Wilmington, Delaware – When Chemours Co. was split off in 2015 from DuPont as a separate publicly traded company, it allowed the new firm to put more focus on the Viton-brand fluoroelastomers line than the materials had gotten in recent years.
Since the split – complete separation took place last 1 July – Wilmington-based Chemours has introduced a new compound to the Viton family and also formed a joint venture in China that brings customers access to three other fluoroelastomer gums and three pre-compounds materials.
“If you look at what happened in the last five years in DuPont, there were very few new products and developments,” said Jean-Marc Imbert, global product manager for Viton fluoroelastomers. “This shows there is a clear commitment, and we're back on the development side of things.”
The Chemours part of the split included titanium technologies, chemical solutions and fluoroproducts. Imbert said Chemours basically can supply along the whole material product chain, from the raw material all the way to the finished polymer.
“That makes a lot of sense,” he said. “We're now the only one in the industry to be basically fully integrated.”
Viton is part of the industrial resins business within the fluoroproducts business of Chemours. Viton is the only elastomeric product in a unit that also has extensive business related to plastics.
Imbert came into the rubber industry from Dow when it was involved in the former DuPont Dow Elastomers joint venture. He was on the business development and product management side for the Nordel EPDM and Engage elastomer products.
When the joint venture dissolved, Imbert landed with DuPont and was the European business manager for Viton and Vamac from 2006-09, then moved into plastics when DuPont Performance Polymers was created.
Overall, Chemours has 36 manufacturing sites across North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe. Viton has operations in Chambers Works, New Jersey that can make copolymers and terpolymers. A facility in Elkton, Md., has pre-compounding operations, Imbert said, while a company site in the Netherlands has two polymerisation lines, one for copolymers and terpolymers and the other for peroxide-curable materials.
“We basically have a global organisation,” he said. “We're taking care of the business in each of the main regions. In each region we have product line management resources, technical resources and sales resources.”
Chemours has dedicated sales people in each region for Viton because of the differences in marketing rubber from plastics. “We recognised that in the structure, and before that was not the case in all of the regions,” Imbert said. “It was fully leveraged with the plastics group, and that was not the best setup.”
Thus far, the company has had positive feedback from its customers, according to Aru Deshmukh, regional business manager for Viton in North America.
“We really made an effort to reach out to all of our customers to recognise that we're still Viton, and the organisation is still very much behind the fluoroelastomers. It's a new face with Chemours. We're taking a look to improve and build upon what we've done within the DuPont organisation. It's a 200-year-old startup. We have the history, knowledge and technical capability. Now we get to be a faster, nimble firm, with kind of a startup mentality.”
Chinese joint venture
Chemours has finalised a 50-50 joint venture in China with Zhonghao Chenguang Chemical Research Institute Co. Ltd.
The JV is called Chemours Chenguang Fluoromaterials (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. and has an introductory portfolio of six new fluoroelastomer grades.
Three gums – FKM 2601, FKM 2602 and FKM 2603 – have Mooney viscosities of 25, 50 and 70. The three pre-compounds have viscosities of 20, 32 and 41, and are suited for compression and injection molding applications, the firm said.
Imbert said the JV gives Chemours a manufacturing asset in Asia that will allow it to tackle future growth in the region. While it had a full organisation in China, it had to rely on sourcing materials from its U.S. and European factories.
Chemours will be the exclusive distributor of the JV products in all countries except China, where the JV will sell the six grades, along with all Viton lines.
“If you look at Chemours, we are the FKM producer that has the most balanced presence in each of the regions,” he said. “That's been the case for the last 30 years. The (grades from the) JV really allows us to participate in those markets where the Chinese have been taking share for the last 10 years.”
New Viton grade
The new Viton grade Chemours introduced late last year is Viton VTR-9307. It is a bisphenol-cured fluorinated rubber pre-compound for the production of FKM parts with long-term resistance to hot acidic gases and condensates.
The firm said applications include EGR sensors, positive crankcase ventilation, diesel particulate filters, gaskets for charge air coolers, intake pipes, EGR cooler and quick connectors, in addition to O-rings and sleeves for air flow elements.
“We're very clear that we would be committed to the Viton business and that we would transition in the proper way,” Imbert said. “I think (customers) are looking at us to be back on the front of application and product development.”