PU Magazine International

Ausgabe 02 | 2017


The boon and bane of intellectual property

The patent system was originally designed to both recognise and reward inventors and to provide technological information to the general public with the intent to spur innovations.

However, many feel that the patent system has become vulnerable to abuse, changing into the opposite of what was originally intended: patent writing becomes more and more a matter of pure word playing and patents are often filed only for strategic purposes.

To write a strong patent, you nowadays have to be a lawyer, not a scientist. For example, just think about the entirely different meaning of a composition that contains polyol A and polyol B or that is composed of polyol A and polyol B; or of a foam that is producible via a special process or that is produced via this process.

In 2015 about 10.6 million patents have been in force worldwide. In the same year the number of filed patent applications was close to 3 million [1], with other words nearly one-third of all patents currently in force. Either the creative potential of today’s inventors is incredibly high or – and that is my experience – patents nowadays contain redundant contents or only marginal improvements.

The fact that during the last years the number of filed patents has been growing at least twice as fast as the expenditures for R&D could be of course explained by an increasing efficiency of R&D, but I hesitate to do so.

Another worrying trend during the last years is the significantly increased number of activities of non-practicing entities (NPE). These companies, also called “patent trolls” or “patent sharks”, acquire whole portfolios of patents with no objective to use the protected technical invention in practice. Instead they use it to sue others on the grounds of patent infringement and thus enforce payment of monetary damages.
It is absolutely legitimate to earn money with patents – after all the inventors should be rewarded for their inventions – but for me it is a big difference if you try to earn money by using the invention and bringing new products and technologies to the market or by just trading intellectual property rights. The only thing that counts today seems to be money, money, money.

To be honest, I don’t have any proposal on what has to be changed to bring our intellectual property system back on course, I just feel extremely uncomfortable when thinking about the future of managing intellectual property and industrial property rights.

I also have no idea what exactly this should tell me as a passionate golfer, but again some surprising numbers: in 2015 about 760 patents were filed dealing with golf balls, 230 of them dealing with the multilayered structure of golf balls. Full of awe about the infinite degree of technical innovation in that little white ball, I should hit my next drive very carefully and if it disappears in the rough (as it usually does) I should search for it forever. But wait! Thinking about what I said before, I prefer to just smash that piece of simple plastic and forget about it.

Wolfgang Friederichs

[1] WIPO statistics database


Plastpol 2017 – Platform for expansive markets in Central Europe

Poland’s plastics market is prospering. The comprehensive need for modernisation in Poland has had a positive effect on the plastics market for several years now. Continuous demand for plastics is ensured by high investment strength in the customer industries. In Europe, Poland ranks sixth behind Germany, Italy, France, United Kingdom, and Spain. The polyurethane market in the country is expanding as well.


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Polyurethanex 2017 and PU & TPU 2017 attracting interest of many experts

Russia is confident about the year 2017 and the future: after having gone through challenging times, characterised by political tensions, commercial sanctions, oil price erosion and a weak Russian rouble, a lot of experts expect that the domestic economy is on the way to recovery. The World Bank also forecasts growth for the Russian economy. Numerous foreign companies count on the upturn and feel justified in having maintained their business relationships with Russian companies during the crisis. That these positive trends also hold true for the plastics and especially the polyurethane industry, was demonstrated first by the Interplastica 2017, the 20th international trade fair for plastics and rubber, that took place 24 – 27 January, and one month later from 28 February – 2 March by the Polyurethanex 2017, the ninth edition of the international trade fair for raw materials, machinery and technologies for manufacturing polyurethanes.


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From JEC World, Paris, 14 – 16 March 2017

JEC World 2017 took place 14 – 16 March 2017 in a 65,000 m2 exhibit space within Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center, France. The number one event in composites worldwide attracted 1,300 exhibitors and 40,607 visitors which is a two-digit attendance growth (+10 %). “JEC Group’s strategy towards end-users is a winning one as we welcomed more architects, creators, developers, designers, style engineers and trend-setters”, said Frédérique Mutel, JEC Group President & CEO. “We are very happy with the participation and the enthusiasm the composites professionals expressed. We are grateful and are committed to go further“, she added.


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Hybrid ready for series production

Hybrid processes and materials made of fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) and metal for automotive lightweight construction are the focus of the LEIKA research project, which KraussMaffei is advancing in collaboration with the Institute for Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology (ILK) at Dresden University of Technology and other partners from industry and research academia. A new lab system at the ILK stands at the centre of the development work. This system allows FRP-metal hybrid materials to be formed and back injected in one step.


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Global market overview for spray polyurethane foam (SPF) and one component foam (OCF)

IAL Consultants has published the fifth edition of its report on the spray polyurethane foam (SPF) and one component foam (OCF) markets. The new study updates the information included in the previous study published in 2014. The information contained within the report has been extensively revised through a lengthy programme of interviews throughout the industry during the second half of 2016. The report contains data on the production of both SPF (in tonnes) and OCF (in tonnes and number of cans equivalent) in 2015 and forecast production for 2020 split by major geographic region and country.


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The “New Normal” isn’t quite what you think it might be. Watch China’s new model…
Interview with Zakhar Bolshakov, Vice President OCSiAl Polymers

The nanotechnology company OCSiAl plans to revolutionize a number of industrial segments in plastics and composites. Carbon nanotubes are not new, but OCSiAl intends to make their use more widespread with its products based on high-performance low-cost single-wall CNTs. During the JEC World, we had the opportunity to talk with Zakhar Bolshakov about SWCNTs and their use in polyurethanes.


