Determining the right resin for a demanding environment is a complex process. “There are different physical properties, such as heat distortion temperature, styrene content and tensile elongation,” says Mike Diehl, business manager for AOC. “It also depends on what chemicals the material is going to be exposed to; some perform well in acidic environments, some perform better in more alkaline environments.”
Many customers also request unique properties. “They might be making changes in their process that require us to develop new resins specifically for their manufacturing environment. Or we may have to develop a product that has less volatile content in order for a customer to meet their air permitting requirements,” Diehl says.
Developing resins for these environments is a matter of balancing cost with performance, according to Johnson. “The chemistries that you find in the aerospace market might be a little bit expensive for products used in chemical processing or wastewater treatment,” he says. “From a material science standpoint you have a wide range of things that you can employ in your solution set, but if you want to be successful commercially it has to be competitive with other construction materials.”
Formulation challenges include ease of fabrication, cost, health and safety considerations, and creation of a resin that maintains consistent performance over time. “The market forces will dictate that you form the best tradeoff on those four vectors and probably a few more,” Johnson says.
Resin producers continue to develop new chemistries to meet the evolving needs of their customers. AOC, for example, is conducting research into resins that can withstand very high temperatures.
“We’re looking at new resins that can operate at much higher temperatures than existing technologies – resins that can exceed 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a quantum leap above the traditional chemistries that we’ve used in the past,” says Diehl. The development of such a resin would allow AOC to pursue opportunities in markets where process temperatures are currently too high for existing composites.