DSM Engineering Plastics

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How to survive the structural PA66 shortage

  • Rob Crowell · Chief Commercial Officer at DSM Engineering Plastics

  • 7 March 2018

Plan proactively and find alternatives

Under current market conditions, the supply chain for polyamide 66 (PA66) is under pressure. With the surge in demand for developing lightweight vehicles and pushing the connectivity revolution forward, supply is too concentrated to reliably meet global demand.

It will take years before this structural disparity is solved. The seven Force Majeure declarations made across the US and EU in the first two months of 2018 alone do not demonstrate an incidental issue, but reveal the supply system’s extreme structural fragility.[1] In the current shortage, the limiting factor for PA66 production is Adiponitrile (ADN), an input manufactured in only four large-capacity production plants – three in the US and one in France. The current total capacity and concentration of these plants is insufficient for reliable supply when the market is in equilibrium, let alone in the tight supply conditions we have witnessed over the last few years.

Severe impact

Recently announced investments in new capacity show positive signs that producers have realized that the current situation is untenable for customers downstream, however the retrofits and debottleneck measures announced by Butachimie (a production joint venture between Solvay and Invista), Invista and Ascend will not be sufficient to meet market demand until 2021, at the earliest. In the meantime, component manufacturers that rely on PA66 for their products are forced to try to meet their supply needs at elevated costs, if they are able to secure sufficient PA66 at all. We predict that PA66 demand will quickly outpace supply by at least 100kT or more and some PA66 consumers will be forced to consider an alternative, because PA66 will simply not be available – regardless of the price. Moreover, if demand continues at the rate of increase, it is possible that the gap could escalate to as high as 300kT, during the next couple of years.

DSM well positioned with smart alternatives

Component manufacturers across a wide array of industries are left considering how to meet their production obligations with rising costs and PA66 shortages. At DSM, our portfolio of materials includes a number of polymers that can relatively easily replace PA66 while meeting the needs of the application.

Akulon® Polyamide 6 (PA6): With near-equivalent performance in stiffness and strength to PA66, and superior performance in toughness, processability, and heat aging resistance up to 200°C, PA6 is an ideal material for applications where parts are exposed to hot air (such as air intake manifolds and air ducts), exposed to oil (such as oil pans and oil filters), and parts with high requirements for surface appearance (such as pedals, door handles and power tool housings).

EcoPaXX® Polyamide 410 (PA410): Ideal for applications where parts are exposed to water or glycol (such as for thermal management in automotive), PA410 is a high-performance bio-based polyamide. It demonstrates low moisture absorption and excellent chemical resistance, a high crystallization rate for fast and easy processing, and the highest melting point of all bio-based polyamides at up to 250°C.

Stanyl® Polyamide 46 (PA46): With high stiffness retention up to 290°C and excellent wear and abrasion resistance in combination with low friction at elevated temperatures, PA46 is ideal for applications where parts are exposed to wear and friction (such as gears and chain tensioners), or where parts are exposed to demanding loads in hot air (such as charged air ducts) or oil (such as certain engine and transmission components).

Arnite® Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT): Ideal for electrical and lighting applications where peak temperatures are below 200°C (such as connectors, lighting frame bezels and LED components), PBT demonstrates excellent electrical properties, good dimensional stability, and high specific stiffness, with grades optimized to meet the toughest outgassing requirements at temperatures up to 200°C.

DSM anticipated the PA66 shortage in time, and is well positioned with smart alternatives – both in terms of design capabilities and security of supply. Speak with us today to discuss how you can meet your production obligations with proven materials appropriate for your specific application. Our engineers are ready to support you through determining the best alternative material for your application, as well as the transition.

[1] Nylon Intermediates and Fibres global Monthly Market Overview – February 2018, PCI Wood Mackenzie

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