Bitrez, the UK’s leading manufacturer and pioneer of specialist polymers and chemicals, has produced and sold its 5000th ton of specialist low free formaldehyde phenolic resins and, three years after leading the market in reduced free monomer phenolic products, continues to be the forerunner with some new formaldehyde free polymers being added to the portfolio.
Phenolic polymers offer inherent Fire, Smoke and Toxicity [FST] values that surpass the performance of alternate matrix systems. However, their monomer feedstocks are extremely hazardous and resultant free monomers still present in the systems offered can pose a dilemma for organisations wishing to reap the performance attributes whilst complying with increasing regulatory restrictions and difficult exposure controls and abatement.
Curaphen phenolic polymers have been designed for application in the area of specialist coatings and as matrix resins for the design of lightweight composites structures in industries such as aerospace, rail and construction.
Bitrez developed specialist grades within their Curaphen range early in 2015 in order to satisfy specific concerns raised as a result of the reclassification of formaldehyde and reduction of threshold limits under REACh (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).
Because formaldehyde levels remain in pre-preg after manufacture, a significant amount of pre-preg on the market today contains the carcinogenic chemical. However, by simply switching to a low free from formaldehyde resin from within the Curaphen portfolio, toxic emissions are reduced, and workers health and safety is protected.
Bitrez began producing resins for the pre-preg composites market in 1983 and offer an extensive range of matrix systems.
Having originally developed products to satisfy the demanding needs of the heavily regulated packaging and coatings industry, the organisation utilised the specialist technology to upgrade and enhance the resinous systems employed in the composites sector.
This isn’t to say that the products with decades of performance history have changed in cured composition, just that they have been processed in such a way as to “clean” the resultant product and provide lower hazard during use.
Curaphen grades can be used to manufacture composite parts using a variety of techniques including: pultrusion and filament winding, resin infusion, wet lay-up and resin transfer moulding, hot melt and solvated pre-impregnation. Bitrez now supplies resins to several of the world’s leading pre-preg manufacturers.
Dominic Hopwood, Bitrez’s Composites Resin sales manager, said: “Bitrez is relentlessly focused on the regulatory initiatives that have an impact on our products and those of our customers. We know how important it is to ensure the products we make meet stringent health and safety requirements both for our staff, our customers and their consumers.
“Thanks to REACh, knowing what substances are inside your product and understanding and managing the human and environmental risks associated with their use is now on every manufacturer’s radar. So, when formaldehyde was reclassified as both a carcinogen and mutagen, our R&D team were quick to respond and developed Curaphen. It’s got all the characteristics you’d want from a phenolic polymer resin but with none of the associated health and safety risks from the carcinogenic related toxins.”
REACh’s list of harmful substances is continuously growing and Bitrez constantly monitors any new announcements to ensure the resins it makes for its customers are future proof.
For example, the Wigan-based company is in the process of removing, replacing or reducing certain chemicals that are in the pipeline to either be reclassified or banned by REACh in the future such as styrene, saturated anhydrides and halogenated (brominated) chemistries which are used in the formulation of resin systems to enhance properties such as cure and flame retardancy.
“No one has a crystal ball,” continues Dominic Hopwood, “but it’s very likely that at some point in the next two years, these chemistries will be severely restricted by REACh, resulting in a market demand for replacements. As the UK’s leading manufacturer of specialist polymers and chemicals resins, we are in a fantastic position to provide these products and services to our customers.”