CLEVELAND—Chemours Co. celebrated the 60th anniversary of its Viton fluoroelastomers during 2017 by signing on customers to its revamped licensee program and developing a new Viton grade suitable for such uses as turbocharge hoses.
The Wilmington, Del.-based firm unveiled its "Made With Viton" licensee program in late 2016—replacing a former similar program officials said had been neglected—and signed on about 40 licensees during 2017, according to Eric von Brockdorff, the firm's North American product manager for Viton.
He said during the recent ACS Rubber Division International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland that the program has helped reinvigorate the Viton brand. "We found out how much people still look to the brand, how they leverage the brand, and the brand means a lot to them and their customers," von Brockdorff said.
Chemours officials said the licensee program is a way for its customers to differentiate themselves through use of the Viton brand. It includes an official seal that incorporates the Viton logo. "It allows our direct customers and their customers to communicate their value as an authorized partner or distributor of Viton, and it facilitates brand protection for all of us," he said.
Response to the program has tracked with the company's expectations, von Brockdorff said. Most of the licensees are in North America. He said Chemours—spun off from DuPont in mid-2015 as a separate publicly traded company—made program requirements such that it would lend itself to having that range of participation.
"We've gotten some great stories about how important having the brand and utilizing the seal on their packet is to a lot of our licensees," he said. "It's been a great way to get that feedback and have that interaction, not only with our direct customers but also their customers. We're able to go one step down the chain. Those are the people who are generally making the parts and can help leverage the brand even more."
Chemours benefits from the program by getting brand loyalty, while licensees get protection of the brand, particularly from firms claiming to be using Viton when in fact it is using another material. "If we have that protection of the brand, then obviously it's more valuable to (customers) to be able to stand behind it as well," von Brockdorff said.
New polymer introduction
Chemours has developed VTR-7667, a new polymer with different pre-compounds that can be used in areas where there is a need for better hot elongation and tear strength, such as turbocharger hoses, the company official said.
"With vehicles nowadays, a lot of them are going to smaller engines and turbocharging to get performance to help meet regulations that are changing in the auto industry," von Brockdorff said. "It's a new polymer that we see will meet the increasing demands of those type applications in terms of physical properties at higher temperatures."
He added that the firm believes the new polymer has applicability to help with de-molding of parts as well, to prevent tearing in the de-molding process. The company currently is working with customers to sample the polymer for testing in various applications.
"Viton is one of the eight power brands in Chemours," von Brockdorff said. "It's important to the success of the company. We're seeing the reinvestment in the product lines, in the facilities and in the laboratories. It will allow us to get back into that industry leading position what we've enjoyed for so long."
Demand during 2017 was strong globally, he said. In North America, the oil and gas market was a key factor. Regulations in the automotive market also are driving the need for more FKMs. There are smaller engines, but the operating environment is hotter. "With that, you can't get away with a lower performing elastomer, he said. "You need a fluoroelastomer, and I think a lot of that is driving growth as well."
Through the first nine months of 2017, Chemours' net income more than doubled to $519 million, with sales climbing 13 percent to $4.61 billion.
Chemours announced a global price increase of up to 10 percent on its Viton fluoroelastomers, along with its Tefzel-brand ETFE fluoropolymer products, effective Jan. 1 or as contracts allow. It didn't give a reason for the increase.
Chinese JV progressing
The firm's Chemours Chenguang Fluoromaterials (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. joint venture in China is introducing its second generation of materials to the market. The partnership with Zhonghau Chenguang Research Institute Ltd. introduced three gums and three compounds in 2016. The JV is responsible for sale of Viton products in China, while Chemours sells the JV's products—along with Viton—in the rest of the world.
Von Brockdorff said the first generation products enjoyed limited success, but the JV has built off those to offer improved properties that are closer to the performance of Viton. He gave compression set and initial scorch as two areas where the new generation of products were better.
"The G2 products offer a highly competitive performance-price ratio and far better properties than the first generation," he said. "We will also continue to improve the quality and consistency in G2, especially in the finishing area, and this should be completed by mid-2018."
The new generation materials are now available in production quantities.