DowDuPont Specialty Products is boosting production and research in China with a $40 million upgrade to a compounding facility there, to satisfy the quickening pace of technological change there, especially in the automotive industry.
But even when that investment at its engineering plastics facility in Shenzhen comes online by mid-2019, it won't quench China's thirst for materials, said Randy L. Stone, president of the division's Transportation and Advanced Polymers unit.
"We need to put more polymer capacity in Asia. So we're evaluating options in China right now to do that," he said, in a late April interview at the Chinaplas trade show in Shanghai.
DuPont's China-based R&D efforts will get a boost when the Dow Shanghai labs merges with DuPont's Shanghai labs by year's end, as part of the merger of the two companies, said Tina Wu, Asia Pacific managing director of Transportation and Advanced Polymers.
Wu anticipates synergies from the joined research efforts. "[Dow is] very good at using the adhesives to connect plastics rubber and metal to reduce weights," she said.
The company said those synergies are showing up in London taxis.
The iconic taxis have shaved 30 percent off the weight of their adhesives, primers and glass-bonding agents by opting for DuPont products, including a urethane adhesive for bonding and sealing automotive glass with paint surfaces and other DuPont products.
The adhesive is also being used by Hyundai Motors.
The automotive industry's ongoing transition from metal to composite and high-strength-alloy body parts will drive demand for improved adhesives, said Edward Yue, global market manager for the TAP unit.
"This is a great opportunity for the adhesives business," he said.
Electric vehicles are also a key area of research, gobbling up "a disproportionate amount of R&D spending by key OEMs," Stone said.
For example, DuPont, together with key Chinese automotive tubing supplier Taizhou ChangLi Plastics Co. Ltd., developed cooling pipes for electric vehicle battery packs based on DuPont's polyamides.
Also for electric vehicles, DuPont was showing two non-halogenated flame-retardant polyamides for housing lithium-ion batteries.
"High-temperature nylons is our fastest-growing product line," Stone said.