Looking Back to Move Forward
Evolution and Innovation. Two watchwords and approaches that businesses today must be both cognoscente of and live by. Offering customers ever-evolving best-in-class products accompanied by superior customer service and competitive pricing are benchmarks that companies with successful track records work diligently to establish – and maintain.
Providing innovative offerings by leveraging the latest technological advances has become not only expected, but demanded, by consumers. However, when moving forward, as well as onward and upward – it helps when structures are built upon solid foundations. The Epoxy Resin sector is no different. So, to better understand where our industry is going – we thought we’d share where we’ve been…
Early Epoxy Experiences & Experiments
Developed in the 1930’s, two-part polymer epoxy resins are thermosetting plastics whereby two combined parts become solid during the curing process – the two parts consisting of adhesive and hardener. In 1934, German Paul Schlack first reported and patented the compound process involving the condensation of epoxides and amines. Used initially as dental fixtures, epoxies as we recognize them today were synthesized in 1936 by Dr. Pierre Castan of Switzerland and Dr. S.O. Greenlee of the USA.
Commercialization of the polymer was licensed by both doctors through separate agreements. Dr. Castan allowed his work to be licensed by Ciba in Switzerland, which in 1946, became the first company to commercialize the production of epoxy resin. Across the pond, Dr. Greenlee struck a deal with American firm Devoe & Raynolds, which was purchased by Shell Chemicals, and subsequently changed its name to Momentive Specialty Chemicals.
Ciba grew into one of the three largest epoxy resin suppliers in the world, eventually becoming the Advanced Materials Unit of US company Huntsman Corporation – multinational manufacturer and marketer of chemical products for consumers and industrial customers. Chicago-based Devoe & Raynolds, was primarily a paint supplier, but conducted research on resins as well. Through a series of business transactions over the years, the firm eventually became part of specialty chemical firm Hexion, Inc., a supplier of thermoset resins and related technologies.
Resin Revelations & Advancements
One of the early adopters for the commercial application of epoxy resin was the aerospace industry in the 1950’s. Used as both anti-corrosive coatings as well as adhesives; epoxy resins provide longer-lasting bonds, better material flexibility and are lighter weight than mechanical fasteners and supports. Epoxies may be combined with reinforcing fiber materials to form composites – even further enhancing material strength and structural integrity.
After successful experimentation and implementation in the aerospace sector; military aircraft manufacturers began integrating epoxy resins into their aircraft design and production. As the polymers wide range of uses and applications grew – so too did the percentage of aircraft that were built of epoxy-resin composites. Substantial industry benefits were realized as well as airframe weights were significantly reduced, while structural integrity was increased, leading to lower fuel requirements, operating costs and emissions.
Another sector where epoxy resins have played a large role for several decades, is the construction industry where their durability and strength, as well as coating and sealing capabilities protect a variety of materials, surfaces and structures. Epoxies ability to adhere to a wide variety of substrate materials including glass, metal, stone, wood and some plastics – make the polymer the perfect choice for so many construction projects.
Polymer Progress & Practices
Today, epoxy resins are everywhere! Aside from multiple uses in aircraft and construction as mentioned above; these polymers are leveraged in myriad ways and industries that we all come into contact with every day. In everything from windmill blades in the renewable energy sector, to coatings for household appliances and beverage containers. In the sporting goods industry, epoxy resin composites are employed for better performance in golf clubs, racquets, paddles and protective gear such as helmets, masks and shin guards.
As polymer technology continues to advance, so too do the applications with which epoxy resins and their composites are harnessed. In the marine industry, an innovative technique used to build boat hulls and decks called epoxy resin infusion has dramatically increased the quality, durability and strength of hulls – which at the same time decreasing weight. And electronic insulating reins are used to coat and protect electronic components from circuit boards to consumer products.
Already in use today to some degree, future transportation vehicles will be constructed of evermore epoxy resin components. Carbon fiber epoxy resin composites have great advantages over their traditional aluminum and steel counterparts – providing reduced weight and fuel consumption, along with increased durability, flexibility and recyclability for a greener world.
History of Epoxy Resin References & Resources:
To read Epoxy Resin History click as a PDF HERE