Ticona is showcasing five innovative Hostaform grades at K 2007, each with a different specialized feature: integrated metallic look, very low emission values, electrical conductivity, improved glass-fiber-reinforcement and antimicrobial protection at the molecular level. These important additions not only strengthen Ticona's portfolio but also make it possible to exploit the proven attributes of Hostaform in increasingly diverse markets. Ticona is also continually developing new grades specially tailored to the requirements of individual industries.
Polyacetal is not just POM. Depending on the chemical structure, a distinction is made between homo- and copolymers. The latter offer better long-term mechanical properties and superior stability to thermal and oxidative degradation processes. Ticona, the company that developed the copolymer, started production of this engineering plastic at its Kelsterbach plant in 1964 with an initial annual output of 5000 tons. Since then, assisted by the development of new specialty grades, Ticona has continually expanded global production to over 200 000 tonnes per annum today. In 2011, as part of the planned relocation of the German manufacturing facility from Kelsterbach to the Frankfurt-Höchst Industrial Park, the world's largest and most modern plant is scheduled to go on stream - with a production volume of 140 000 tpa.
With affiliates in Asia, Ticona has over 40% of present global capacity and is therefore market leader in the production of this thermoplastic. "Standard global nomenclature and specifications for POM are important for our globally based customers. As part of the globalization process, Hostaform will in future be used as a worldwide product-line brand name for our polyacetals and new grades will only be marketed under this name," explains John Caamano, Global Business Line Director POM, outlining the future market strategy. "The only exception to this is that polyacetal sold under the trademark Celcon® will continue to be available regionally but will no longer be marketed globally."
High hardness and stiffness, very good sliding properties or high chemical resistance - this engineering thermoplastic has many different advantages. Through the incorporation of additive systems, fillers and reinforcing fibers, Ticona has specifically enhanced certain properties and currently offers over 100 modifications with different characteristics. Rather like in a modular system, there is a POM grade with the required properties for (potentially) every field of application. Differentiation and continual development of this engineering thermoplastic have played a key role in advancing Hostaform to the point where it is now used in a very diverse range of industries. For example, a special acid-resistant grade is available for faucet applications in the fluid handling sector: Hostaform MR 130 ACS (acid chlorine stability) resists limescale, chlorine and aggressive cleaning agents, complies with the regulations for potable water contact and ensures perfect functioning, even after many years' service.
For medical devices and other applications, Ticona offers a number of special MT grades. These are produced in a separate, dedicated production line and meet the high industry requirements for purity and traceability of the individual formulation components. Hostaform MT is used, for example, in inhalers, drug delivery systems and nebulizers. Through targeted development of medical technology as an important market, Ticona is benefiting from the growth in this sector. Demographic changes and technical advances, among other factors, also justify continuing positive forecasts for this market.
For applications in the medical field, the new Hostaform Anti-CrobeTM grade is also very suitable. This polymer with antimicrobial protection at the molecular level acts against contamination and degradation processes due to microorganisms and so prevents the spread of bacteria, for example. "In developing Anti-Crobe, we focused mainly on areas of application where a warm, humid environment creates ideal conditions for bacteria, etc. to thrive - for example in bathrooms and kitchens or sports and leisure facilities," points out Caamano. "But of course this polymer has all the right credentials for ensuring a more hygienic environment in hospitals as well."
The versatility of POM is also reflected in the rising demand for this product. Global consumption today stands at around 800 000 tonnes. In looking at the current market situation, two trends quickly become apparent. One is the increasing demand from Asia and the other is the importance of the automotive industry as the main sales sector. Ticona has taken account of both these trends by planning a new world-scale production plant to be built in Asia over the next three to five years and developing grades specially tailored to the requirements of the vehicle industry. A current example is laser-markable Hostaform, which ensures clear, sharp marking of switches and knobs for example in some of the latest automobiles from Volkswagen. Another excellent candidate for vehicle interior applications is second-generation, low-emission Hostaform XAP, which offers virtually zero emissions. A number of electrically conductive grades have been specially developed for dissipating electrostatic charges in fuel systems. These already comply with the stricter regulations on electrical conductivity currently being planned in Japan, Europe and the USA. And a series of metallic- look Hostaform grades finally provides the high-quality metallic finish so much in demand at present. This saves car manufacturers like Honda time and money in the production of car door handles, such as on the new Honda Civic.
It is clear to industry experts that the market for POM will continue to grow - at an estimated global average rate of between four and six percent. The driving force for this is the enormous pent-up demand, especially in the Asian markets. With over 45 years' experience in all aspects of Hostaform and over 100 different POM grades at present, Ticona has every reason to feel optimistic about the future of polyacetal.