From shoes and clothing, to bags and belts: Over 2 million metric tons of PU based artificial leather was produced in 2016, and almost all was manufactured using DMF coagulation, the process in which a paste with very high levels of the toxic solvent DMF (dimethyl formamide) is applied to a textile fabric and then dried. This meant that in 2016 the production of artificial leather used several hundred thousand tons of toxic DMF. In recent years however, considerable efforts are underway to establish other, more eco-friendly processes for the production of PU-based artificial leather.
Currently two processes are under consideration that provide very promising alternatives to DMF coagulation in the production of artificial leather. The first concept uses foamed, water-based polyurethane dispersions as a coating material during the leather production (water-borne process). The second is completely solvent free, and uses reactive polyol – isocyanate mixture as coating material (2K process). Both processes show significant improvements in reducing environmental impact, and are currently gaining increasing market share over the more established DMF coagulation process.
For both processes, our Comfort & Insulation business line can provide tailor made additive solutions. For PUD-based artificial leather, we developed additives that help support the foaming of water-borne PU dispersions. These include foam stabilizers, for example our ORTEGOL® P product series, but also include a range of viscosity enhancers, and dispersing agents. For the production of 2K artificial leather our product portfolio includes tailored silicone surfactants (e.g. for cell regulation or improved leveling properties) as well as curing catalysts that help too control the reactivity of the PU coating.
ORTEGOL® P series product support in achieving a very fine & homogeneous cell structure.
Evonik’s additive solutions do not only help to produce artificial leather of the highest quality, but also provide a number of processing benefits for artificial leather producers, such as larger processing windows or much faster production speeds. Our approach is not only to provide products to the artificial leather industry, but also to offer our customers full technical support to help them find the best technical solution. To achieve this, we have set-up a fully equipped artificial leather lab to support the artificial leather industry with our technical services and product development capabilities.