Advanced manufacturing to meet global vinyl demand

The worldwide demand for polyvinyl and its supply is growing closer. Manufacturers’ Monthly attended the PVC Australia 2018 conference to find out more.

The world’s supply of polyvinyl chloride versus its global demand is tightening, according to a market intelligence expert.

Surplus stock is diminishing, the latest research has indicated, with the current supply – sitting at around 10 million tons above demand – set to fall to five million by 2022.

Eddie Kok, director for the market specialist IHS Chemical, said that the PVC industry could afford to make more – while there are also calls to scale back on its production from environmental activists.

China (and Northeast Asia in general) is the biggest export region for PVC.

Among its biggest markets is India, while other regions including North America and Europe are also meeting high demands around the globe.

Among the biggest manufacturers of PVC resin include Shin-Etsu (Japan/US), FPG (Taiwan), Westlake + Axiall (US), Ineos-Solvay (UK/ Belgium), and Mexidiem (Mexico).

In Australia, the market is small – though, according to the Australia Vinyls, it is looking to build a high-density resin that can meet demand in sectors including automotive, food manufacturing, and medical products.

“When you add up the numbers of supply and demand today, there is roughly about 10mmt spare capacity of PVC in the world,” Kok told the PVC Australia 2018 conference, held in Sydney.

“However, if look down the road to around 2020, our expectation is that the surplus regions are going to reduce in terms of the amount of supply while, in terms of the regions that consume the most PVC, there will be an increase in the deficit.”

By 2022, the surplus will have reduced to below 5mmt. Kok says that, if the world doesn’t create around 2mmt more capacity by 2021, there could be a period when supply is going to be very tight.

“If you are integrated vinyl producers, you will be a beneficiary of this outlook,” Kok continued. “If you are a standalone PVC user, you will find yourself on the tail end of the situation.

“With a tightening market, the industry is actually in a position
to get peak stocks. In terms of the supply side, we can definitely afford to expand.”

Vinyl longevity

Cristian Barcan, vice president for Sustainbility and Industry Affairs at the Vinyl Institute, discussed the sustainability of vinyl.

“By definition, being sustainable is the combination of being environmentally, economically, and socially aware and striking a balance between all three of those areas,” Barcan said.

“There is a big difference between being green and sustainable – having a green product doesn’t necessarily make it a sustainable product.

“This is part of the way we are going to push back on the rhetoric and activists we have been facing for the last few years.”

Advancements around recyclability in plastics will help this stance, according to Barcan.

“For example, Dennis Collins, of PVC Separation, and Stuart Douglas, of Innovyz, presented
a method using new chemical technology that can separate PVC laminated products.

“The world is changing and we are facing unprecedented challenges to meet demands,” Barcan said. “It’s not a matter of how sustainable we are today but about showing continuous improvement towards doing more with less.”

Australia’s additive manufacturing

The introduction of new technology and processes is allowing for the production of more bespoke systems and mechanisms, according to Neil Wilson, founder of Romar Engineering.

With the advent of Industry 4.0, manufacturing in Australia is looking to connect automation to make operations more sustainable and increasingly efficient.

Working with technology such as 3D printing, Wilson says that there is room to take advantage of and meet the world’s new demand for PVC.

“We are finding that sustainable operations, particularly in manufacturing, has been hard to maintain here in Australia but there have been a lot of people who have worked hard to create that sustainability,” Wilson said.

“By becoming more digitally enabled and more connected, the IIoT is giving us more connectivity across our organisations, and even some predictability of how their operations are running.”

Additive manufacturing has the capacity to create new powders for manufacturing, selective laser sintering, and electron bean melting.
Around vinyl, Chemson Pacific is already designing and manufacturing bespoke products with the use of PVC printing.

“Digital methodology is most apparent in things like additive manufacturing and 3D printing, Wilson continued, “and some of our knowledge, as of today, is around the digital information required to run a piece of equipment like a 3D printer.”