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23rd May 2019, Riyadh

Interview with Rudy Miller, Director of Sabic’s High Heat Business

Rudy Miller, Director of Sabic’s High Heat Business. © SabicSabic has announced it is making significant investments in expanding the capacity of its Ultem and Extem high-heat resin production in order to meet growing demand.

Rudy Miller, Director of Sabic’s High Heat Business, explains the company’s strategy.

What is Ultem resin?

Rudy Miller: Ultem resin is a family of amorphous thermoplastic polyetherimide (PEI) resins that offer outstanding elevated thermal resistance, high strength and stiffness, and broad chemical resistance. With a seamless balance between mechanical properties and processability, Ultem materials offer design engineers exceptional flexibility and freedom.

Ultem resin can be extruded, thermoformed, extrusion blow moulded and injection moulded and key benefits include long-term heat resistance up to 180°C, outstanding strength and stiffness up to 200°C, dimensional stability over a wide temperature range, strength retention and inherent flame resistance without additives.

And Extem?

RM: Extem resin is able to meet even higher heat requirements than Ultem, with enhanced creep and strength performance at elevated temperatures. This resin has the capability to fill thin-wall, complex, miniaturized parts, IR transparency and the benefit of offering potential lead-free solderable solutions.

How is Sabic investing in Ultem resin and to what extent?

RM: In total, we are expanding our production capacity by more than 50%. We are currently advancing the investment in a new Ultem resin facility in Singapore which will come on-stream in 2021 and will enable us to produce closer to our customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Why are you making these investments?

RM: Fundamentally, it is our ambition to support our customers and their growth. There is a growing demand for high heat polymers, driven by stringent requirements in an increasing number of applications that are exposed to challenging or tough environments. Our existing customers have been loyal to our Ultem brand while new applications and customers are also rapidly driving new demand and opportunities. We want to deliver global high quality products to local producers as responsively and reliably as possible. Markets and product life cycles are moving faster than ever before and that is why we believe we are making the right investments now. We want to be able to offer material solutions at the right time, with shorter lead times for short cycle customer development, while becoming – and remaining – a steady local partner for longer cycle markets and applications.

How important is customer service to you?

RM: Their success is our success. We have to help our customers address their new application challenges and at the same time deliver the right day-to-day experience. Responsiveness is key and our supply performance should support our customers’ planning, while our materials and services meet their challenges and designs.

Sabic’s Ultem resin facility in Singapore, the first resin production asset the company will operate in the Far East, while it also offers increased local compounding. © Sabic

Sabic’s Ultem resin facility in Singapore, the first resin production asset the company will operate in the Far East, while it also offers increased local compounding. © Sabic

Within Sabic, we believe that you should always listen to your customers. Our customers have been asking questions on our ability to supply. We have listened, so we have taken actions and improved. An ongoing dialogue with our customers and external partners helps us to continuously improve and prepare for future requirements. There is no room for complacency.

You mentioned future requirements. What is up next?

RM: Innovation is a major driver for Ultem and Extem resins. In fact, more than half of our High Heat Thermoplastics organization is closely working with customers on new applications, and there are plenty in the pipeline. In electrical and electronics everything needs to be smart, driven by real-time direct communication and connectivity. These days everything is packed with electronics, from increasingly autonomous vehicles, to smart grids in solar and wind energy harvesting, and from sophisticated appliances or consumer portable devices to telecom infrastructure, smart meters and connectors. The current trends, such as miniaturization, weight reduction, improved optics and connectivity, call for dimensionally stable materials, with tight tolerances, ease of processing and the possibility for mass production, all combined with minimisation of waste and optimisation of potential post-consumer recyclability.

So environmental issues are also important?

RM: We have to do more than make some of the best polymers in the world. Sabic has a strong commitment to sustainability and our high heat resins are making their contribution, firstly through their use in medical, automotive and aerospace applications already available today. Our multi-sterilizable materials enable the re-use of equipment in healthcare, metal replacement solutions with composites in automotive offer weight reduction and less fuel consumption and the recyclability of materials used in the aerospace industry is another important area.

With the current expansion of our global capacity, the improvements in local compounding in Asia Pacific and even further expansions yet to come, we are confident to tell our customers that Ultem resin supply is back today and here to stay.

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