
Covestro is making its K debut after Bayer AG spun off its Bayer MaterialScience unit in September 2015. Thomas pointed out that the firm now is in commercial production of polyurethane foams that use carbon dioxide as a feedstock. That technology — which Thomas said originally was intended for polycarbonate — now is being looked at in comfort, automotive and construction applications and may be expanded to thermoplastic and rubber materials as well, he added.
Materials made by Covestro also were part of the success of Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered aircraft that recently completed a flight around the world. Covestro's PC, PU and thermoplastic PU materials were used on the aircraft because of their lightweight qualities.
Thomas described Solar Impulse as “a flying laboratory,” which now has opened up uses for those materials in food, automotive and construction markets.
Steilemann—who started his comments by taking a selfie of himself with the assembled media members—referred to Covestro's strong 80-year history in innovation as part of Bayer. Those advancements included use of PC in compact discs and in auto headlamps.
“We've embraced and rewarded a culture of innovation,” he said. Covestro also is making strides toward meeting its sustainability goals by reducing energy consumption in its production processes.
Thomas also pointed out that Covestro has enjoyed financial success as an independent company, with its per-share stock price increasing as a result. “I hope some of you invested in us on the day of our launch,” he said. “You'd have doubled your money by now.”
At K 2016, one of Covestro's focuses is a new design concept for electric cars. The design includes PC wraparound glazing and the use of sustainable coating and adhesive systems. The glazing provides for better all-around visibility, officials said, giving drivers an improved view and improving pedestrian safety by almost eliminating blind spots.
Auto lighting used in the new concept includes integrated headlamp and rear lights, which officials said makes lighting a styling element. Covestro researchers and designers worked on the concept with students from the Umea Institute of Design in Sweden and with Finland's Northern Works design agency.
Covestro employs 14,200 worldwide and posted sales of 12.1 billion euros ($13.6 billion) in 2015, up almost 3 percent vs. 2014. The firm generates 47 percent of its sales from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America; 26 percent from North America; and 15 percent from China.
Automotive is Covestro's largest end market with a 22 percent share. Its next two largest end markets are construction at 19 percent and furniture at 18 percent.