St. Paul, MN--"If it's not invented here, we don't want it." For so many years, that philosophy ruled in countless technology-driven companies, not just in America, but around the world.
My, have things ever changed. In every industry you can name, companies are establishing joint ventures and technical alliances--even with firms that you would think would be tooth-and-nail competitors.
In the past few months, for example, the OEM has witnessed two new major joint ventures in the important elastomers field: 3M's specialty fluoropolymer business has joined together with Germany's Hoechst AG to form a new materials company called Dyneon, headquartered in St. Paul. And in the east, Wilmington, DE, will be home to another new enterprise--DuPont Dow Elastomers.
What brought these global materials giants together? The same reason that is triggering new technical alliances throughout the entire original equipment market: ever-increasing customer demands.
"Specialty elastomers--especially fluoroelastomers--is an area of great technical potential and market growth," says Dyneon President Robert Brullo, "and the bogey keeps getting higher. Customers want us to push the envelope to develop materials that will perform well at temperature extremes, as well as withstand harsh chemicals and other tough environments."
Typical of the customer challenges that both Dyneon and DuPont Dow are tackling: corrosion resistant linings, gaskets, seals, tubes, insulation, and cables for such applications as aerospace, automotive, food processing, off-highway and heavy equipment, chemical processing, industrial pollution-control systems, and medical equipment.
By mustering the combined resources of companies that already are at the forefront in these applications, the new ventures hope to give design engineers and other customers what they want faster, while supporting them in virtually every corner of the globe. Dyneon's operations include R&D facilities in the U.S. and Germany, production in the U.S., Belgium, and Germany, and sales organizations in some 50 countries. DuPont Dow will support 13 plants in the U.S., Europe, and Asia Pacific and expects to double its sales to $2 billion in the next five years.
DuPont Dow combines DuPont's worldwide marketing muscle in elastomers with Dow's unique INSITE(TM) mettalocene catalyst technology. This technology designs and processes polymers across several variables rather than creating a polymer with a "balance" of properties. The goal: provide polymers that meet the customer's performance requirements rather than asking customers to modify their needs to match what the material can deliver.
Secondly, company officials say that the process yields polymers with highly predictable performance, eliminating much of the trial and error in the development process. Since the materials design process takes place almost entirely on computer, the company can input the necessary physical and rheological performance characteristics and play "what-if" scenarios. All this can speed product development by as much as 70%, according to DuPont Dow.
And development time, as every design engineer knows, is becoming increasingly crucial. Studies by the McKinsey consulting group show that getting a product into the marketplace six months sooner can improve gross profit potential by 33%.
These two new partnerships in the elastomers field are betting big money that they have what it takes to help design engineers trim precious development time, while creating materials that offer distinct performance advantages.