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Requirements regarding quality of foam products through norms and customer wishes

Polyurethane flexible foams are of particular importance as a basic material for the mattress industry. As mattresses belong to the most heavily used products in any household, high demands have to be met with respect to their lifespan and the weights they are expected to support. In their standards, the industry defines some tests for characterising relevant properties of flexible foams used for mattress production. But whereas one can define how to calculate the technical firmness of materials in standards, every mattress customer has a subjective perception of the firmness of a mattress. The problem is made even more severe by the independent German testing association “Stiftung Warentest” that classifies the firmness in levels differing from those in the standards. This paper gives an overview of current standards and requirements for mattress flexible foams.


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New cell structure control technology for ultra-high air flow viscoelastic polyurethane foam

In recent years, various high air flow viscoelastic foam products have been introduced. Use of various cell openers is known in the public literature. As an improvement on top of such recent developments, ultra-high air flow viscoelastic foams, or in-situ chemical reticulation of viscoelastic foams, can be achieved using a new cell structure control technology, which uses a new proprietary formulation component. The features in cell structure between the control foam and the new technology can be shown via scanning electron microscopy images: The difference lies in the extent of open cell windows, as well as the cell window size, but not in the cell size itself, which remains largely unchanged. Foam air permeability can be controlled essentially independent of IFD load bearing. In the best case, the new technology imparts about 80 % or more increase in foam air permeability (0.2 – 0.25 m3/min by ASTM D3574 for IFD at 25 % of 36 – 44 N) compared with a control formulation targeted for the same IFD load bearing (0.09 m3/min for IFD of 37 N). In addition, the technology gives about 30 – 50 % increase in tear strength on a constant IFD load bearing basis. In all cases, excellent 90 % compression set values (below 2 %) are obtained.


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New flame retardant developments for the flexible foam market

Flame retardants (FRs) play an important role in public fire safety. In automotive polyurethane (PU) foams, the use of flame retardants has been effective in preventing ignition and reducing the number of vehicular fires. There are initiatives including Proposition 65 in California, GADSL (Global Automotive Declarable Substance List) and legislative bills that require the development of new products to replace the traditionally used tris(dichloropropyl) phosphate (TDCP). The interest in sustainable new product offerings has become a priority for consumers and producers of flame retardants. ICL-IP America, Inc. has developed reactive and/or halogen-free flame retardants to meet the ongoing challenges of today’s market where superior fire test performance and product sustainability are required. The focus of this paper will be on the introduction of a new reactive FR for use in flexible polyurethane foam. Flammability, scorch, fogging (FOG) and volatile organic compound (VOC) performance data are presented for the new product, illustrating its advantages over the commercially available product offering TDCP in automotive flexible foam applications. This paper documents a series of evaluations using laboratory bench scale tests to show improvements in the combustion and emission properties with this new product offering.


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Advancing towards cellular composite sandwich structures manufactured using the poly­urethane spray coat method

The demand for efficient processing technologies to manufacture lightweight structures is constantly growing. In this context, low cycle times, high levels of automation and low process-related costs have a high priority, since novel lightweight materials, such as fibre-reinforced plastics, always compete with sophisticated technologies of the metal processing industry. Recently, scientists at the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology (ILK) of the TU Dresden developed a novel method to manufacture sandwich structures with textile reinforcement in a single production step by using the expansion pressure of foaming polyurethane. Within first investigations, the high potential of this technology was outlined by analysing the influence of process-related and textile-specific parameters on the resulting composite structure. In this context, the foam density was identified having a major impact on the resulting level of impregnation and the related mechanical properties.


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The effect of microstructure on the mechanical properties of thermoplastic polyurethane/clay nanocomposite foams

The microcellular structure and tensile property of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)/clay nanocomposite foams were prepared via microcellular injection process and studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and mechanical tests. The microcell diameters of the TPU nanocomposite foams became smaller, and the microcell numbers significantly increased as the clay contents increased. The relationship between clay content and the tensile properties of nanocomposite foams was also investigated. The results showed that the mass density of TPUNC5 (with 5 wt% clay) foams decreased by 12.5 %. Meanwhile, the tensile strength at 450 % strain of the TPUNC5 nanocomposite foams increased by 61.2 % comparing to that of pure TPU foams. Thus, this study shows that light weight, high strength TPU/clay nanocomposite foams can be produced by loading a moderate amount of clay into the TPU matrix.


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Bio-based waterborne polyurethane dispersion evaluation for synthetic leather applications

Waterborne polyurethane dispersions (PUDs) are used to prepare polyurethane coatings and adhesives containing very low volatile organic compounds for textiles and synthetic leathers used in furniture and automobile applications. PUDs provide the performance of polyurethanes with additional advantages such as the lack of harmful monomers and absence of toxic volatile organic compounds. Polyurethane synthetic leathers are normally produced in a multi-stage process which involves removing toxic dimethyl formamide (DMF) from a solventborne layer, then applying a solventborne wear layer. Solvent-free waterborne PUDs with a very high solids content and excellent performance have now been produced for this application and industry trends have shown that waterborne PUDs are replacing traditional solvent-based systems. These new waterborne systems must offer all of the same required properties of comparable solvent-based systems with the added advantage of being eco-friendly in nature. Waterborne systems are clearly a step in the right direction from an environmental standpoint however most of the polyurethanes used today in these PUD systems are still petroleum-based. This study evaluates the effect of bio-based polyols and petroleum-based polyols on the stability of waterborne PUDs and the physical, mechanical and thermal properties of the resultant films and coatings.


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