Lanxess Curing Bladder and Rubber Additives Facility, Porto Feliz, Brazil

High-performance bladders (curing bladders) are used in the manufacture of tyres

Lanxess's wholly owned subsidiary, Rhein Chemie, commissioned a curing bladder production unit at the Porto Feliz site in Brazil in May 2013. The facility has capacity to produce 170,000 bladders per annum. The other unit, with an annual production capacity of 1,800t of pre-dispersed polymer-bound rubber additives, will be commissioned in 2014.

High-performance bladders (curing bladders) are used in the manufacture of tyres, while pre-dispersed polymer-bound rubber additives are used in the production of rubber goods, such as sealing elements, hoses, belts and tyres.

The company has invested €10m ($13m) for the construction of the two units which will generate about 60 jobs. The plan for the construction of the plant was announced in October 2011.

The company markets the curing bladder under the brand name Rhenoshape and the pre-dispersed polymer-bound rubber additives under the brand name Rhenogran.

The plant was constructed owing to the growing market demand, the value of which is estimated to be in the range of €300m. The demand for Rhenoshape is expected to grow by five percent annually.

Porto Feliz production site details

The Porto Feliz production site covers an area of about 570,400m², with the constructed area covering about 115,000m². The site was started up in 1979 and began operations for Rhein Chemie in 2004. The site currently employs about 260 people. The Porto Feliz site also integrates an inorganic pigments production plant and a co-generation plant fired by recycling material from sugar. A high-tech engineering plastics production plant is also being constructed at the Porto Feliz site.

Technology used at Lanxess's Brazilian facility

"The company has invested €10m ($13m) for the construction of the two units which will generate about 60 jobs."

The main feedstock for the production of Rhenoshape is butyl rubber. The unfinished tyre is placed in a press and forced into its finished shape by inflating the bladder at high temperature against the internal wall of the tyre mould, which pushes it against the sides of the press.

The Rhenoshape curing bladders can be applied using any of the Bag-O-Matic, Krupp, NRM/Autoform, Autolok and Kobe presses. The tyres are produced with compression and injection moulding presses. The process also makes use of release agents to prevent the tyre from sticking to the bladder or the mould.

Rhenogran is made up of predispersed, polymer-bound rubber chemicals and additives which come in the form of granules. The rubber chemicals and additives are finely dispersed in a low molecular weight polymerisable liquid. The next step involves polymerisation by adding a further component, which reacts with the polymerisable liquid to form a polymer. The solid, homogeneous mixture of rubber chemicals and polymer is then finally converted into a form.

Rhenoshape and Rhenogran product details

Rhenoshape curing bladders have a much longer service life due to their high level of uniformity, enable shorter cure circles and are coated on the inside to enable easy unfolding.

"Rhenogran is made up of predispersed, polymer-bound rubber chemicals and additives."

The improved thermal conductivity of the bladder compound and other factors boost the quality of the tyre increasing safety, reducing rolling resistance and fuel consumption.

The company manufactures Rhenoshape bladders in 300 different sizes.

Rhenogran is dust free, which reduces the health risk of inhaling chemical dust. The product also provides defined viscosity control in the elastomer binder system and results in shorter mixing cycles. It helps in preventing ageing.

Marketing commentary for Rhein Chemie

Rhein Chemie, headquartered in Mannheim, Germany, entered the bladder market in January 2011 with the acquisition of the Argentinean Company Darmex. The company further purchased Tire Curing Bladders in 2012 and is currently the largest independent bladder manufacturer in the world.

The company has about 1,000 employees with production sites in Europe, Asia and North and South America. Porto Feliz is the third site of the company to produce Rhenoshape, besides Burzaco in Argentina and Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay.

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