Environmental issues and shortages in supply chain raw materials are stretching the flooring industry worldwide. Here, Vik Vithlani, sales director, MENA (Middle East & North Africa), Flooring, at Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings EMEAI, examines how science and technology are finding the solutions.
Barriers to effective, modern flooring systems have always been the lengthy drying and sticking process, associated costs from loss of activity, odours present during application and the impact on the environment.
To overcome some of these issues, many flooring systems traditionally rely on the use of a resin based system called Methyl Methacrylate (MMA).
Acrylic resins utilising MMA form a variety of industrial and commercial flooring systems, and are known for their fast cure speed. This has major benefits - allowing fast return-to-service (as little as one or two hours) and less time on site for applicators.
But MMA resins are not without their problems. Applicators report the resin can in fact cure too fast, resulting in issues with the finished floor thanks to the pot life of the mixed product simply not leaving enough time for installation.
As a result, highly-trained teams are needed to prepare the sub-floor and install the flooring correctly, and problems are often reported after installation.
MMA resins rely on this monomer - a molecule that can be bonded to other identical molecules to form a polymer - as a key raw material ingredient.
Environmental issues and well-publicised factory shutdowns, particularly in Asia and the US but also recently in the UK, of a number of MMA-producing plants around the world, have meant the supply chain has been hit hard by a shortage.
Prices have increased in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Put simply, there is not enough MMA to go around, creating huge allocation issues in terms of supply. This has been escalating for at least two years, and prices are at an all-time high, with availability at its lowest.
In addition, the curing of MMA resins is done so with the addition of a powder hardener – the powder benzoyl peroxide catalyst (BPO).
This product also remains in global shortage following the fire of a major BPO producer in China two years ago.