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Collaborating To Advance Face Protection

Tue, 03/29/2011 - 12:11pm

Material suppliers, extruders, and product manufacturers in the face protection market are working together, sharing knowledge and expertise, to create novel solutions to advance the industry options available. 

In industrial settings, there is a growing need for a single faceshield that offers a variety of important specifications, including excellent clarity, as well as chemical and impact resistance. Despite the demand, there has not been a comprehensive, high-quality solution to meet all needs equally.

End-users seeking chemical resistance in face protection applications have invested in products made of cellulosics, which offer exceptional chemical resistance but only fair impact resistance. Those requiring high-impact-resistant faceshields often opt for polycarbonate (PC) products, causing users to compromise on scratch resistance and chemical resistance. Considered an affordable option, faceshields created with PETG polymer often are used in medical or dental settings because they provide moderate impact resistance with good chemical resistance.

Ongoing industry collaboration and use of innovative materials often result in the development of successful new products that fulfill unmet market needs. In the face protection market, material suppliers, extruders, and product manufacturers are working together, sharing knowledge and expertise, to create novel solutions to advance the industry options available.  

Setting the Stage for Collaboration

The lack of a single high-quality faceshield solution to meet clarity, impact, and chemical resistance needs led Eastman Chemical Company, Spartech and Bullard to collaborate and develop a new application.

For material supplier Eastman, collaboration within the medical, housewares, and small appliance markets has put the capabilities of a new generation resin, Eastman Tritan copolyester, to the test to create innovative applications and prototypes not possible with any other material.

When preparing to launch Eastman Tritan copolyester into the face protection market to fulfill the previously unmet need, Eastman leveraged its relationships with material extruder, Spartech, and personal protective equipment manufacturer, Bullard, to together introduce the industry’s first faceshield application made with Tritan.

New Resin on the Block

An expansion of Eastman’s portfolio of polymers for face protection, including cellulosics and PETG polymer, Eastman Tritan copolyester can be utilized for faceshield, visor, and mask applications in the motorcycle, industrial, sports, and medical industries.

Tritan fulfills demands in these markets for face protection applications with high-impact strength and chemical resistance by meeting American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Industrial Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) Z87+ standards for high-impact eye- and face-protective devices, while also avoiding vision-impairing crazing and whitening that can result from chemical exposure. 

Resin to sheet

Eastman Tritan copolyester is extruded into sheets and marketed within Spartech’s ULTRATUF brand. Through its acquisitions of Lustro Plastics and Polymer Extruded Products, Spartech has a 40-year history of collaboration with Eastman in a variety of markets. Likewise, Spartech has had previous experience working with acetate and PETG polymer for face protection applications, and noted the capability of a higher-impact material with added chemical resistance to capture additional market space.

From an extruder’s perspective, Spartech viewed the opportunity to continue working with Eastman as a benefit to its customers by improving the quality of services and materials it provides.

Meeting a Manufacturer

With a solution unlike anything on the market, Eastman and Spartech recognized the opportunity to build on Bullard’s well-established brand and further differentiate its product line to meet customers’ needs by offering a faceshield made with Eastman Tritan copolyester.

In addition to sharing many of the same values as Eastman, including a history of innovation and being responsive to customers’ needs, Bullard was confident that working with Eastman would positively impact its position as a leader in safety and innovation. As an added collaborative benefit for Bullard — a company that has a strong value of providing customers with American-made and -tested products — Eastman Tritan copolyester is manufactured in the United States.

Manufacturing with Eastman Tritan copolyester, although very similar to Bullard’s well-established PC processing methods, required the combined guidance of Spartech and Eastman. The hands-on assistance provided by Spartech helped Bullard work through several protective masking options, resulting in a seamless transition between the materials. In addition, working with Eastman during the product design and development process facilitated proper material specification and processing.

Faceshield to Market

Working with Eastman and Spartech, Bullard introduced the first-ever faceshield made with Eastman Tritan copolyester resin at the 2010 National Safety Council Congress & Expo. Unlike others on the market, the hard-hat-mounted faceshield combines the benefits of impact and chemical resistance for industrial operations where debris can come in contact with a faceshield, such as in refineries and laboratories.

By joining the toughness of PC applications with added chemical resistance often seen in cellulosics, the companies collaborated to develop the industry’s first faceshield that enables users to meet all face protection needs in one product.

Lessons Learned

Through collaboration with extruders, like Spartech, Eastman supplies the industry with material solutions to fulfill market demand, while simultaneously gaining a broader view of the capabilities of its own material. In return, by working with new materials like Eastman Tritan copolyester, extruders can share material processing knowledge and demonstrate the material’s advantages to manufacturers who then allow the extruder to gain valuable feedback to improve its fabrication process. For a manufacturer, benefits from early and ongoing collaboration throughout product development streamlines procedures, helping get products to market quickly.

By sharing material, processing and industry knowledge, resin suppliers, extruders and product manufacturers maximize the benefits of collaboration to bring products to market efficiently. As market wide collaboration increases in frequency and production processes are integrated, the potential for industry-advancing developments continues to grow and the limits of product development expand.

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