Interview with Dr Guenter Beyer

Interview realized by ADDCOM:

Q. Dr Beyer, you will be giving a paper on the new European regulations surrounding the use of flame retardants in cables – something that will be relevance to many of the attendees at AddCom. Flame retardants make up a large part of the European additives market. How are these new regulations changing the industry?

The new European regulation for cables but also for other construction products in the European market will surely demand for higher flame retardant compounds. This means that people have to increase the content of fillers like ATH or MDH, but today the fillers level is already around 60-65 %. People will look in the future to new synergistic systems which enables increased flame retardancy by only a small addition of a second flame retardant which can boost the whole FR system.

Q. In what way are these regulations specific to Europe? Given the current financial problems in the Eurozone, do you foresee these regulations being a barrier to trade and industry growth or could they play a role in aiding recovery?

Due to some severe disasters like fires at London Underground and at the airport Düsseldorf there was a general decision to specify for Europe flame retardant non halogen products for public area like tunnels, hospitals, airports etc. Also for other areas like nuclear power stations these products must be used. Now other countries outside Europe – China or South Korea – are regulating industrial sectors like Europe. The very new regulations in Europe will not be a trade barrier; it will allow the end user to choose the proper product for his requirement from all qualified suppliers of the world. Trading of such products will be free and not regulated in principle, but price or quality and reputation will also influence decisions.

Dr Guenter Beyer

Q. What is the greatest challenge in producing environmentally friendly alternatives and how has the industry responded?

The greatest challenge for the cable industry was the development of flame retardant non halogen products. In combination with the filler industry but also with the polymer years ago the application of metal hydroxides like ATH or MDH to the specific requirements was developed by the cable industry in Europe. Due to the very high filler content of ATH or MDH in the formulations the compounds must still show have high elongation and tensile strength combined with easy processing.

Q. A number of end users are registered to attend this conference. How can material suppliers work with brand owners collaboratively to ensure that their material needs are met?

New regulated fire tests in Europe are more and more complicated and expensive. If material suppliers want to check the performances of their products in real end-products they have to initiate good co-operations with their customers like the cable industry. It is more and more complicated or indeed not possible to predict passing of a fire tests by simple parameter like LOI etc.

Q. What have been the most important advances in the flame retardants sector in the last 12 months?

CPR (Construction Product Regulation) and its influence to the FR sector in Europe was the most important one. As indicated already only classical ATH-or MDH systems due to the necessary high filler content up-to-now must be improved and there will be a great demand for filler blends by combination of ATH- or MDH with synergistic systems to allow a good ranking of products to Euroclasses according to CPR.

Q. Where do you see the greatest potential for growth in the flame retardants sector in the next 5 years?

The greatest growth in the flame retardant sector in the next years will surely be the development of moderate filled compounds with high flame retardant properties. People will look to other systems like ATH or MDH…. They will also look to N-or P-based flame retardants but here problems like water-up-take must be solved…. And again: synergistic systems will dominate the market in the next 5 years. We will see an increased demand for zinc borate and silica but also for other material concepts like nanotechnology….

Q. You have been involved with both the IKV compounding conference and the Smithers Rapra plastics additives and compounding event for many years now. What are you most looking forward to about attending the newly combined AddCom conference?

The conference in 2012 is a perfect “synergistic” system, because it brings together the polymer additives and the compounding area in one place. And as we know: only an easy constant processing of a proper designed FR system in a polymer allows a perfect product to your customer…. Attending to the Aachen conference is a perfect way to participate to the future.

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