CLEVELAND—Lord Corp. is looking to commercialize a film adhesive technology this year it said will be a big advancement for the tank and pipe rubber lining market.
The Chemlok film product has been under intense development and testing for more than three years, and it can bring environmental, safety and cost advantages to rubber lining makers and users, according to Ross Zambanini, Lord senior strategy and business development manger.
Speaking at the recent ACS Rubber Division International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland, Zambanini said Cary, N.C.-based Lord has high expectations when the film product makes it to market.
"The pipe lining and rubber lining industries have not had new technology in decades," he said. "Lord's three-part Chemlok system has been around for decades. It works great, but takes a lot of labor and a lot of solvent, which requires a lot of care and safety."
Conversely, he said the film takes little labor, no solvents and inherently is a much safer product. "When we look at the industries we've disrupted, we look at the auto industry and we deliver new technology there every year," Zambanini said. "The whole pipe lining and tank lining industry is overdue for new adhesives technology, so we're really pleased this is coming to market."
There are several areas the Lord official mentioned as the advantages to users that eventually adopt the Chemlok film product.
For example, he said for every 100 square meters of tank or pipe lining used, the traditional adhesive system uses 25 to 35 kilograms of volatile organic compounds. "Just from an environmental standpoint, there's a lot of solvent involved in that process to get the rubber to bond to the metal," Zambanini said.
And because of these solvents, when an asset such as a big rail car tank or pipe is being lined, a human must be inside those vessels when applying the adhesives. "They need fresh air systems, and they have to use 100 percent grounded equipment," he said. "In certain parts of the world, they're not using the appropriate equipment for personal protective safety, or they don't have access to it. Even in the West, then they do have access to it, if somebody's not using a grounded light and that light sparks, accidents happen."
Zambanini said the Chemlok film is orders of magnitude safer, as it's 100 percent solid, so there is no need to wear personal protective equipment or a fresh air system. "A hundred years ago, people used to put wallpaper on by first brushing their wall with horse hair glue, and then roll up dry wallpaper," he said. "That's how people are putting on rubber lining today, but nobody buys wallpaper like that today. The adhesive comes on the wallpaper itself, and that's what we're going to do for the rubber industry."
Labor savings also is a big plus, according to Zambanini. At a trial with a customer in Germany, workers lined an 8-foot diameter tank hours faster than if using a two-part adhesive product, he said, and days faster than if using a three-part system.
Long time in development
The original idea is roughly 10 years old, he said, with Karen Sy-Laughner being the "light-bulb" person who conceived the concept. Zambanini said the team that invented the Chemlok film was C.J. Cox, Scott Durso and Andrew Heidenreich.
"Customers don't often know what their solution is, but they do know what the problems are," Zambanini said.
So the question came up from users that they wanted to remove VOCs from their system. Lord suggested using its water-based products, but the customers balked at that solution.
"It's not a problem worth giving up on, but it is something we have to get creative about," he said. "If you can't use water-based chemistry to get rid of VOCs, the middle ground is to use an adhesive system that's 100 percent solid."
It's a challenge that takes longer to develop, but Lord is well-suited to take on the problem, Zambanini said, because it's a privately owned firm that has a great talent pool and expertise in the rubber industry back to 1924.
"We have the material scientists from the rubber side, we have the chemical scientists from the adhesives side and we have the mechanical scientists from the rubber-to-metal parts side, so can marry those all up," he said.
After internally debating whether it was something Lord wanted to work on, a team was brought in to develop a prototype to see what potential users thought. Zambanini said one of the biggest issues was tack, a property that can vary from climate to climate.
From a usage standpoint, the Chemlok film can come already on the rubber lining, so all that needs to be done is peel off the ply and roll it onto the wall.
Getting it into field
Zambanini said Lord has spent the past three years running the material through the gauntlet, working with a network of early adopters worldwide that test the new technology.
"When we come up with a generation of film, they've already agreed to line an asset with it, whether it's a tank or a pipe," he said. "And we go on-site with Lord scientists, technical service reps and commercial reps to make sure they have the equipment in place to line that pipe."
Lord has worked with six of the industry's largest rubber liner makers to provide Chemlok film for the back of their rubber substrates. But the film also will be available through its traditional distributor network because some customers prefer to make their own rubber linings. Those customers could put the film on the wall first and then apply the lining, or he said they could choose to co-laminate it at their own facility.
The tests have gone well, he said, and Lord is entering the scale-up phase for the film.
Christopher Schneider, manager of applications engineering and technical services for elastomer, adhesives and coatings, said his team is helping with the transition to customer validations.
"That's where my team gets involved," he said. "We're looking at the chemistry in the field—whether it's working with the calendering equipment, working with the customers, seeing how it applies and making sure everything is workable on the manufacturing side of things."
The goal is to get the Chemlok film into the commercial market sometime during the second or third quarter this year, Zambanini said. There is a big pull for the product in Europe and the U.S., and even potential demand in China as that nation looks to tighten its environmental regulations.
"China has made it very clear that if you operate any sort of facility that manufactures or applies chemical products, your facility will be zero parts per million," he said. "That's a mandate."
Lord plans to make the base resin system for the new technology at its Sagertown, Pa., facility, but is still determining which sites will convert the material into film.
Zambanini said the film will be a great product for 90 percent of tanks and pipes, and that over time Lord expects a strong changeover to the new technology.
But he added that certain applications still will need to be lined using traditional adhesive technology, so Lord will continue to offer its two-and three-part systems to the market.