Came up with an idea of interest to big European customers
Harald Jacobsen of Ineos at Herøya had an idea for developing a technology which would give his company access to an attractive European and global market. Healthy demand for synthetic leather in the automotive industry is driven by sales of new cars in Europe, and several big customers are showing interest.
E-PVC is a mature product with many sub-types and functions, and Ineos already produces several of these types. But it lacked the technology for producing the type of E-PVC which the automotive industry uses in its various synthetic leathers.
“For car interiors, the main requirement for synthetic leather, or skai, as it is called, is that it will not give off fumes which end up coating the car windows (so-called fogging),” explains the man behind the idea, Harald Jacobsen.
“The E-PVC used to make skai products must have low fogging properties,” he says.
Jacobsen is head of the PVC section of Technology and Production Support at Ineos. Project Manager Asbjørn Holt has spent the last eighteen months combing through his customers’ needs and assessing the properties of the many raw materials and their combinations. Once the chemists have completed their theoretical considerations, the theories have to be tested.
“Continuous contact with potential customers is essential. Otherwise we risk ending with a product with different properties from those the customer has asked for. For instance, with regard to the viscosity and elasticity of the E-PVC when mixed with a plasticiser to form a plastisol. Our product, in the form of an E-PVC powder, must be suitable for their technology,” Holt says.
Plans for full-scale production
Trial and error have been the way forward. Holt and his team have built on Jacobsen’s idea to develop a suitable technology. The product has been created at Ineos’ own pilot plant and forwarded to European customers.
“Synthetic leather manufacturers have tried our product and the feedback has been good”, says Holt.
“Ineos has focused its contact on German manufacturers. We are now planning full-scale production of Ineos-based E-PVC for synthetic leather for cladding dashboards, internal side panels and car seats.”
“If all goes well, we shall probably be in full production next years”, Jacobsen says.
In which case, Ineos seems to have secured yet another exciting leg to stand on. Demand for low-fogging E-PVC is high in the European automotive industry, and follows global growth in car production, estimated at 7 per cent per year up to 2018. Today there are only two or three significant European suppliers of similar products on the market.
“The market is growing, competitors are few, and we are entering an attractive market. This is of great interest to Ineos, as we think we can produce extremely efficiently,” Jacobsen points out.