Leather International: What kind of breakthrough does the finishing topcoat Astacin Novomatt DD represent for BASF and the leather industry on the whole, and how much investment and R&D was involved to get it to the point where it is today?

Dr Alexander Wartini: The Astacin finishing system for high-performance automotive leather is based on our polyurethane expertise. It has excellent properties, especially its jet-black appearance and the abrasion resistance of the leather. That means that leathers finished with this product have the intense dark black colour requested by the market. Because of the high abrasion resistance and low repolishability, the leathers retain their matt appearance and do not get glossy during usage, so they keep their beauty for a long time.

The development of the product was done in close cooperation between our R&D centres in China, Germany and Spain. It is the latest development of our Novomatt technology of polyurethanes with an intrinsic matt effect. With this, we are further developing our Astacin product range.

Astacin Novomatt DD helps upgrade raw materials and increases resource efficiency by extending the leather’s life cycle. In addition, it contributes to higher consumer safety with zero add-on of NMP, NEP and formaldehyde.

What other products did you unveil at IILF 2015 and how will they make a positive impact? Can these products be applied universally or are they region specific?

It is our target to market all new developments from our leather chemicals business globally. This year, we displayed our latest reverse-coating technology, Valure. It gives access to a brand new variety of different design surfaces with a new look and feel. It can be applied to a wide variety of high-quality flexible substrates, like leather, to achieve surfaces with a unique character that are soft, warm to the touch and visually attractive. Together with two partners, one in India and another in Germany, we have the production capacities to market it regionally and globally.

Can you detail the sustainability qualities of your new DryFast Beamhouse system? How will this enable tanneries to work cleaner and more efficiently?

BASF’s latest beamhouse process, DryFast, combines the advantages of a range of our products with a solution that significantly reduces water, energy and process time for the tanneries.

In an efficient combination of optimised process steps, effluents contain fewer chemicals and several washing steps can be avoided.

Considering the increased regulations imposed on tanneries worldwide, especially in China, how will new products like DryFast help to maintain increasing cleanliness standards of production, and with the pressure for companies to be more transparent?

In the past few years, China’s leather industry has been facing fresh challenges as the government seeks to protect the environment while promoting sustainable production practices. Lately, this has triggered a faster consolidation of the leather industry.

Our DryFast beamhouse process reduces water consumption by up to 60%, produces cleaner effluent and shortens process time by 12 hours when compared with conventional beamhouse processes.

We are constantly looking at ways to improve our sustainability footprint. BASF was the first chemical company to develop eco-efficiency analysis as a benchmark and act responsibly by following the principles of sustainable development to protect resources and the environment. Our leather business follows the same business philosophy, thus contributing to the growth of the industry and not compromising on the ecological aspect.

What kind of trends are you seeing in chemicals for the leather industry? What are the urgent priorities and challenges at the moment?

We see four major trends for chemicals in the leather industry:

  • upgrading solutions for low-quality hides
  • effluent treatment
  • handling of hazardous chemicals
  • lightweight, easy care and natural look.

What are the areas of the leather industry that still need to be addressed, and how can BASF help?

Asia is the fastest-growing region, and we are further investing in our R&D set-up in the largest leather market, China.

In recognising the importance of developing products in Asia and to globalise R&D, BASF established a global innovation campus in Shanghai. BASF leather chemicals is part of this R&D innovation.

Our team in China, together with other BASF R&D leather centres in Germany, Spain and India, are focusing on the development of innovative solutions for segments that we expect will grow faster in the future, like automotive, leather goods and performance shoes.

With more than 100 years of heritage behind us, we bring with us the scientific expertise and experience to develop innovative solutions that meet the needs of our customers.

Moving forward, we will continue to concentrate on our core technologies in wet-end and finishing. We will develop innovations that combine performance and sustainability. For 2015, we will continue our focus on producing high-performance and ecological retanning agents, a new generation of water repellents, and the enhancement of our range of finishing bases and topcoats.

What will be the main topics of 2015 for leather production, and how will BASF respond?

Our customers continue to expect innovative solutions. At the same time, together with our customers, we are looking to contribute to a more sustainable future where being environmentally and socially responsible goes hand in hand with running a profitable business.

This ambition to create sustainable products and services is being driven by a number of compelling business factors. New laws and standards regarding emissions and other sustainability topics are being implemented, or look set to be enacted, all over the world. At the same time, there is growing market uncertainty about the cost of raw materials and the availability of natural resources. Finally, the end consumers are evolving their expectations about the goods and services they purchase. Increasingly, they are holding brand-owners and companies to a higher account in terms of materials that go into consumer products and the way those products are made.