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Eastman's own resin makes a sign in the sky

Eastman Chemical Company : 06 February, 2004  (Application Story)
An unmissable addition to the skyline over Capelle aan den IJssel, near Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is the bright red neon corporate sign on the new regional headquarters of specialty chemicals suppliers Eastman Chemical Company.
An unmissable addition to the skyline over Capelle aan den IJssel, near Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is the bright red neon corporate sign on the new regional headquarters of specialty chemicals suppliers Eastman Chemical Company. The sign is not only creating high awareness of the town’s newcomer; it is made from Eastman’s own Kelvx resin, a new member to the Eastman’s Copolyester family and marks the first time this thermoplastic sheeting material has been used for an external signage application in Europe.

For the company, it is an appropriate way to prove Kelvx’s high-performance properties. The product is a versatile material that is easily fabricated, and resistant to UV-light, extreme temperatures and high impact. It is also durable, making it ideal for outdoor applications such as signs and architectural glazing products.

This copolyester resin is used as a sheeting material, in this case, to protect the sign against the less-than-hospitable conditions that can be expected on the top of one of the tallest structures in the town. Rotterdam-based signmakers Vendeloo BV carried out the signage project. Managing director Robert–John van Burg explains why choosing the right sheeting is critical for a smooth production process: “From our point of view, we needed a material that was easy to work with, especially in terms of cutting, and that would resist relatively harsh environmental conditions. The Kelvx resin met our expectations admirably in these areas.”

Kelvx material is first cut into the letter shapes and applied as a cover over the aluminium boxes that make up the Eastman corporate sign. Mr. van Burg adds: “The material does not become too hard in structure, because fabrication wise it is similar to the well known Spectar product. This means it is easy to achieve accurate cutting, without damaging the cutting mill in the process. Such a problem has been known to occur with some competitive materials.”

In this instance, thermoforming, a process to give the sheet its three-dimensional structure, was not required. However, in situations where the process is necessary, a key benefit to the signmaker is that the thermoforming cycle time of Kelvx resin is 15 to 25 % faster than other materials, such as impact-modified acrylic resin or polycarbonate. This is because the desired three-dimensional structure can be created at much lower temperatures.

There are a number of performance demands made on outdoor signage. Firstly, it has to resist the extreme temperatures. Mr. van Burg comments: “In the summer months, the resin may well have to absorb long hours of intense solar heat, perhaps taking the sign’s surface temperature to over 60C during the daytime, then reducing rapidly at night. Materials that can’t withstand this extreme change are prone to expansion and shrinkage, resulting in loss of form, and thus loosening from their set positions, potentially making the whole sign unsafe. Kelvx’ chemical structure gives the material a relatively low coefficiency of expansion, so this problem is eliminated.”

Impact resistance is another key criteria. The new durable outdoor material has some 20 times the impact resistance of impact modified acrylic. This makes is an effective choice for environments where components must resist possible damage from vandalism – in particular, through stone or bottle throwing. These qualities as well as the superior definition attainable during thermoforming, ensure that Kelvx forms a key component of a sign that will perform to the customer’s expectations – namely, clear signage that gives the business high visual impact to stand out from its surroundings, low maintenance and durability.

Eastman Chemical Company expects the product to make a similar impact on Europe’s signmaking market. “Durable and temperature resistant plastic sheet made from Kelvx resin expands a designer’s options.” said Michael Hartmann, market development manager at Eastman. “Premiering here in the Netherlands, Kelvx resings are now a material of choice for outdoor signage all over the world.”
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