Stability in the Volatile Specialty Chemicals Market: Finding Growth in Wood Adhesives

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A healthy construction industry leads to increased demand for wood products along with wood binders and adhesives. What can special chemicals firms do to tap into this burgeoning market?
Image source: Flickr CC user Dave Stone

Recent market analysis shows growth in the global construction industry1. Even though it’s already been seven years, the housing bubble crash of 2008 still lingers in the minds of many. I’m not even talking about the subprime mortgage crisis. I’m talking about all the flipped houses that were left unfinished and went into foreclosure and the new construction that was halted. A long-awaited grocery store that was supposed to open near me finally held its grand opening last month. It was originally supposed to open its doors over five years ago!

If luck holds, that newly finished grocery store heralds a brighter future for the construction industry — not just in terms of new properties, but also in terms of boosting specialty chemicals firms. New construction requires wood products, so more construction means more demand for these. And if the need for wood products increases, so too does the need for wood adhesives and binders.

Despite this hopeful outlook, the market for wood adhesives and binders faces some hurdles. Many of these products are petroleum-derived, meaning that prices can fluctuate depending on the health of the oil and gas market. Changing regulations could potentially affect chemicals emitting volatile organic compounds (VOC).

But even with these factors in play, specialty chemicals companies can thrive through innovation. Research into bio-based materials and chemicals with low VOC emissions could be the key. Developing new products can open the door to opportunity.

The Future of Bio-based Building Materials

Europe already has a research project in place that looks at the benefits of biomaterials used for home construction. Called ISOBIO, their first goal has been developing insulation based on straw or clay. These types of materials have hygroscopic properties, meaning that they can absorb moisture, mitigate of humidity changes and reduce the effects of common pollutants. From there, they intend to turn their attention to bio-binders made from substances like starch or casein2.

In the US, the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) has similar ideas. Scientists are looking into a way to use cottonseed meal, a cotton byproduct, to make wood adhesives. Normally fed to cows and used as fertilizer, cottonseed meal is biodegradable and free of formaldehydes, making it an attractive alternative to its petroleum-based counterparts3.

Specialty Chemicals Firms Can Innovate by Using Electronic Lab Notebooks

Still in their early developmental stages, bio-based binders and adhesives have yet to reach widespread adoption. But given the industry’s dependence on petroleum-based materials, this area is ripe for opportunity and potential profit. Not only does it circumvent obstacles put in place by fluctuating oil prices and chemical regulations, it also appeals to an increasingly eco- and health-conscious society.

Innovative new material and product ideas such as these take time to develop. But the pace of innovation can be slowed down if specialty chemicals laboratories don’t have the right tools to help foster rapid innovation. Dassault Systemès Sustainable Product Industry Solution Experience can provide the right tools and processes needed for that needed innovation by offering an integrated solution for chemicals and oil and gas companies to optimize lab & discovery processes. Sustainable Product improves the speed of innovation with integrated processes, people and data by transforming digital processes, removing paper and soiled systems and data that can clog the flow of information amongst labs. Sustainable Product also can help improve lab safety while reducing risk and inventory cost with chemical inventory management capabilities.

For developing wood adhesives, streamlining processes such as allowing users to clone protocols save time when experiments need to be replicated or similar types of runs need to be conducted. Multiple tests can be needed to ensure a new adhesive works on a variety of materials under a variety of conditions. In the case of the USDA scientists mentioned above, it took them multiple tries to find a washing process that strengthens the binding properties of cottonseed meal. Using capabilities offered by Sustainable Product could have reduced the amount of time taken to find viable candidates and solutions.

Sustainable Product also offers the advantage of  protecting an organizations’ intellectual property, a crucial step if you plan to develop bio-based binders and adhesives with low VOC emissions. Since this sector shows the most growth potential, many companies are sure to mine it, leading to competition. Secure logins, tracking user additions and changes, and automatic timestamps are all features of Sustainable Product that led to safeguarding your company’s I.P.

Is your specialty chemicals firm looking to take advantage of opportunities offered by the construction sector? Would you like a digital tool that can support your R&D efforts by making your experimental research easier and protecting your I.P? To learn more about overcoming the barriers to rapid innovation and building an internal framework to successfully address those challenges, download the new IDC Manufacturing Insights white paper, “Improving the Product Innovation Process in the Chemicals Industry” Or, visit the Sustainable Product web page (found underEnergy, Process & Utilities” on 3ds.com) to learn how these digital tools can support your R&D efforts by making your experimental research easier. Contact us today to learn more.

  1. “Construction Growth Boosts Demand for Wood Adhesives,” June 26, 2015, http://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/news/woodworking-industry-news/wood-adhesives-and-binders-market-cabinets-flooring-plywood-furniture
  2. “Straw-insulated houses beat petroleum-based alternatives,” June 18, 2015, http://phys.org/news/2015-06-straw-insulated-houses-petroleum-based-alternatives.html
  3. “Reviving Cottonseed Meal’s Adhesives Potential,” June 29, 2015, http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2015/150629.htm

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