Changzhou, China – Arlanxeo, the synthetic rubber joint venture between Lanxess and Saudi Aramco, inaugurated its Rubber Technology Center (RTC) at its site in Changzhou, Jiangsu in December.
Arlanxeo’s new China research centre caters to local needs
Claimed to be the world’s "most comprehensive rubber research centre", RTC merges the capabilities of Lanxess’ research centre in Qingdao, Shandong, Arlanxeo’s APAC technical centre in Shanghai as well as newly added competencies. It consists of five laboratories for mixing, rheological, physical testing, wet and analytical testing operations.
The Changzhou site also houses a €235 million EPDM plant with 160,000 tonne annual capacity opened in 2015. With the world’s largest single-line EPDM capacity, the plant enables local supply to meet the China market’s demand.
“The consolidation of our testing and mixing capabilities and the production strength of the EPDM plant in China has not only made Arlanxeo well-placed to meet the challenges currently presented by the market situation, but also underscores the importance of China and the APAC region to Aranxeo,” said Jan Paul de Vries.
Compared with Arlanxeo’s research centre in Germany and testing centre in Canada, the Changzhou facilities is stronger in analytical testing and covers both raw material and end products, such as helping its client find out the reason for cracks on rubber pipes and make according adjustments.
The resilience testing laboratory can provide a constant temperature environment with a range from -50℃ to 200℃. The torsion laboratory is also able to provide low temperature testing, targeting areas such as air tightness of tires under extreme weather.
“The rubber market in China is very dynamic and innovative, for instance the Silk Road initiative which leads to new developments and applications in the rail road industry,” said Hans Werhonig, head of Arlanxeo’s Asia high performance elastomer business. “We follow very closely what the market requests and we also understand the importance of policies by the Chinese government.”
Arlanxeo has been working on formula development, testing and end product analysis for rubber products used in China’s high-speed rail road industry, either unique in the world market or with special requirements.
An example: shock pads used in China need to take distinct environmental conditions into account, such as the temperature discrepancy between northern and southern regions and ultraviolet damage in the plateau area.
Different supply chain conditions in China, such as raw material variance and the lack of high-end mixing machinery compared with European countries, adds to the complexity in product development, said head of research at Arlanxeo’s high performance elastomer unit Baojia Cheng.
Werhonig also noted that a growing number of Chinese companies are expanding around the world. “Our research network can support customers of a global label. We are the only synthetic rubber producer who has this ability,” he said.
For Chinese water treatment rubber sealant makers seeking to obtain European market approval, Arlanxeo has a team of experts at its Germany research centre – some of which participate in the making of the very standards – to consult on formula design and sample manufacturing. Such research network can speed up the approval process for Chinese customers by up to several months.
“The Asia-Pacific region, which now accounts for over 40 percent of the global EPDM market by volume,” said Jan Paul de Vries. “Because of its flourishing automotive, construction and electrical equipment industries, China is and will continue to be the number one consumer of EDPM in Asia.”