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issue: January 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

2004 Materials Forecasts
Plastics - Reformulating Insulation

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by David Simpson, Contributing Editor

Polyurethane, frequently used in appliances as insulation, has undergone changes in recent years to meet new requirements.

2004 Materials Forecasts
Lawrence Berkowski, director, BASF Urethane Chemicals, observes that since the beginning of this year, customers have been compelled to use zero ODP (Ozone Depleting Potential) blowing agents for rigid foams. "We successfully reformulated our Diphenylmethane Diisocyanate (MDI) to effectively work with these blowing agents to produce insulating foam, thereby supporting our customers' efforts to produce more environmentally friendly appliances without compromising quality."

He sees a tight balance between supply and demand for MDI. For that reason, he says, "Prices have already risen over the last 18 months, and we expect this trend to continue into the foreseeable future because there have been few global capacity additions and there will be pressure within the industry to increase margins. Availability of MDI for rigid foams used in appliances will also be influenced by other high growth applications for MDI, such as Oriented Strand Board (OSB), a wood used in the home construction market."


Solimide polyimide foams from Degussa, Inspec Foams Inc. (Plano, TX, U.S.) are thermal-acoustic insulation that can be used to upgrade insulation materials. Benefits reportedly include high temperature (to 575¯F), non-burning (UL 94 V-0 recognized), fiber free, and flexible and self-supporting properties. Shown are finished Solimide foam parts with facing materials laminated to one or more surfaces.
Looking at the U.S. market, a report sponsored by the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, a business unit of the American Plastics Council, noted that appliance usage was down slightly, from 283 million lb in 2000 to 278 million lb in 2002. A breakdown shows 2002 usages in refrigerators of 154 million lb, 39 million lb in water heaters, 34 million lb in freezers, 23 million lb in coolers, and 14 million lb in commercial refrigeration.

For glass fiber insulation, the supply for appliances has remained strong in 2003, says Randy A. Limmer, market manager for Performance Materials for Johns-Manville Corporation (Denver, CO, U.S.). "With modest growth in most core appliance segments, insulation supply is currently at acceptable levels. Pricing is very aggressive with continuing pressure to provide the best products and services at the lowest price.

"The projected supply over the next year is anticipated to exceed the demand, thus creating additional pricing pressures," he says. "The key factors affecting pricing are energy and other miscellaneous raw materials."


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