A novel halogen-free flame retardant polymer once abandoned by Bayer is now rapidly gaining ground with growing production capacity and several major financial backers.
Sales of Nofia phosphonates by FRX Polymers are doubling year on year from a small base, said Kevin Trudel, VP sales, in an interview at K2016.
FRX has added new sales and application development positions in Europe and Asia and established a new business unit in China.
“Our business is in a high-growth phase and we’re positioned to add resources in key functional areas so we can capitalize on the market momentum we’ve generated,” said Marc-André Lebel, CEO of FRX Polymers, which recently secured $22 million in Series D equity financing. Backers include a Chinese bank, BASF, Evonik, and Israel Cleantech Ventures.
FRX has placed a strategic focus on China, which it said is the fastest-growing market for flame-retardant plastics in the world. More than 70 percent of the production for copper-clad laminates (CCL) for the electronic printed circuit board market is concentrated in China, said Lebel. FRX formed a subsidiary in China called Shanghai FRX Polymers Ltd.
One of the emerging applications for Nofia is composite circuit boards.
FRX Polymers announced a debottlenecking of its Antwerp, Belgium facility in the fourth quarter of 2015 which increased capacity by 30 percent. Plans are underway for a major debottlenecking project over the next 12-18 months. The plant is in a Bayer complex that produces feedstocks used to make Nofia polymers.
Nofia flame retardants are described as tough and transparent, with high melt flow for use in consumer electronics, textiles, building and construction, and transportation markets. They replace halogenated flame retardants, which are being phased out due to toxicity concerns. They are being sold as polymeric flame retardant additives, flame retardant engineering plastics, and as reactive flame retardant additives for thermosetting resins.
To date, the company has nearly 200 patent applications, of which more than 100 have been granted.
The polymer is made via a polycondensation process like that used for polycarbonate.
One of the key developers of the technology was the late Dieter Freitag, once the top plastics research executive at Bayer and a believer of the polymer’s future despite lack of corporate interest. After retiring from Bayer in 2000, he consulted with a development company called Triton that incubated FRX.
FRX, which is based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, employs 35, triple the level of three years ago.