Plastics Industry Survey
Part Two - Material and Technology Needs

DuPont and Plastics News recently surveyed plastics professionals to understand trends, issues and challenges in the plastics community as they relate to product development and material needs.

A panel that includes DuPont Performance Polymers North America Director HH Wong, Packaging & Industrial Polymers Research and Development Director David Dean and DuPont Automotive Technology Director Jeffrey Sternberg weigh in.

Q -   What did you learn about industry needs for materials and technology?

 HH Wong: While one third of the plastics community say they are fully satisfied with the current portfolio of resins and polymers, more than half say they have unmet needs.  When we asked about technology needs, the industry asked for improvements to the mechanical properties of polymers.  Clearly there is ample opportunity for new product development.

David: The interesting thing that I saw in the results is that the attributes that people say they value today are the ones they would like to see enhanced.  I believe that tells us we are on the right trajectory from the perspective of our R&D efforts.  Also, I would say that the attributes they are asking for – better structural capabilities, durability and thermal resistance – speak to an overall request for more robustness.

Q – Why do you think that is?

Jeff: One of the drivers for new plastic and composite materials that are stiffer, durable and offer higher thermal resistance likely stems from continuing efforts to reduce weight in vehicles to improve fuel economy and lower emissions.  There is still a lot of metal used in engine, transmission and chassis components, and those are prime candidates for today’s high-performance polymers.

David: The trends behind the need for improved structural capabilities and enhanced durability are consistent with what we see in packaging, where demand is growing for more robust materials to better protect food to help reduce food loss and waste throughout the value chain.

Q- Where is DuPont focusing its materials development capabilities?

David: Recently we shared our strategy for growth in advanced materials and it starts with collaborating with customers in key markets to find ways to improve the performance, sustainability and cost of products they are developing. It also relies heavily on our ability to provide development support as we move from art to part.  In many respects these two activities drive our advanced materials pipeline in both conventional and bio-based materials.  These efforts are fueled by foundation strength in science, technology engineering and application development.

Q – How does that impact material development in the automotive industry?

Jeff: In the automotive industry, we look at developing new materials in the context of application development.  We have seen that deeper collaboration early in the development process can identify and secure greater weight savings opportunities.  I believe there is growing understanding that material attributes can be more fully utilized by optimizing the material, design and process in a more collaborative way.  It's a triangle, not a straight line. The best way to get the greatest value from plastics is to design first for plastics.

                                                                                      HH Wong, Jeffrey Sternberg, David Dean

Who Took The Survey?

The DuPont, Plastics News ‘Plastics Industry Trends’ survey was conducted by email in February 2015.  More than 800 industry professionals qualified themselves as being involved in the selection, use or purchase of resins, polymers or elastomers.  Most respondents use engineering polymers, general polymers and elastomers.  Their job functions are primarily research and development, management and the design community.  The markets primarily served are automotive, industrial and electrical/electronic. Nearly half of respondents are based in the United States; one fourth in Europe and the rest are from regions around the world.

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