BYK makes additives for composite applications in the construction, transportation, automotive, recreation, and wind energy markets. Applications include wind blades, fiberglass tubs, boat hulls, automotive body panels, and duroskins for fiberglass doors. The additives are designed to improve the processing or air release in spray-up and lay-up manufacturing as well as the casting process (marble, solid surface). Dirk Plas, BYK-USA president, discusses his view of the composites industry.
What markets are you more focused on?
The area we’re most focused on is anything to do with energy savings, which includes “green” and wind energy. Many customers are working actively to replace existing raw materials with more sustainable materials. There’s a lot of money being invested there. There’s a very significant focus right now on developing alternative energy technologies. There’s a high demand for green products and more money going into that area. A lot of our customers need help in making these new materials work.
What challenges do your customers have?
When formulating with green products, there are challenges with regard to compatibility. Customers are always looking for ways to reduce scrap. Anytime you make a composite, you have an air release problem. Filler materials help make composites more cost competitive, and so do the wetting and dispersing additives. These additives reduce rollout time and filler increase.
Is the “green” movement here to stay?
I think so. Green doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Some industries will be slow to adopt, but ultimately it’s not a fad, and it’s not going away.
What is the state of the additives industry?
Like everyone else, we suffered a decline at the end of 2008 that continued through 2009. Things have started to improve; however, the market was already competitive but has become even more so. Everyone’s looking for new business, scrambling after stimulus dollars and looking for new areas. As a result, competitors are also moving into new areas. But we’re also doing the same thing. We’re not seeing a lot of consolidation, but rather more people coming into the market.
How has the market changed in the past decade?
The market for additives in composites isn’t an old market, so we’ve seen a lot of growth. New technologies are being developed and it’s still a growing market. Our company in particular started focusing on the composites industry about 20 years ago, and we began seeing strong market pickup.