Degussa Initiators LLC was created when one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies acquired an organic peroxides maker in Ohio. The result is a comprehensive product range of initiators for polymer manufacture as well as inorganic persulfates. Barbara Kram tells why the match is good chemistry.
Everybody benefits from a Degussa product, every day and everywhere. It’s no exaggeration. The company’s initiators are used in making polymers, silicone rubber products, paints and coatings, food wraps, pipes and storage tanks, household cleaning goods, bottles and containers, optical fibers, automobiles, fuel additives, even pharmaceuticals.
Based in Elyria, Ohio, Degussa Initiators LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Degussa Corporation, has been perfecting its organic peroxide chemistry for more than 40 years. Degussa Initiators’ products are used in free radical chemistry, which allows other reactions to occur more readily, and is generated using thermally induced decomposition.
“That’s the whole reason for our business and our existence. We want to release free radicals only when they’re in the customer’s process and at the intended rate,” explains Technical Director Mark King. “The production of a lot of the materials that we use every day in our lives would not be possible today without these kinds of materials. It would just be impractical on a commercial scale to conduct manu-facturing of many products that make our lives better.”
The company has become a leading supplier to key segments of the North American polymers market including makers of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride; along with makers of coatings, acrylic resins, and sheet molding compounds. These are just a few of the polymers and other products that require Degussa Initiators’ expertise.
“What we support is really the process to make these products more efficiently,” says Business Director Mike Konci. “Getting better yield is typically where our customer sees the benefit.”
In addition to cost savings, the company’s products offer environmental advantages. For example, Degussa Initiators LLC developed reusable shipping containers for solid compounds to satisfy DOT requirements for small shipment sizes, while passing savings along to customers by reusing, then recycling, containers instead of discarding them in a landfill. Nestable bins can be stacked on plastic pallets and stored on a customer’s site when empty. An equally innovative system was developed for handling liquid products in reusable, stackable containers.
“The container cost is one of the components of the savings shared between us as a producer and our customers when they consume our goods,” King says. “The cost of disposal of these empty containers is relatively significant so they would much rather store the empty containers on their site and return them to us when we make our subsequent deliveries.”
Going beyond the first solution
Customers’ primary concerns center on the combination of cycle time and temperature that’s appropriate for their particular chemical process. After Degussa Initiators solves those issues with products that initiate polymer reactions successfully, it goes even further. For example, the company influences the by-products that might be formed and finds other ways to refine its customers’ production processes.
In addition to environmental and storage solutions, customers may ask the company to ship chemicals in a diluted form, saving labor costs and improving quality control and safety on the customer’s site. Other examples of how its products make production better include using an additive to make a chemical less temperature sensitive during handling to enhance safety and reduce storage costs. Another example would be a food wrap maker that requires an initiator that won’t leave an odor on products. Or a company might simply need to reduce its peroxide costs, improve quality, or increase production capacity.
“Customers use our products in different ways because they’re looking for specific performance characteristics or finished goods properties,” King says.
For Degussa Initiators LLC, the most important part of getting the chemistry right is getting safety right. The company prides itself on its safety record and has gone three years without a lost time accident, a feat for any chemical manufacturing operation.
“The two things we look at are, number one, safety; number two, customer service. Those are our two top priorities,” says Konci. “We frequently visit customer sites and talk to them about safety in their handling systems, their warehouse systems and everything down to finished container disposal.
“In transportation we have our own trucking fleet for the low temperature products, which not only is a savings for the customer in common carriers, but it’s also a safety issue shipping the material,” adds Konci.
Quality control is something the company preaches and practices. In 1992, it became the first U.S. peroxide producer to achieve ISO 9002 certification.
Wide world of products
Degussa Initiators LLC is capable of manufacturing the entire organic peroxide line used in a variety of industries and maintains a presence across the country with strategically placed warehouses and distribution partners. Multiple global production sites, including organic peroxide facilities in Ohio, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Spain and the U.K., and inorganic persulfate sites in Munich and Shanghai, enable the company to transfer product around the world to serve the needs of its customers.
The relationship with Degussa also has proved beneficial in that Degussa Initiators now can avail itself of the specialty chemical giant’s raw materials and finished products to produce its own organic peroxides and persulfates.
“Our product range is 10 dozen or more materials,” King says. “Within each family of peroxides there are a multitude of products; and within each product you have different configurations where you might be changing strengths or other properties.
“We’ve done almost everything,” he adds. “Whether it’s a new delivery form, mixing multiple materials, customizing the diluent, putting solids into liquid form, making emulsions or suspensions, changing containers to fit their purpose, it really is one of our trademarks that we go out and do what we can to satisfy a customer’s needs.”
It is interesting to note that, although Degussa Initiators LLC makes products that initiate an intended polymer reaction, after the chemical process takes place, its organic peroxides are fully consumed. Perhaps the only remnant left of its products is a trail of satisfied customers whose polymer production is enhanced by the compounds.