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Question: As a raw material supplier to the adhesives industry, we are concerned with our weak knowledge of the industry. We don’t know enough to adequately forecast our business or, more importantly, to direct our product-development efforts. Is this a common problem faced by suppliers, and how can we become better informed?
Answer: As you find yourself further upstream in the value chain, industry knowledge is often less than for those closer to the ultimate consumer. However, some suppliers have very successfully improved their industry position through development of a systematic business strategy to become more focused in the industry. Some of the “best in class” suppliers have participated strongly in industry trade organizations, developed solid databases of key industry information, and otherwise assigned key resources to develop this information and act on it. Certainly, this can be a significant investment, but in such a specialized industry, those suppliers that have made these investments position themselves to excel and prosper with above-average profitability.
Question: We keep hearing about the expected replacement of solvents with more environmentally acceptable technologies, but solvent-based technology seems to be hanging on with surprising strength. What will ultimately happen?
Answer: As Mark Twain said, “The news of my demise is premature.” Solvent technologies remain an important segment of the global adhesives industry, despite several decades of dire predictions. When the U.S. adhesives industry is considered as a unit, ChemQuest has forecast that solventborne systems will show only a modest decline over the next five to 10 years. However, since solventborne systems promise a slight decline in demand in an industry that is growing, these systems are continuing to lose market share to other formulative technologies. We see many end-use market segments continuing to embrace solvent technology, primarily due to the inability of alternative technologies to offer economic alternatives that work as well. Certainly, solvent technologies continue to lose ground to more environmentally acceptable alternatives, but the rate of change may have slowed a bit. In Europe, the trend has been faster than in the United States. Solvent systems will be around for quite a while unless significant technological breakthroughs are realized in alternative technologies.
Question: Our current label requirements deal with harsh environments and extreme temperatures. What adhesive could I use that would withstand high heat (up to 500ºF) and cold temperatures (down to -40ºF)? Additionally, the adhesive must adhere to rubber and resist oil.
Answer: A silicone adhesive would most likely be the best option. Silicone adhesives can generally withstand temperatures of 480ºF and, depending upon the environment, may withstand temperatures as high as 600ºF. Silicones can also generally maintain their performance characteristics to about -100ºF.
-ROGER J. LOHMAN