Dr Dietrich Tegtmeyer, head of product development & application in the leather business unit, presented the new process for the wet end at the International Union of Leather Technicians and Chemists’ congress in Washington, USA, on June 23.
The technology was developed in Leverkusen over the past 15 months and the patent has been applied for. It is to be launched on the market under the name Levotan X-Cel.
The product consists of a special polymer containing thermally expandable microcapsules which is added during the retanning process. The microcapsules penetrate along with the polymer into the loose fibre structure and voids, for example blood vessels, where they are subsequently expanded by means of a process that is also new.
‘The microcapsules selectively fill the loose fibre structure and various voids in the leather, thereby making it fuller and giving it a more uniform structure.
‘Levotan X-Cel is an ingenious combination of chemistry and physics which is ideal for leather’, said Dr Dietrich Tegtmeyer. ‘Having conducted numerous trials with the new technology in our technical service centre, we are now ready to introduce it to the leather industry. We want to work together with our customers to find new, individual solutions to their specific problems.’ The leather business unit is therefore installing pilot plants for processing ‘X-Cel leathers’ in its laboratories in each geographical region so that it can carry out initial trials on customers’ material in situ.
The next step will be to develop production-scale processing plants that correspond to tannery requirements as regards size and speed. This will be done in collaboration with the Italian machine manufacturers Fratelli Carlessi SpA. The process will then be ready for launching on the market.
‘With the new product Levotan X-Cel and our innovative process we can offer tanners a new tool and the technical resources to produce the required quality leather from the increasing amount of lower quality raw material and at the same time maximise the area yield.
‘Our technology provides a new answer to old, familiar problems such as looseness and veininess. We are confident that this new development for the wet end will arouse considerable interest in the leather industry’, said Tegtmeyer.
The leather business unit belongs to LANXESS’s performance chemicals segment, which posted sales of €1.812 billion in fiscal year 2006.