Exactly half a century ago,the first experimental quantities of EPS foam were produced "in enclosed, non - airtight moulds" in the worlds of the description in the BASF laboratory report. To put it more precisely, with patent no.845264 BASF with effect from 28thF��ebruary 1950 was granted a patent for a ��process for producing porous masses from polymers��. What just 50 years ago was being foamed experimentally in shoe polish tins, today enjoys a leading position amongst plastics foams.
Over the yems the processing and application - related properties of EPS have been constantly improved. Process and machine technologies have been further developed and new applications opened up.
Of particular importance - alongside its use as packaging material is the extensive area of application in the construction industry (in Europe around 70% of EPS consumption)which will also exert a decisive influence on the future development of EPS. Within this largest of the EPS segments, changes in the sectors of the environmental protection, raw aterials and energy conservation are leading to new challenges for product and system development. Saving enerSy and reducing COz emissions have become topics of global importance. But as an insulating material with an extremely favorable cost - benefit relation EPS wiU also offer a significant potential for growth in the future as well.
~ Market Situation In the last 5 years EPS production increased worldwide by an average of 6.8% per year.From1.63 miUion tones in 1993 there has been an increase to 2.26 million tones in1998. An increase in production of around 4% is also forecast by the year 2005. Fig.l shows the EPS consumption -of the various regions in 1999.At present Western Europe still has a leading position with about a third of EPS world consumption. Howeveronly moderat.e gn:nvth in the market is to be expected in the future* On the other hand, in Eastern Europe and South - East Asia there is great potential for development for EPS.However the effects of the Asian crisis have resulted in consumption in the region only~ now recovering the level it had in 1997. ��flie production capacity installed there is still far
Flg.l:Worldwide cowamWion of EPS(2350kt)in 1999 by regjon in excess of the growth in consumption.��Ihis situation is also roughly the same in the other markets as reganls developments in re-cent years. Despite interesting growth rates in EPS consumption, utilization of EPS production capacities worldwide still remains at around 65% . The welcome increase in consumption is thus counterbalanced by a cont.inuing weakness in eamings. The first consequences for the European raw materials manufacturers have now become apparent. For ex-ample, the Canadian company Nova took over the EPS operations of Huntsman (Fram:e)and Shell (France, UK, Netherlands) . BP integrated the EPS business of Styrenix and decided to shut down some production at wingless (30000 tonnes per year) . Further developments, which might lead to a consolidation of the EPS market in Europe, are awaited with interest. The EPS Market in Europe Fig.2 shows the rise in EPS consumption in Western Europe, classified by the applicationsegnents of the construction industry,packaging and other.
Growth is markedly affected by the use of EPS as an insLdating and ightweight building material. The lower EPS market growth in the packaging sector in Westem Europe is tobe attributed primarily to the relocation to low - wage countries of the manufacturing and shipping of packaging materials. With a per - head consumption of 2.Okg of EPS, Western Europe is still in the lead incompanson with the next - higher consuming regions (Japan = 1.75kg, North America =1.35kg, Eastern Europe = 0.45kg) .Fig.3 shows the per-head consumption of EPS in thevarious Westem European countries.
Ifig.3:EPS consumption per head by cormtry The market development from 1990 to 1998 exhibits a marked increase in Germany from1.9kg to 3.Okg, which is primarily to be attributed to EPS being increasingly used as insulating material in the construction industry. In Western Europe as a whole, EPS per -head consumption rose from 1.7kg to 2.Okg. For the purposes of comparison the rise inconsumption in Poland is shown: during the period in question this rose from 0.4kg to2.8kg. These numbers clearly reveal what a long way Eastern Europe has to go to catch up in EPS consumption, with a rise in consumption of around 6% per year forecast. Mtuket Environment and Trends Development in individual European countries took very different courses - due to the various influencing factors such as legislation, energy - saving programmes and so on. How-ever, the creation of a shared EU domestic market, harmonized product standards as wellas energy and envirmunent problems which affect most counlies means that the main background constraints will tend to approximate each other more and more.
6Holistic approaches�� are becoming increasingly important. Accordingly, Ihe use of EPS as a packaging material was first made subject to the Packaging Directive which came intoforce in 1991. The logistics of collection and recycling capacities were however set up at short notice. Today it is the EPSY organization, an association of manufacturers of EPS packaging, which guarantees the taking - back and recycling of EPS.
In the construction industry, stricter requirements with regard to thermal protection in buildings are leading to larger insulation layer thicknesses (loW - energy building level)and to an expansion of the :nsulated areas of the building (for example, ��perimeter insulation�� in the foundations area) .
Consumption of resources, ecological efficiency, VOC emissiom from consUuction and insulating materials are important indicators which are of increasing importance in the EPS market development and also to be taken into account in processing - and application -related product development.
In Europe there has been an increase in statutory instruments aiming at reducing VOC e-missions (VOC = volatjle organic compounds, for example, pentane as a blowing agentfor EPS) . The statutory regulations of individual countries, are already demanding limitation of pentane emissions during processing of EPS or even the removal of pentane. InSwitzerland, for example, as a supplement to the Swiss Clean Air Act a ��control tax��(VOC tax) of 2 Swiss francs per kg of VOC has been required since January 2000 and this will gradually be increased to 5 Swiss frances per kg. Product and Process Developments The reduction in pentane emissions during EPS processing can be achieved by using low-pentane EPS brands without the need for complex disposal facilities. For this reason EPS brands of this type are used predominantly in the USA. These enwronmentally friendly products offer additional advantages as regards processing - and application - related properties. Their importance is therefore increasing also in Germany and other European countries. The corresponding requirement here was the fLuther development of discontinuous pre - foaming units. In this way even when low - pentane brands are used,high throughputs can be achieved at comparatively low bulk density. As regards to insulating material applications where there is direct contact with moisture,special requirements apply to water absorption. Until now it has been XPS insulating materials which have predominated in this field of application, the construction industry is now opening up to EPS insulating materials.
We can also count on a considerable increase in EPS consumption m coming years - especially in the construction sector. Of decisive impmtance in this are statutory consLraintsreganling the environment ( C02 emissions reduccion) , the need for rehabilitation of buildings in Eastern European countries, and the potential for growth in South - East Asia.
The consolidation of the vendor structure which is already in progress will continue. With a forecast gruwth rate of more than 4% for EPS, a more balanced supply - demand aitua-tion may be expected in the years ahead.
The production and processing technologies of EPS have reached a position of matunty.The evolutionary improvement of the products will continue and form the basis for opening up new applications. Special EPS brands with interesting application - related property profiles also offer good opportunities for innovative producers, machine manufactures and processors