Interview with Torsten Pohl
Torsten Pohl
Torsten Pohl
Global Head-Textile Coatings

Textile coating solutions market driven by high elasticity, abrasion resistance
German company Covestro AG is one of the largest polymer companies manufacturing high-tech polymer materials and developing innovative solutions for products used in many fields. A Bayer spin off formed in 2015 and formerly called Bayer MaterialScience, the main segments served are automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health, garments and footwear and the chemical industry. Global head of textile coatings Torsten Pohl shares discusses the latest in textile coatings and recent innovations at Covestro with Fibre2Fashion.

How would you describe the global market for polyurethane (PU) coating in textiles? What is the annual growth-rate?

The global market for PU textile coatings is huge, but quite fragmented. The annual consumption of PU textile coatings is expected to exceed 2 million tonnes, and its estimated annual growth rate amounts to 2-5 per cent, depending on application. PU textile coatings provide best touch and feel and enable high-end properties. Thanks to a very versatile chemistry, these can fulfill a broad spectrum of application requirements. However, the commodity market, in particular, is under increasing pressure due to regulations.

What are the major applications of Covestro's coating solutions?

The major applications of Covestro´s polyurethane textile coating solutions are textile printing, direct coating of fabrics and manufacture of PU synthetics.

What is your market share?

In a huge and mostly solvent-based, highly price-driven PU coatings market, our market share is probably small. On the contrary, Covestro is supposed to be a major player in waterborne and sustainable technologies market.

What are the latest innovations and technologies at Covestro in textile coatings?

  • There is first of all, the waterborne Insqin technology, which enables the elimination of dimethyl formamide (DMF) from the polyurethane fabrics manufacturing process. It can reduce the carbon footprint of the PU synthetic material by up to 45 per cent and can also eliminate risks of human health and environmental pollution due to the absence of critical solvents in material production.
  • Other innovations are solvent-free polyurethane dispersions with improved touch and feel, hydrolysis and yellowing resistance for various applications.
  • Polyurethane dispersions that enable water resistant and breathable textile coatings.
  • Three polyurethane dispersions that are, to a significant extent, based on renewable raw materials (e.g. Impranil eco)
  • A polyurethane dispersion that shows a bio-degradability rate of more than 50 per cent after 28 days, according to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 301 standard, and which can enable biodegradable coatings and sustainable packaging solutions.

What percentage of your textile coating solutions is sustainable?

Covestro is clearly focused on the development for sustainable solutions. The majority of its product portfolio already consists of waterborne or very high solid products. Almost all new developments are based on waterborne or 100 per cent solutions.

What is the contribution of textile products to the company's revenue mix?

Compared to the high-volume businesses of Covestro, textile coatings components can be regarded as niche products.

What kinds of solutions can be expected from textile coating of the future? What functionalities are in demand?

We expect the development of new products like polyurethane dispersions with even higher hydrolysis resistance and improved touch and feel. We also focus on new products based on renewable raw materials. In general, our development activities are committed to contributing to the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals.

What are the main market drivers for textile coating solutions?

Textile coating solutions are mainly driven by requirements for high elasticity, a good elongation behaviour and an improved abrasion resistance. Furthermore, there is an increasing demand for sustainable products moving away from solvent-borne materials. Another driving force is the demand for products with haptic sensation and a comfortable touch and feel, but also those providing different looks, designs and comfort.

What new fabrics and technologies are you experimenting at Covestro?

We are currently developing products and technologies for almost all kinds of fabrics, where PU-technology can improve properties. In this context, we focus on sustainable technologies and those that provide additional functionality and/or benefits for our customers, applicators and partners. An example is efficient manufacturing like roll-to-roll process with better worker protection during the production of coated textiles. (HO)
Published on: 22/04/2019

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